Victoria Station

At last report, there was only one outlet remaining of this once-proud chain…in Salem, MA stands the last of the railroad-themed restaurants known as Victoria Station.  The first of them, which was opened in San Francisco in the late sixties, was an outgrowth of a graduate project by three students at Cornell University Hotel School, Bob Freeman, Peter Lee and Dick Bradley.  Their new eatery, colorfully decorated with pieces of old trains and London-style phone booths, caught on big and soon there were approximately a hundred of them in existence, including the one I frequented.  It was at Universal Studios, not far from where the famous studio tour commenced.  The Victoria Station there was huge and it was said to be one of the top-grossing restaurants in America.  Based on the crowds, I wasn’t surprised to hear that.

The specialty of a Victoria Station was prime rib but you could also get a steak or ribs or roast chicken or Shrimp Victoria, which was like scampi but without vast amounts of garlic.  The food was all pretty good but I recall some long, long waits for a table and if you weren’t going on the Universal Tour (and I never was) the parking could be quite inconvenient.  It was a place I’d never choose to dine but business associates kept asking me to meet them there for meals, and its banquet room housed many a party I felt I had to attend.

One nice feature of that Victoria Station (and perhaps others) was the employee morale.  The folks who worked there liked working there, and the chain was often written up as one of the more benevolent employers in the country, offering its workers stock options and other unusual benefits.  In keeping with the railroad theme, Johnny Cash did their commercials.

So what happened to this successful chain?  Its one-time Director of Marketing, Tom Blake, authored a whole book on the subject that charged arrogance and mismanagement at the company’s highest levels destroyed the business.  News reports at the time seemed to substantiate his view, which was a shame.  All the folks who worked there seemed so happy to be working there.

119 Responses to Victoria Station

  • DAG DAG says:

    Victory Station, so 1970’s! We had one in a suburb of Milwaukee, WI (Wauwatosa) and it was wonderful!! The food was great, the service was always good, and it was so popular. It is a trip down memory lane…but I can’t remember exactly when it closed (since I moved away from the immediate area). But boy, it was a good restaurant with fond memories.

  • johnny camacho hernández says:

    for our 40th anniversary, need the Roast Prime Rib of Beef, please.
    John and Yoli Camacho, Caracas, Venezuela

  • Michael Fuss says:

    Hi Michael M the Chinese restaurant if I’m not mistaken was fung lum

  • Geoff says:

    I lived in Thousand Oaks in 1977/78 and often visited VS. Great steak for a Limey away for work. I rember being in the restaurant when they had a huge steak on offer. If you could eat it all it was for free. Many tried and most failed. One Saturday the boys from The Dallas Cowboys walked, you can guess the rest. Happy days

  • Don Davis says:

    Great fun reading all this. Best Prime rib in the Valley was Otto’s Pink Pig on Van Nuys Blvd., But the Fresh Horseradish at VS was one up on Otto’s. On the weekends the piano player Durwood Zarkee tickled the Ivories beautifully, it gave the place the feel of a 50’s supper club in the 70’s. My mom’s all time favorite was the Queens Arms on Ventura, she’s now 92 living in Sun City in Indio, every time I visit we seem to come around to talking about how fun and eventful dining out in the Valley in the mid sixties to early 70’s really was. I also remember the first time I went to the Chart House in Malibu, it was brand new and spectacular for the period.

  • Monica S. says:

    As children and into our adolescence, my brothers and I enjoyed going to dinner at Victoria Station! We loved the funicular to get up to the restaurant. There was a fortunteller game in the waiting area. In between courses the waitress would come by with a wooden paddle with holes in it. Each held a little paper cup with a tiny scoop of mint sorbet as a palette cleanser. We enjoyed going on dates there when we were in high school as well. I miss it. I wonder what took its place? The Autobots Ride?

  • Sharon Fields says:

    I worked at VS Universal in the 80’s and 90’s with my childhood friend from Houston Gary Fonville. David Ho and Debbie Mclean below have described many things very creatively and fun! There were the fun situations of meeting the celebrities – i waited on Whoopi Goldberg and she was amazingly nice, I waited on her again a year later and without prompting she remembered me. Also, Jackie Zeman who was very beautiful. And Joanne Worley who made sure to have fun jokes with all the waiters. The most impressive was Muhammed Ali and his wife Lonnie in 1987 they sat in the section G and did a life interview/exhortation/autograph with every foodserver on the floor. They asked questions like – what are your goals? what do you do to help others? You had to have your ducks in a row when answering. The autographs they gave had instructions, mine was – ” Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” I remember an actor named Jimmy Brose who played Conan the Barbarian grabbed my mother’s hand, put it on his thigh and said – ” This is not just your mother but a woman of experience.” I use that line with little kids today without the thigh part. It’s satisfying to see the former employees who have become successful – they deserve it. A major thing I remember was how HARD working everyone was and the pride they took in their jobs, I remember all the waiter friends would turn somersaults for the clients – you don’t see the same work ethic these days, but it’s one reason why so many of the group are successful! It was a group to be proud of!

  • G. J. P. says:

    General Lee’s (Chinese) restaurant in L. A.’s Chinatown. A wonderful place, with wonderful atmosphere. Gone now, way more than a dozen years ago. But it was one of the very OLDEST restaurants in Chinatown.

  • G. J. P. says:

    Yes, I remember C C Brown’s on Hollywood Boulevard. When I was pretty young, my mother showed me that place, and how GOOD their incomparable hot fudge sundaes were. Even at that time, it was ALREADY very old and well established.

  • Tom says:

    The Chinese retaurant near the Universal City Victoria Station was Fung Lum. It was open from c 1982 to 1998, was vacant for many years, and was finally torn down c 2014.

  • Brahna Cicero says:

    I worked for Victoria Station in San Francisco and in Oakland. Believe me, a lot of ugly things were going on behind the scenes.

    Victoria Station had only male servers, managers, and bartenders until an employee sued them. And won.

    Women were then able to do something other than serve cocktails.

  • Michael M says:

    I worked in the office buildings owned by what was then MCA, along Lankershim Blvd. One night I took a large group of folks up to Victoria Station to celebrate. Some of us were served a flaming drink called a Green Lizard, I managed to set my face on fire. Several weeks later Grizzly Adams managed to set his beard on fire in a similar way and suddenly restaurants stopped lighting up drinks for patrons. if you were dumb enough to do it on your own they would serve you the drink sans fire. There was also a fantastic Chinese Restaurant up on the hill, I can’t remember the name?

  • Tommy Gelinas says:

    Definitely interested in the sign

  • mickey kaufman says:

    Track1 11oz, Track 2 22oz, Track 3 33 oz, also known as a Sidetrack. The prime rib was from Montfort Beef, Colorado. Nothing like it, maybe butter.

  • mickey kaufman says:

    I called my manager and the first place waiter at both Victoria Stations in San Francisco and Oakland.
    The Sangria was served in an ice cold sweating glass pitcher which added to the appeal. They put in red wine 2/3, 1/37up, Orange Juice and bar syrups, lots of oranges, lemons, limes I remember it being a beautiful red orange color, very popular.

  • mickey kaufman says:

    Track 1 was 11 oz. Track 2 was 22 oz. Track 3 or SideTrack was 32 oz. I remember because I carried them as a waiter there for years on the heaviest of stoneware plates, from the San Francisco Embarcadero Store to the Woodland Hills Store, I was one of the original employees. It was a blast and the food was oh so good.

  • Teresa Tovar says:

    If anyone is interested in a Victoria Station Sign I have one that I would like to sell. It’s in good condition, it does have some wear and a crack but it’s not affecting the sign. The lettering is all in there and it’s a 2 sided sign. I live in Modesto, CA so it would have to be a pick up only purchase since it is very large and heavy. Let me know if you are interested and make me an offer.

  • Mike G says:

    If any one has any of the hold British railway signs from the restaurants please let me know

  • Belinda Batdorf says:

    Need the sangria pitcher recipe

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