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The 13 Oldest Restaurants In Los Angeles That Have Been Open For 100 Years Or Longer

2:47 PM PDT on March 12, 2024

    Chicken-fried steak and eggs at Saugus Cafe. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Chicken-fried steak and eggs at Saugus Cafe. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    In today’s L.A., it’s harder than ever to run a restaurant successfully. With rising rents and runaway inflation, it’s a bonafide miracle to make it even ten years nowadays. So, for a restaurant to make it to 100 years old is very impressive and shows that they’re masters at what they do. They must be doing something right if they’ve been around for a century or more. 

    But it’s not just that; these old restaurants are the physical spaces where communities unite. These are places where the staff knows regular customers by name, where fry cooks become urban legends, and where you can most tangibly see the city breathing and moving as a living thing. 

    So, in celebration of their immeasurable contributions to the mythology and the romance of Los Angeles, here are 13 centenarians from around L.A. County, from San Pedro to Santa Clarita and everywhere in between.

    Chicken-fried steak and eggs at Saugus Cafe. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outiside Saugus Cafe. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outiside Saugus Cafe. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Saugus Cafe ~ Santa Clarita ~ Since 1886

    Starting with the oldest restaurant in L.A. County, Saugus Cafe was founded as a rail stop for travelers entering Los Angeles by train. It was visited by two sitting US presidents, presumably during a time when the Saugus was a somewhat more high-end establishment. Since the 1950s, it has adapted to life as Newhall’s classic diner. The names of beloved staff and regulars are sewn into the leather bar stools, showing how deeply intertwined the Saugus is with its community. They’re open all day and have a full bar in the back, but they shine brightest at breakfast. They have a few old-fashioned favorites like corned beef hash, though none are so hallowed as the chicken fried steak. It’s crispy and satisfying, with no gristle or chewy bits, and though it is pan-fried (or deep-fried if you get the “country fried” variant), it is hardly greasy. Top it off with some homemade gravy and a mug full of diner-style coffee, and you’re looking at breakfast nirvana.

    25861 Railroad Ave, Santa Clarita, CA 91355. Closest transit lines and stop: Santa Clarita Transit Line 12 - "Railroad/Drayton" or Santa Clarita Transit Lines 4 and 14 - "Magic Mountain/Railroad."

    Galco's "Blockbuster Sandwich."
    Galco's "Blockbuster Sandwich." Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Inside Galco's. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Galco’s Old World Grocery ~ Highland Park~ Since 1897

    Galco’s is a relic of a time when much of Highland Park and surrounding areas like Eagle Rock were home to a significant Italian population. They were initially established downtown, when there was still a Little Italy there, as an Italian grocery store, but moved to Highland Park in 1955. It seemingly hasn’t been remodeled since then—even the conveyor belt at the checkout counter is visibly antique. However, Galco’s business model has shifted dramatically from specializing in Italian import groceries to specializing in soda. They have hundreds of different kinds of soda, from novelty pop like Leninade to regional favorites like Faygo and Cheerwine to more popular sodas like Dr. Pepper made with decades-old recipes not found elsewhere; they even have a make-your-own soda station. What many people miss during a visit to Galco’s, though, is the sandwich counter in the back, where they’ve been making their proprietary Blockbuster sandwiches since the 50s. It’s your typical Italian combo-type sandwich with mayo and mustard rather than oil and vinegar. It gives it a nostalgic quality, like a sandwich you’d eat after a swim meet. They may not change your life or beliefs about sandwiches, but they go exceedingly well with your favorite soda.

    5702 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 182 - "York/Avenue 57" or Metro A Line - "Highland Park Station."

    Colorful assorted mochi at Fugetsu-Do.
    Colorful assorted mochi at Fugetsu-Do. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outside Fugetsu-Do.
    Outside Fugetsu-Do. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Fugetsu-Do ~ Little Tokyo ~ Since 1903

    One of the oldest Japanese businesses in Los Angeles, Fugetsu-Do is a confectionery specializing in mochi and other traditional Japanese sweet treats, collectively known as wagashi. Fugetsu-do is one of only a few Japanese-owned businesses to survive the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and has been a staple of the community in Little Tokyo. It is one of the most popular destinations for Japanese holiday celebrations like New Year’s and Girl’s Day, with lines typically snaking out the door. They have traditional flavors like strawberry daifuku, rainbow-colored suama, or red bean paste-filled varieties. Still, according to Japanese traditions, some of the most popular options are more experimental flavors such as peanut butter, lime, and cream-filled. In addition to mochi, they have other traditional items like manju, a steamed sweet roll filled with red beans, and imported Japanese snacks like corn puffs and extremely fruit-like Hi-Chew candy. 

    315 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro A and E Lines - "Little Tokyo/Arts District Station" or Bus Lines 30 and 106 - "1st/San Pedro."

    Cole's French Dip sandwich and tots. Photo via @colesfrenchdip/Instagram.
    Cole's French Dip sandwich and tots. Photo via @colesfrenchdip/Instagram.
    Outisde Cole's French Dip.
    Outside Cole's French Dip.

    Cole’s French Dip ~ Historic Core ~ Since 1908

    People often compare Cole’s and Philippe’s, which is understandable since they both claim their fame based on purporting to invent the French dip. Though Cole’s French dip has its supporters (notably Jonathan Gold in a review from the late 90s), most folks these days see Cole’s as “the other French dip place.” I think this is unfair, as although they both make a similar sandwich, they’re different establishments. Philippe’s is a big lunchroom, closer to a cafeteria than a diner, whereas Cole’s is more of a saloon. Philippe’s is at the intersection of the historic Olvera Street and the equally historic Chinatown, which funnels plenty of clean-cut tourists. Cole’s is just a few blocks from Skid Row (though Cole’s is also housed in the historic Pacific Electric Building since 1908). And whereas Philippe's has always enjoyed proud support from the boys in blue, Cole’s has always been favored by a seedier element, famously by types like gangster Bugsy Siegel and poet-of-the-slums Charles Bukowski. In recent years, Cole’s has upped its game, touching up the interior and taking its food quality and classic cocktails very seriously. And it shows: order an impressive old-fashioned while you wait for that French dip, and you’ll have already justified the journey to Cole’s. And when it comes to that sandwich, I’ll have this to say: the au jus was a little one-dimensional, the quality of the bread and the beef are superior, and I prefer Cole’s chunky horseradish mustard to the pepper-embellished mustard at Philippe’s.

    118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 20, 60, and 720 - "6th/Main", Bus Lines 16, 18, 33, 53, 62, and 460 - "6th/Los Angeles", or Metro B and D Lines - "Pershing Square Station."

    A French dip sandwich at Phillipe the Originall. Photo via @philippetheog/Instagram.
    A French dip sandwich at Phillipe the Originall. Photo via @philippetheog/Instagram.
    Outside Philippe the Original.
    Outside Philippe the Original. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Philippe The Original ~ Chinatown ~ Since 1908

    Philippe’s has plenty going for it. While they’ve only been in their current space since the 60s, they still have their original wooden booths, they still throw sawdust on the floor, and they pay homage to their history as a hub for rail commuters with plenty of train memorabilia hung on the walls. In other words, you can feel the history dripping out of every orifice at Philippe’s. And while they’re famous for the French dips, they’ve got a pretty broad menu of classics, many of which date from Philippe’s WWI-era heyday, like their homemade chili, coleslaw, baked apples, and donuts, the latter of which go great with a 46-cent cup of coffee. But of course, the French dip: there are some things Cole’s may do better, but hands down Philippe’s has the better quality jus, and for a sandwich defined by its being dipped au jus, that makes all the difference. Philippe’s has the facilities to simmer massive quantities of beef broth for that incomparably rich jus. In this regard, there is no comparison. However, here’s a little secret: the best sandwich at Philippe’s is the thick-cut lamb dip, and the best sandwich at Cole’s is the pork dip. You’re welcome. 

    1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro A, B, D, and J (910/950) Lines - "Union Station", Bus Lines 28, 33, 40, 70, 76, 78, or 106 - “Cesar E Chavez/Alameda”, or Bus Line 96 - "Main/Cesar E Chavez."

    An ice cream shake at Fair Oaks Pharmacy.
    An ice cream shake at Fair Oaks Pharmacy. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Fair Oaks Pharmacy.
    Outside Fair Oaks Pharmacy. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Fair Oaks Pharmacy ~ South Pasadena ~ Since 1915

    Fair Oaks Pharmacy is still a working pharmacy, unlike many retro soda fountains. I have seen prescriptions getting filled there. However, while they occupy separate halves of the building, the two halves of the business are surprisingly integrated. Phosphate sodas, for example, are prepared in the pharmacy, not at the fountain (in addition to adding a tart taste to beverages, phosphate has specific medicinal properties). But most sodas and sundaes are prepared before your eyes at the fountain. No bottled or canned equivalent can compare if you haven’t had a root beer float dispensed straight from the fountain. But you aren’t limited to old-timey stuff here, as you can mix and match flavors to make your custom sodas. If you are here for the vintage vibes, though, they also have shelves stocked full of retro novelty items (think rubber chickens and wind-up chattering teeth) as well as candy bars like Abba Zabba and Hershey bars couched in wrapper designs from the early 1900s. 

    1526 Mission St, South Pasadena, CA 91030. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 258 and 260 - "Fair Oaks/Mission" or Metro A Line - "South Pasadena Station."

    Outside The Hideaway.
    Outside The Hideaway Bar & Grill.

    Hideaway Bar & Grill ~ Sylmar ~ 1917

    Located in the equine community of Sylmar up in the foothills, where on any given day you’re likely to drive past men in cowboy hats riding horses down the street, The Hideaway was founded as a stagecoach stop, and, like Sylmar as a whole happily embraces its history. It is still beloved by wayward travelers of the Western trails, known nowadays as bikers, but it’s a friendly place that takes all comers. Take in the John Wayne murals and folksy owl decorations (seriously, the closer you look, the more owls you’ll see, including the real ones perched outside) as you sip a $3 beer, their biggest draw. They have a small, simple menu of things like burgers, tacos, and fries, but that’s more as a courtesy than anything. You don’t come for gourmet food; you come for a cozy neighborhood watering hole that makes you feel like you’re a Sam Elliott character. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if the man himself stopped in here occasionally. Live music on weekends, mainly of the country persuasion. 

    12122 Kagel Canyon Rd, Sylmar, CA, United States, California. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 233 - "Eldridge/Kagel Canyon."

    Outside Mijares Mexican Restaurant in Pasadena.
    Outside Mijares Mexican Restaurant in Pasadena.
    A margarita at Mijares. Photo via @mijaresrestaurant/Instagram.
    A margarita at Mijares. Photo via @mijaresrestaurant/Instagram.

    Mijares Mexican Restaurant ~ Pasadena ~ Since 1920

    The oldest Mexican restaurant in the L.A. area, Mijares has long been Pasadena’s favored stop-in for a good margarita. And while the margaritas are excellent, regularly earning the restaurant partnerships with tequila brands, they’re no slouches in the kitchen either. Many of the recipes on the menu of this family-owned eatery date from the 1920s, developed by family matriarch Jesucita Mijares back when she was selling tamales from her house. Mijares stands out from the pack's sauces, which have enough varieties to rival a classical French kitchen. When it comes to places like this, the longer an item has been on the menu, the better it will likely be, so I ordered a combo featuring chile relleno and a pork tamal. The tamal was smothered in a dense, zesty red salsa. At the same time, the chile relleno had an emulsified, almost gelatinous orange sauce to it, both of which complemented their respective item exceptionally well. Customers also go crazy for their guacamole, as it is a happy medium on the creamy-chunky spectrum and is served in a miniature tortilla bowl. Go ahead and dive in.

    145 Palmetto Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 260 - "Fair Oaks/Bellevue" or Metro A Line - "Del Mar Station."

    Prime rib sandwich at The Tam O' Shanter Inn.
    Prime rib sandwich at Tam O'Shanter. Photo via @tamoshanterla/Instagram.
    Tam O' Shanter's.
    Outside Tam O'Shanter. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Tam O’Shanter ~ Los Feliz ~ Since 1922

    L.A.’s iconic Scottish tavern, beloved by generations of Disney animators, not to mention old Walt himself, the Tam O’Shanter, still feels as magical as ever. Much like Disneyland, which it incidentally served as inspiration for, walking into the Tam feels almost like entering another dimension, where the cares of the outside world are sequestered by its dark lighting, inviting fireside seating, and antique burnished wood fixtures. Settle into a comfortable tartan chair with some good company, order a glass from their impressive selection of rare and expensive scotch, and prepare to demolish some prime rib. As part of the Lawry’s brand, the Tam O’Shanter also features Lawry’s famous prime rib. And while you can eat like a king with some prime rib and scotch, for some in the Atwater area, the Tam is just their local tavern, and there are ways to eat and imbibe here that don’t entirely break the bank. For instance, you can start with a relatively affordable Moscow Mule, based on the recipe developed by the defunct Cock-N-Bull on Sunset, where the Moscow Mule was invented. It's likely the best Mule you can order in Los Angeles. And for dinner, try the prime rib sandwich, which remains succulent and tender even when thinly sliced; served with sides of whipped horseradish, pickled beets, and peanut coleslaw. 

    2980 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 180 - "Los Feliz/Revere" or Bus Line 603 - "San Fernando/Los Feliz."

    Slavko's potato nuggets.
    Slavko's potato nuggets. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outside Slavko's.
    Outside Slavko's. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Slavko’s Harbor Poultry ~ San Pedro ~ Since 1922

    Masters of chicken, fried or “broasted” as they call it, Slavko’s is San Pedro’s oldest restaurant and a vestige of Croatian influence in the area. The early 20th century saw an influx of Croatian immigrants to this little corner of L.A. County, drawn by plentiful work at the Port of Los Angeles. Slavko’s initially catered to Croatian tastes, and you can still find traditional dishes like cevapi—small grilled sausages often eaten as a sandwich with flatbread—plus a lot of Croat pride here. But there’s something for everybody at Slavko’s: the fried (ahem—broasted) chicken is excellent, though locals know some of the best items on the menu are the fried chicken livers and the fried potato nuggets, which inexplicably come in Chinese takeout boxes.

    1224 S Pacific Ave, San Pedro, CA 90731. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro J Line (950) and Bus Line 246- "Pacific/11th" or Bus Line 205 - "7th/Pacific."

    El Cholo Restaurants ~ Since 1923

    L.A.’s original “Spanish Cafe,” El Cholo has been host to treasured memories for generations of Angelenos. Allegedly the birthplace of the nacho, El Cholo’s menu offers snapshots of the evolution of Mexican food in the United States. For each menu item, they also list the year it was added to the menu; tamales, albondigas, and chili con carne have been there from the beginning, but fajitas were only added in 1984, while some of the newest additions include fish tacos (2001) and guacamole served in a mini molcajete (2007). Perhaps the pride of El Cholo is the green corn tamal, which is only available around early summer. However, if you want the full breadth of El Cholo’s many years of experience, try the Taste of History, a comprehensive combo platter: tamal, chile relleno, enchilada, rolled taco, plus rice and beans. It’s familiar and cozy, much like the environs of El Cholo’s colorfully retro Spanish design scheme. And every table gets a complimentary plate of pralines, sweet but light enough to follow such a bounteous meal.

    Multiple Locations

    A breakfast situation at The Original Pantry. Photo via @theoriginalpantryofficialpage/Instagram.
    A breakfast situation at The Original Pantry. Photo via @theoriginalpantryofficialpage/Instagram.
    Outside The Pantry. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outside The Pantry. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    The Original Pantry Cafe ~ Downtown ~ Since 1924

    The Pantry is a downtown institution where every local politician gets photographed visiting at least once. Former mayor Richard Riordan even owns it. This diner has stood where it is longer than any other diner in town and preserves certain dishes and customs from an era of diner history that is exceedingly rare. Everyone knows the 1950s, Googie/Space Age, Route 66 type diner, but less recognized is the 20s diner, where everything is made of wood instead of chrome and leather, where the staff wears those paper hats, and where no one bats an eye at ordering a massive ham steak for breakfast with coleslaw on the side. For most of its history, the Pantry has proudly touted its 24-hour status, claiming that it never even bothered to install a lock on the door because it never closed. The pandemic forced them to reduce their hours of operation, open only from Monday to Wednesday and mostly for breakfast and lunch. Hopefully, they can reclaim the crown of the best 24-hour diner in LA, but they still serve one of the most formidable diner breakfasts in Southern California. I recommend sitting at the counter if you can, so you have a front-row seat to all that sweet griddle action. Whatever you order, don’t forget some of their incredible sourdough toast.

    877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 66 - "9th/Figueroa", Metro A, B, D, and E Lines - "7th Street/Metro Center Station", or Bus Lines 28, 81, 460, J Line (910/950) - "Flower/Olympic."

    Joe's Special sandwich.
    Joe's Special sandwich. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.
    Outside Joe Jost's.
    Outside Joe Jost's. Photo by Jake Hook for L.A. TACO.

    Joe Jost’s ~ Long Beach ~ Since 1924

    Joe Jost’s is essential old-school Long Beach. And I mean old—the bar survived Prohibition by brewing its root beer, hence the sign outside. It’s long been a hangout of salty types like bikers and longshoremen looking to catch a ball game on T.V. It’s like Southern California’s own Salty Spitoon, walls adorned with taxidermy antelopes and Joe Jost calendar babes from the 1980s. They don’t even have a women’s bathroom here, just “Men’s” and “Bathroom.” The Men’s room is essentially just a metal trough. But beneath the gruff exterior is a heart of gold, and beer is the blood pumping through that great big heart. Great frosted ice-cold schooners are the trademark of Joe Jost, providing massive quantities of suds for scarcely more than $5. Hungry? Try the Joe Special, a hot dog split down the middle and stuffed with a pickle, served on pillowy rye bread with provolone for only $3 (up from $1.15 pre-pandemic). They’re also famous for pickled eggs, which they sell the pickling liquid for if you want to make your own, and Marmion peanuts, apparently a Long Beach-specific delicacy that seems to be little more than roasted peanuts. However, I have to admit they’re unusually addicting roasted peanuts.

    2803 E Anaheim St. Long Beach, CA 90804Closest transit lines and stop: Long Beach Transit Lines 41 and 46 - "Anaheim/Temple" or Long Beach Transit Line 131 - "Redondo/Anaheim."

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