It’s likely that visitor’ first encounter with LA’s populuxe Googie architecture occurs as soon as they step off the plane, in the form of the UFO-styled Theme Building that has greeted Los Angeles Airport visitors since 1961. Although the trend took off and spread across the country, it was southern California in the post-WWII Baby Boom that pioneered the larger-than-life style named "Googie." Here are five beautifully preserved diners to celebrate the Space Age’s spirit of adventure and optimism.
On a stretch of La Cienega en route to LAX, Pann’s has been inviting diners with its immaculately preserved quintessential architecture since 1958. Pann’s closes after dinner between 9 or 10pm and doesn’t reopen again until 7am which likely accounts for their remarkable cleanliness and quality. Rather than rely on its own pastiche and movie appearance cache, Pann’s has extraordinary diner fare that would stand out in any location - even Inglewood.
Norms has operated chains across southern California since 1949, but its 1957 location on La Cienega is its oldest surviving restaurant. Although several of the chains now use the "sawtooth" design for the neon Norms sign, it was first developed for the La Cienega location by Armet, Davis & Newlove, the architectural firm most widely credited with the creation of California’s "Googie" style. Norm’s is regional Los Angeles greasy-spoon comfort food, so stick to the classics-- hash browns, eggs, burgers and strawberry shortcakes-- and you’ll do well at Norm’s.
Built in 1960, the Astro Family Restaurant and Coffee Shop has had its share of close-ups in everything from Swingers to Sons of Anarchy. With its sweeping exterior roof angles and glass panelling softened by overgrown palm shrubbery, Astro serves the mid-century modern fans of Sunset Junction 24 hours a day. Although Astro is Greek family owned, it excels in its fried fare, perfecting the art of hash browns and Monte Cristo sandwiches. There’s often a wait for early afternoon weekend brunches, so arrive a little earlier to beat the rush.
A little further off the beaten path, Corky’s sweeping roofline has been a quiet landmark of Sherman Oaks since 1958. It’s also one of few diners with a full bar attached, should you want to chase your dinner with a classic cocktail. When Van Nuys Boulevard got its reputation as the center of teenage car cruising in the ‘70s, Corky’s was a popular hangout, often employing the musical talents of a younger but no less prolific Billy Joel. Corky’s enjoyed a revitalization in 2011 and now shines with its former glory and a few modern updates to bring it into its fifth decade.
Much like Beverly Hills itself, the Swingers Diner in the Beverly Laurel hotel is mid-century chic but with its eye on the most fashionable trends. 1950s modern is in but caloric diner food is out? No worries, Swingers has both covered, in fairly inventive ways. Open since 1993, Swingers is a slightly newer variant on this older space but stays true to the original space, invigorating it with Warhol-chic. Maybe even more on point, Swingers gives the impression of choosing healthier diner food with egg white protein scrambles and vegan sloppy joes (the latter of which is the best in town and is mesmerizingly good with sweet potato fries).