What to Expect from the Oldest Restaurants in California

One of the drivers of the thriving California economy is the restaurant business. Did you know that as of 2011, there were more than 60,000 restaurant locations in the state? That number should have grown by now, as California residents love to eat out.

But have you ever wondered which among these restaurants is the oldest? And what can you expect from them, aside from years of culinary tradition? We list down some of the oldest restaurants in the Golden State.

Pacific Dining Car

Pacific Dining Car has been around since 1921. It had humble beginnings, starting in a railway train car that was parked on a rented lot in downtown LA.

Its food is also topnotch, with specialties such as Country Breakfast and Joe’s Special which includes sausage or hamburger with onion, spinach, and egg,  served with muffins.

The Saugus Café

The Saugus Café located along Railroad Avenue in Santa Clarita is the oldest restaurant in the entire state. It has been operating since 1887 when it was situated next to the Saugus Train Station.

It was founded by James Herbert Tolfree. One of the earliest patrons was President Benjamin Harrison, who stopped by the restaurant while on a re-election campaign. Another late president, Theodore Roosevelt, was also a customer of the said restaurant.

Aside from the photos lining the walls that document California history, the Saugus Café is known for its Famous Saugus Steak. The interiors are modern, however, belying the age of the establishment.

Frequent guests are students from nearby California Institute of the Arts who can be spotted having breakfast. Town residents also drop by at all hours of the day, relaxing in the adjacent bar while admiring the sight of the nearby mountains.


Established in 1908, Cole’s is a classic restaurant which is known for its French dips with beef and lamb. Aside from that mouthwatering specialty, there are other tasty treats that one can order from this old establishment.

Get a tasting of its other best-sellers like the grilled cheese sandwich, tuna sandwich, or Caesar salad. Then top it off with beverages like Mexican Coca Cola or Virgil’s Rootbeer.

Philippe the Original

Located at N. Alameda Street in downtown LA, Philippe the Original was opened in 1919. It is famous for its French dip sandwiches. Other best-sellers are chili, cheese sandwich and hot off the griddle—pancakes or French toast made on thick egg bread with whipped butter and warm syrup.

Watson Drugs and Soda Foundation

Located along E. Chapman Avenue in Orange County, Watson Drugs and Soda Foundation has been operating since 1899. The drug store expanded that by 1915, the company had opened a soda foundation complete with ice cream, soda, sundaes, and phosphates.

In the next few years, the company added American-style comfort foods to its menu, which have remained the staple foods of the restaurant since then. Most of the foods here are a throwback to the Golden Age—handmade malts, sundaes, phosphates, and all-day breakfast.

Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Foundation

A landmark in South Pasadena since 1915, this establishment has been serving handmade malts, phosphates, and sundaes for more than a century already. It also has burger, salad, and sandwich in its menu.

The establishment was known in the 1920s and 30s as Raymond Pharmacy. It was restored in the early 90s and renamed Fair Oaks Soda Foundation, with tin
ceilings and honeycomb tile floors giving back its old splendor.

Golden Spur

Established in 1918, the Golden Spur restaurant is situated in Glendora, CA. It has a large menu including steaks, seafood, pastas, and salads. It is also a great place for fine dining.

Musso & Frank Grill

Opened in 1919 by entrepreneur Frank Toulet and restaurateur Joseph Musso, the restaurant instantly became a favorite in Hollywood for its outstanding menu.

Some of the celebrities who have dined here include Woody Allen and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

In terms of food, Musso & Frank Grill is known for its specialties like prime rib, lamb chops, steaks, and salads.

Original Pantry Café

The Original Pantry Café has been serving traditional American cuisine since 1924. Located at the corner of Figueroa and 9th in South Park district in downtown LA, the establishment is simply called by the locals as the Pantry.

Like many of the old restaurants in LA, the Pantry has had its share of celebrity clients. It has also been featured in some movies.

Aside from its mouthwatering food, the restaurant is known for its promos like free coleslaw to all patrons in the evening, and free coffee which was discontinued in 2011.

As you can see, some of the oldest restaurants in California are not only rich in tradition but also in mouthwatering and delectable dishes.

Category: General Food

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