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To Live and Dine in LA at the Central Library

There’s a new exhibit on display at the downtown Central Library, called To Live and Dine in LA, and I recently made a visit there.  I’ve only been in the Downtown LA Central Library to use the restrooms (when taking a tour with the LA Conservancy) but I’ve always meant to get down there and check it out more thoroughly.  For a person like me who loves books and also loves to eat, this exhibit was the perfect reason to take a road trip downtown.  The exhibit is a showcase of the Library’s collection of menus from historic restaurants from LA’s past.  As a Los Angeles based tour guide, and one who specializes in local cuisine, I have a particular fondness for historic LA restaurants that used to serve not only the rich and famous but also the families that wanted to treat themselves to a meal out.  When asked what my favorite food or restaurant in Los Angeles is, I’m often hard-pressed to find an answer because I have dined at such a wide variety of local eateries.  I enjoy a hole in the wall just as much (if not more than) a fancy restaurant.  I was very happy to read this quote at the exhibit from an attendee of the 1923 American Restaurant Conference:  When it comes to a variety of eating places, I have never seen a city in the United States that can produce more types of restaurants than Los Angeles.

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The exhibit is located on the second floor of the library in the Getty Gallery.  A beautiful bright door welcomes visitors to the “dining room” and once inside you can move around to the various tables to find select pieces of the Library’s menu collection, grouped under one of nine different themes.  A few of my favorite themes were A Lazy Susan City, The Lunch Counter, A Cafeteria For All (highlighting of course the soon to re-open Clifton’s Cafeteria!) and Feasts, Balls and Banquets.  There were short videos playing on a loop and interactive activities for kids of all ages.  I loved that they had a copy of the book To Live and Dine in LA by Jason Kuh on display for all to enjoy.  While I was personally touched by the various menus, pricing, wording, etc. it was especially fun following around a brother and sister (I’m guessing in their 70’s) commenting on restaurants they remember as children.  I spent about an hour in the exhibit.  Don’t miss the Library Store which has some very cool books, cards, jewelry and interesting gift items.  The exhibit runs through November 13, so I hope you get a chance to enjoy this piece of LA’s culinary history, To Live and Dine in LA!

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By Trish Procetto