246 N. Cañon Drive,
After 59 years as a prime celebrity hangout, the legendary Chasen's finally closed its doors on April 1, 1995. The original building was to be eventually torn down and replaced by a two-story shopping center. Fortunately, they preserved the building and eventually re-opened it as an upscale Bristol Farms market.
That's not as bad as it may sound. They managed to keep a couple of Chasen's original booths in their "Bristol Cafe" (although the booth where Ronald Reagan proposed to Nancy is now gone, replaced by a cheese section), along with the original panelling, doors, etc. You can even order Chasen's famous chili in the cafe. So it's not a complete loss. And the L.A. Times reports that celebrities continue to flock to the Chasen's site, this time as shoppers and customers. The owner refuses to name names, but he hinted that Britney Spears was a customer. And Nancy has been seen in the cafe. (The original Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart booths, plus the one in which Ronnie proposed to Nancy, were transferred to the Reagan library.) The store has an arrangement with MTV allowing them to film shopping episodes of "The Osbournes" TV show, and the HBO series, "Six Feet Under" has also shot there.
In 1997, just two years after the original Chasen's closed, in 1997, Chasen's was reborn as a new restaurant on Cañon Drive.. This new Chasen's incorporated much of the legendary Chasen's memorabilia, such as the restaurant's autographed photos of Bogart, Cagney and Groucho.
Jimmy Stewart had his bachelor party at Chasen's in 1949, complete with two midgets dressed in diapers. Orson Welles fired John Houseman at Chasen's and threw a flaming can of Sterno at his former partner. At one time, the restaurant even included a sauna and a full-time barber!
As the legendary restaurant aged, newer, flashier restaurants stole some of its star clientele, but Chasen's was still going strong in the 90's. It was said to be Ronald Reagan's favorite restaurant (he proposed to Nancy in Booth No. 2, and brought former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher there as his guest four decades later).
Old-timers such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, and Kirk Douglas were still regulars, as were George Burns and Jimmy Stewart just before their recent passings, along with newer celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Jack Nicholson, John Travolta and Warren Beatty. Disco diva Donna Summer wrote her hit song "She Works Hard For the Money" after hearing the line from a ladies' room attendant at Chasen's.
Like Spago, it had its special tables. The stars were seated in the small room to the right of the entrance. The rest of us ended up in the back room.
Opened in 1937 by owner Dave Chasen (at the suggestion of director Frank Capra), it was just a humble shack named "Chasen's Southern Pit " (because of a barbecue pit in the back); its chili quickly became popular with the show biz crowd, and Chasen's rapidly grew into Hollywood's premier restaurant. Chasen's stuck with the American/Continental fare that brought it success, serving it in a warm, clubby atmosphere of heavy wood paneling and red leather booths. They still served the chili that made them famous (although it wasn't listed on the menu anymore), as well as their hobo steak and deviled beef bones. In fact, when Elizabeth Taylor was making "Cleopatra " in Rome, she had their chili flown out to her.
A meal at Chasen's could also take a sizable bite out of your wallet: about $90 for dinner for two - and about $60 for lunch.
The new Chasen's was owned in part by the grandson of original owners, Dave & Maud Chasen. It was smaller than the original restaurant, but it had no sooner opened its doors on Cañon Drive than the customers came streaming back in, arriving in Rolls Royces and Jaguars. The new restaurant has dark wood paneling, crystal chandeliers, white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers, and of course, those famous celebrity photographs on the walls. A pianist and violinist filled the air with nostalgic tunes from the '30s and '40s. At the bar, Pepe the bartender still made his famous "Flame of Love" cocktail. And naturally it served the restaurant's famous chili, cheese toast and hobo steaks. The food wasn't particularly good, but that's part of the tradition - Chasen's was never really about the food...
Marlon Brando called and Nancy Reagan was among the visitors to the new Chasen's on opening day. TV legend Milton Berle booked the restaurant for his 90th birthday party. Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin, who had their first date at the original Chasen's, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the new restaurant on May 15, 1998, with guests that included Milton, Governor Pete Wilson, Ricardo Montalban, Rhonda Fleming and Red Buttons.
But alas, its initial
success did not last for long. The new Chasen's (on Cañon
Drive) closed in 2000, just months before
the original Chasen's (on Beverly) reopened as a Bristol Farms
market. The space on Cañon
reopened recently as Mastro's Steakhouse, which already has a celeb following
- Mel Gibson and Denzel Washington were spotted there with their agent
Getting there: The original Chasen's (now closed) was located on Beverly Boulevard, near Doheny Drive, on the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and as of this writing, it is now a Bristol Farms market. From Rodeo Drive, you would turn right (northeast) on Santa Monica Boulevard, go half a mile to Beverly Boulevard, turn right (east) on Beverly, and go five short blocks to the restaurant, which would be on your left (north) side.
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