Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chow Time: Chips

Have you ever seen that documentary special called "Things That Aren't here Anymore?"  It was a two-parter ("More Things That Aren't Here Anymore" was the sequel) that may have just been played on Southern California PBS stations because it is mostly about Los Angeles.  It is the thrilling and depressing documentation, as delivered by Ralph Story, of some truly amazing landmarks of early-to-mid 20th Century California - thrilling because the footage and images of these spectacular places make one's heart sing, depressing because the title is no joke, these things aren't here anymore.  It is a despicable tease and although it comes on pretty regularly, I have a hard time watching it because I get really bummed out knowing that I'll never be able to visit these "things."

Ralph Story (August 19, 1920 - September 26, 2006)
Unfortunately, he too joined the ranks of
"Things That Aren't Here Anymore."

The first time I saw the program (and after every subsequent viewing), my first thought was to be horribly disappointed and start preaching the gospel of "They just don't make them like they used to" and "There is nothing cool left in this world" and "Why don't I have a time machine?"  Then I consider how many places I have the privilege of knowing, that bring me tons of joy, and I realize how grateful I should be for all of the things that are STILL HERE (and for the polio vaccine)!

The fact is that there are still all kinds of amazing hot spots around town that are just waiting to be appreciated; one of these places is Chips Restaurant in Hawthorne, CA.  My photos do not quite do the googie architecture justice, but believe me the details are there.

It is impossible to capture in one photo all of the angles
that define the slanting, serpentine roof line.

Chips has all the hallmarks of my favorite eateries - terrazzo
flooring, cantilevered barstools, counter service, great service,
and good food.

Sure the decorations, pretty much limited to a few vintage clock radios, may be a little lackluster, but I don't go into an authentic 50's cafe looking for Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.  I appreciate the subtlety of the decor and more importantly, the ability to see the original finishings.

Like the cabinetry behind the counter with the recessed hardware...

And the old-timey cash register

That isn't to say that there aren't a few photos of James Dean and the gang
and some hot rods.  But even those pictures have faded with time and hardly
detract from the original beauty of the restaurant.

There are booths and counter seating on the interior of the cafe.
 The spacious patio is the ideal setting for a wacky tacky weekend meet-up.
What do you think? 

A view of the Chips uniform and those tiny cereal boxes
that always seemed like such a treat when I was little.
Until I remembered, of course, that my capacity for cereal
is far greater than could ever be contained inside one
of those tiny, little boxes!

Beyond single-serving cereals, the menu offerings are pretty standard diner fare. The execution of the dishes, however, is pretty darn tasty!  They even had my vegetarian brother excited to go because there were a few veggie options.  We say we're trying to stick to our "healthier habits" plan, but sometimes one needs a little reward after a hard week!

Mary got the Baja Burger - chiles, cheese, bacon, and grilled onions.

I only ate a couple of the onion rings and tried to convince myself
that a turkey salad sandwich was the healthy option.
 Gimme a break, I'm workin' on it!
You might remember our visit to Pann's.  Pann's is sort of Chips' slightly-younger, more glamorous sister.  Its chrome is a little more polished.  Its colors a little more vivid.  Its pace a little more energetic. Roughly five short miles away, and maybe just slightly more plain, Chips has been serving delicious diner delicacies since 1957 and somehow it feels a bit more intimate and a bit more like a neighborhood hang out.  If you live in, or are traveling through, the greater Los Angeles area, we highly recommend that you check out both Pann's AND Chips so you can do your own thoughtful comparison.  We're pretty sure that you'll fall in love with both - and perhaps have to get a seatbelt extender!!!  With continued support, we can keep these beautiful places from going the way of things that aren't here anymore!

11908 Hawthorne Blvd
Hawthorne, CA

Open 6am-8pm, 7 days a week


Mr. Tiny


  1. Thank you Mr. Tiny for sharing another great Southern California gem!

    1. Anything I can do to get the people eating right...hahahaha!!! Thanks Doug!

  2. I have heard some refer to Pann's as the 'Mary' in the comparison between Chips and Pann's..........I am not saying that its right, I am just saying that's what I have heard........YUMMMMMM!!!!

    1. I am so lame! It took me a minute to figure out what that meant and then I was dying laughing! Classic!!!

  3. This place looks amazing and like my kind of place. I am friends with a few historians and preservationists in Sacramento. It makes me really sad all the great gems we've lost, but we're trying to make sure to save all we can from here on out. I work with a mid century modern organization that does home tours and fundraisers to save a lot of mid century architecture around town. It's my passion.

    1. Thanks for doing the good work! I forget that sometimes it takes more than just eating hamburgers to keep these gems sparkling.

  4. amazing! i love those big pink booths! and the counter! that is my favorite kind of place to eat.
    i've never seen that special, but i would love to. there is a documentary on netflix about buildings shaped like other things that makes me CRY because i love it so much. i usually cry at the wig wam village, but sometimes i make it to the mother goose house.

    1. Rick Sebak, king of awesome documentaries, may have made the one you've seen. You should definitely check out ALL of his shows. I think my personal favorite is "A Hot Dog Program." I have stayed at the wigwam villages in CA and AZ; my dream is to make it to Cave City!

  5. WT- Glad you and I are of the same mind - we could spend the rest of our lives bemoaning what used to be, but in the same time we'd be missing out on What's Still Here! That's my take on it anyways! I'll be sharing your post on Chips on the Retro Roadmap FB page - hope it gets more people walking along those cool terrazzo floors and into those fab cantilevered counter seats!

    Keep fighting the good fight and celebrating what we've got, not what we've not (got) :-)

    1. Absolutely, why waste time crying when we could be out eating hamburgers!!! Thank you so much for sharing the post on FB!!!

  6. At one point, Ralph Story's assistant was Stephanie Edwards, and then she became his co-host (on AM Los Angeles.)
    She's still here-- if only once a year.

  7. I love this place! I tell everyone that's remotely interested in Googie architecture or "old things" to go here since I think Chips needs more help in being recognized than Pann's...