Friday, February 22, 2013

Chow Time: Dinah's Family Restaurant

It's a restaurant story as old as the hills (see Vince's Spaghetti), a family successfully opens up a restaurant using a tried and true, family recipe, and subsequently establishes itself as a neighborhood landmark of hearty dining.  As word spreads and business grows, it becomes apparent that a second location across town would be the natural progression.  That second location opens to acclaim and the manager (usually a brother, son, uncle, cousin) decides that to increase business, the menu should expand, the hours should change, and the recipes should be refined.  Outraged at the young upstart, the original proprietor severs all ties with the new location and each facility runs independently of one another, refusing to change the name, the sign, or the very menu item for which the small chain became famous.  In all honesty, I don't know if this is the case behind Dinah's Chicken in Glendale, CA and Dinah's Family Restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles, but it is the story I made up to appease myself when I could find no connection between the two besides the signage, the chicken bucket, and the signature fried chicken itself.

Opened in 1959, Dinah's Family Restaurant is definitely representative of its place in history.  With minimal updates, this fixture of West Los Angeles casual cuisine gives patrons an opportunity to catch a glimpse of midcentury, mid-level, Southern California dining.

My favorite part of the restaurant is the stucco flying saucers suspended at staggered heights from the ceiling.

The cantilevered barstools are comfy and portions of the original
flooring are still visible.  Under all that commercial-grade
carpeting lies some seriously beautiful terrazzo. 

The menu is huge - both in terms of
 size and quantity of available items!

Mary opted for the dish which Dinah's is most famous -
the fried chicken.  Apparently, the creators of Dinah's developed
 a method for fried-chicken preparation in which the final
 product is completely "free of cooking oils," rendering it the
crispiest and juiciest in town.

I don't know enough about midcentury lighting to
understand this particular fixture - or why I love it.
It looks like the bell that used to ring at the end of
recess - perforated just enough to let a bit of light to
sparkle through and illuminate the rock wall.

The holiday decorations - including paper plates hung by tinsel garland -
seriously distract from the integrity of the restaurant's design.  The heavy
color story doesn't help matters much either.  Design dilemmas aside,
Dinah's is a good place for an inexpensive lunch.

There is no lack of merchandizing at Dinah's - mousepads, magnets,
and mugs make Mr. Tiny hungry for chicken.

If you can't find the time to stop in for a bite, be sure to drive by and get a glimpse of the iconic chicken-bucket sign.  According to the website, Dinah's was the original bucket sign in Southern California and has been featured in multiple Hollywood productions, most recently in Little Miss Sunshine.  

I do not have any idea what the real story is behind the two Dinah's.  Although I do have a second theory that someone was in the kitchen with Dinah "Strummin' on the ol' banjo" and that led to the "Fee, Fi, Fiddle-e-i-o" that wrenched the chain in twain.  If anyone has the real low down, please feel free to share.  Until then, treat yourself to some mighty-fine food and a song.

"Dinah" - Louis Armstrong

Dinah's Family Restaurant
Los Angeles, CA
6521 S Sepulveda Blvd

Dinah's Chicken
4106 San Fernando Rd #A
Glendale, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. We ate at Dinah's en route to LAX on our way home from Cali - loved the fried chicken! Glad to know I'm in good company :-)

    And you're SO RIGHT about that lighting fixture! It looks like if someone pulled a fire alarm that water would shoot out of it to douse the flames.

    1. Perfect description of the light fixture!!! As soon as I think I have seen and done everything in our neck of the woods, there is always something new and exciting; I'm glad to have pals like you and RRH that are just as excited about these things as I am!

  2. there are so many neat places out by you!

    1. That's true, but I bet there are some pretty neat places out your way too. Please let me know what you discover!

  3. That place looks awesome! I love the giant chicken bucket. And my lord but Mary looks like she's not a day over 16 in those pictures....furthermore proving my theory that greasy food makes the skin pretty.

    1. It sort of begins and ends with that giant bucket, doesn't it? Old roadside signage makes my heart sing. I get so happy when it isn't destroyed, defaced, or replaced. The truth is, she isn't much older than 16 (just a few years)...she's still a youngin'.

  4. I live pretty near that Dinah's on Sepulveda, and every time I drive by it I think "I've gotta go there!!". Thanks for the I'll make it a special mission to go check it out!

    1. There are always awesome things waiting right around the corner for us to explore - the excitement of living in Southern California!!!

  5. Mmmmmmm....fried chicken! I may have to add this to the list of places to visit on our LA trip!

    1. The nice part is that it isn't too far from the airport (if you fly into LAX). I always feel bad, everyone who comes in from abroad says that they come to America and instantly gain weight from all of our greasy - albeit delicious - food. You guys have nothing to worry about (and holiday calories don't count, right?).