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Dining Car Lore Cherished

March 15, 1987|EVELYN De WOLFE | Times Staff Writer

Back in 1921, when a cup of coffee was 5 cents, a large baked potato was 25 cents and a homemade pie cost 20 cents, Pacific Dining Car was a notch above on its prices over most other restaurants in Los Angeles. But everyone knew PDC served only the very best and tastiest steaks in town.

The restaurant has since expanded from a small dining car to include a wine room, a backroom bar and several other serving rooms.

The little restaurant was originally built at 7th Street and Westlake Avenue by Lovey and Fred Cook to resemble a railroad dining car. It was moved two years later on its own rubber wheels to the present site at 6th and Witmer streets. The wheels are still in place but haven't turned since.

In those early days, land speculation was booming in Los Angeles, the "Red Car" was in its heyday and ran along 6th Street, and the popular funicular railway Angels Flight was wending its way up and down Bunker Hill. By that time Pacific Electric had laid 1,200 miles of railroad tracks linking the Southland.

Pacific Dining Car soon became one of the most popular dining spots in the area and later was the first restaurant, outside a regular coffee shop, to serve breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner.

"We were doing hardwood charcoal broiling way before mesquite grills became fashionable," manager Michael Green said. "Our first grill lasted 55 years, and we're on our second now. There are old-timers who still remember "Lovey" Cook's light touch with a crust. Her pies were famous."

By the 1930s, Lovey's daughter Virginia had gone back East to school and married a young electrical contractor by the name of Wes Idol. The Idols were to carry on the restaurant tradition of her parents and, eventually, their son, Wes Idol II would also head the operation.

With the end of Prohibition, a three-stool bar was added to the dining car, and over the decades, other additions and renovations followed.

Longtime customers of Pacific Dining Car chuckle when they recall the sign posted on the front door each summer when it got too hot, and the owners closed the restaurant for a few weeks of vacation.

It read: Too D----Hot in L. A. Gone fishing! Why in the H--- Don't You Go Too!

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