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Take a Sentimental Journey at the Red Car Grill

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

December 14, 1990|LAURIE OCHOA and Red Car Grill, 8571 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 652-9263. Entrees: $7.95-$18.95. and

In a town where new is almost always perceived as better, the people who run Engine Co. 28 and now the just-opened Red Car Grill believe in the past . . . albeit the gentrified past. Engine Co. 28 converted an old downtown firehouse into a bar and grill. The Red Car Grill tries to evoke Los Angeles' pre-car-dependent days--its site was once the terminus of the Red Car's Sherman line. This inspired its famous restaurant designer, Pat Kuleto, to create a masculine, clubby kind of place that is a, well, gentrified vision of what we'd imagine a businessman's restaurant near the end of a Red Car line to look like.

In the Red Car Grill's version of the old days there are chops and steaks and mashed potatoes, but also lamb kebabs skewered with a rosemary branch and served with couscous, salad with baby spinach and fried mozzarella, linguine with smoked chicken and turkey hash. Those who have been to Engine Co. 28 will recognize much of the Red Car's food.

Of course, the Red Car Grill's exercise in nostalgia comes at the expense of some of Los Angeles' more recent history: The restaurant, and the Ramada Inn it inhabits, are on the site once occupied by the Tropicana, Los Angeles' quintessential rock 'n' roll motel, and Duke's coffee shop.

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