Best Simulacrum of a Simulacrum (1938): Lawry's the Prime Rib
Flickr/inuyaki meat cart at Lawry's
Like any good back lot, greater Los Angeles may be most like itself where it resembles anywhere else, from the Pasadena backstreets that have spent a century standing in for suburban Connecticut, to the jungly corners of Griffith Park, to the Spanish villas grander and more formally designed than anything in Seville.
So when Lawrence Frank opened Lawry's the Prime Rib in 1938, in an era when his competitors were setting up business in giant teapots and simulated tropical paradises, it makes sense that he would be inspired by Simpson's-in-the-Strand, a grand London restaurant that he had never seen. If West End swells ate creamed spinach, barons of beef and Yorkshire pudding served from enormous silver carts, he would serve it that way, too. Thus was an empire born.
And when the restaurant relocated across the street a few years ago, to a location that it had previously abandoned to move across the street in 1947, it was to a dining room that looked more like the original Lawry's than Lawry's itself. Is what Lawry's serves truly prime rib? It depends on who you think starred in North by Northwest: Archibald Leach or Cary Grant.
Lawry's the Prime Rib: 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310)
Look for more "Best of L.A." pieces in our annual Best of L.A. issue, out Oct. 7th.