Formosa Cafe West Hollywood Route 66 How the Cafe was Saved
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is an icon in West Hollywood that has been there for 75 years and people love it, don’t gut the inside and redo it! The Formosa Café had stood at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd for 75 years, till 2015 when new owners came in gutted the inside and changed this icon to a more modern look. The restaurant closed, just closed, no warning, right before Christmas 2016. The Formosa's, stripped of all it’s charm, and history, like a woman in tattered rags, fate hung in the balance.
To the rescue, come three men who in my head are kind of Amazing Guys with Super powers, the 1933 Group. They restore and manage the old establishments in town, and they do it magnificently. They bought the Formosa in 2017, and I think you could hear the community of West Hollywood, and the Route 66 family, heave a sigh of relief. The 1933 Group would lovingly restore with great pains all the opulence that had made the Formosa a place to go to enjoy dining as well as the décor.
The other restaurants that the 1933 Group have restored include the Idle House in North Hollywood. I have been there and it is a great restaurant, the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, and also the Tail of the Pup in Los Angeles will be reopening soon.
Right after the Restaurant closed in 2016 I had an opportunity to photograph the Formosa, due to you just never know what is going to happen to these buildings. Although it had been put on the Historic Register in 1991, the building could have sat empty for years.
Fortunately it did not, the 1933 Group has masterfully brought back the red and black décor inside, the Red Trolley Car inside the restaurant wood gleams the bar have been restored, and a new bar added in back. The Café actually started in 1925 in A Red Trolley Car catering to the stars from then United Artist studio. Later the car was part of the décor of the building you see now when the restaurant was opened in 1939. The restaurant appears to be built around the trolley car!
Stars have visited the café over the years, including but not limited to Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Elvis, and James Dean. The list is too many to mention and the walls are filled with autographed pictures of the stars who have dined and wined in the establishment.
Jo and I happened to be in the restaurant on the night before the Grand Opening that was going to take place on June 28th, 2019, we were seated in the Trolley Car. We were able to take a good look around, as not too many people realized they were open that night. We just took a chance, and we got right in. The food was excellent the drinks were excellent and being able to revel in the beautiful restored décor that shouted of the 40’s and to view the photographs on the walls was a delightful experience. They are serving the same dishes, mostly a Chinese fare that was served for many years previously. Drinks, much the same that the stars would have sipped.
There is so much history at this restaurant you seep in it. It is an experience I would highly recommend. And would also visit the other 1933 Group Restaurants if you get a chance. These guys have the right stuff to fix the old establishments and bring them back to life, so in their case if it is broke they do fix it!