Chili Bowl

ARCHITECTURE AND PRESERVATION NEWS for the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee (ModCom) and other Mid Century Modern, Googie, International, Art Deco, 20th Century design

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nichols
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Chili Bowl

Postby nichols » Tue Apr 08, 2003 9:52 am

In the spirit of the Giant Object survey I've been talking about, I'd like to try focusing on one for a bit. Following is a list taken directly from a 1930's matchbook. Jim Heimann quotes a figure of 23 Chili Bowls, here are 18 of them. Adriene has already scouted Alhambra and Huntington Park and we know that 12244 Pico is Mr. Cecil's Ribs. Now, even if these don't still look like big bowls, maybe they are covered over -- if you see something small, one story -- maybe round --at that address, go around the back and make sure it's not a chili bowl! :)

OK, Here's the list. Please try and fan out and find these. It is my glorious quest...which i'm sharing with you. OK.. Ok. Thanks.


5081 Whittier
3620 Beverly Blvd.
3001 Los Feliz Blvd.
3004 Crenshaw
Blvd.
178 S. Alvarado St.
4351 S. Figueroa St.
1101 S. Western Ave.
1661 W. Manchester Ave.
222 W. Washington Blvd.
12244 W. Pico Blvd.
11982 Wilshire Blvd.
1601 E. Anaheim Blvd., Wilmington
2870 Colorado, Eagle Rock
2228 E. Florence, Huntington Park
3141 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood
870 N. Vine St.
801 N. La Brea
501 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

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Adriene
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Postby Adriene » Tue Apr 08, 2003 11:31 am

To help identify the characteristics of the old Chili Bowls, see:

http://www.roadsidepeek.com/archit/vernac/index2.htm

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Postby Lynxwiler » Wed Apr 09, 2003 6:40 pm

Sorry to report that the Chili Bowl at Wilshire and Bundy (11982 Wilshire Blvd) is no longer standing

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Postby Adriene » Sun Apr 13, 2003 11:35 pm

Nothing at 1101 S. Western or at 1661 W. Manchester either...

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Postby nichols » Mon Jun 23, 2003 2:41 pm

5081 Whittier - Jack in the Box parking lot

3620 Beverly Blvd. - Empty lot

3001 Los Feliz Blvd. Toys R Us Parking lot

3004 Crenshaw - Church Parking lot

178 S. Alvarado St. - streamline office building - looks as old as a chili bowl...

4351 S. Figueroa St. - Jack in the Box Parking lot

222 W. Washington Blvd. - Superior Court Parking lot

3141 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood - Unmarked office - POSSIBLY a remodel

801 N. La Brea - Brand new office building

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Postby nichols » Tue Jun 24, 2003 11:41 am

Who doesn't love a nice big 10 foot bowl of chili?!?

Any members able to check out these last two unexplored sites?



1601 E. Anaheim Blvd., Wilmington

2870 Colorado, Eagle Rock

The El Cholo parking lot is at 1101 S. Western, what's at 1661 Manchester?

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Nathan
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Postby Nathan » Wed Jun 25, 2003 8:18 am

I'll hit the one in Eagle Rock today...

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Postby Nathan » Wed Jun 25, 2003 11:22 am

2870 Colorado is a gorgeously intact Chili Bowl--from the outside, anyway. Looks straight out of a time machine. The interior has been updated quite a bit...I spoke to the (original) owner, who has all the plans and blueprints and lots of vintage photos (great one of Wm. Mullholland having a bowl with a young Howard Jarvis) and he said "yeah, got a remodel in '59, some feller name of A. Quincy Johnson, or Jones, anyway, funny feller he was..."

...no, wait, that must be some other building. There is no 2800 block of Colorado; it was completely bulldozed to make way for a Glendale Freeway overpass.

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Postby Futura Girl » Wed Jun 25, 2003 12:02 pm

you tease! [-X i was getting all excited...

nix - i don't know if i have mentioned this to you before or not?
there is a small round plain, but chili bowl-like building on san fernando mission just down the street from the glen capri motel in burbank - on the east side of the street

maybe in a past incarnation it was something special?

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Postby Vavala » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:46 am

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me ... 2742.story

L.A. THEN AND NOW

The chili's gone but the restaurant-size bowls remain

Image

In 1931, Art Whizin opened a restaurant shaped like a chili bowl, and 22 others followed. The popular dish is long gone, but a few of the circular buildings are now serving up something different.

By Steve Harvey

Los Angeles Times
August 2, 2009

The way Art Whizin told the story, he was sitting at the counter of a downtown burger joint called Ptomaine Tommy's, trying to visualize the restaurant he wanted to build.

Then a truck-driver friend next to him slid over a chili bowl and said, "Here, Whizin, do something with this."

And that's how Whizin, the one-time amateur boxer, decided in 1931 to construct an eatery in the shape of a chili bowl. Why not? Merchants were putting up businesses that resembled ice cream cones, tamales, coffee kettles and sundry other objects -- all trying to catch the eye of passing motorists.

The 25-year-old entrepreneur opened his first Chili Bowl on Crenshaw Boulevard near Jefferson Boulevard after raising $1,200 by selling, among other things, his wife's wedding ring and his roadster. The couple moved into a house nearby.

"Because he sold his car, he had to have his business within walking distance," explained Jim Heimann, author of "California Crazy & Beyond," a study of offbeat roadside architecture.

Whizin told Heimann in a 1978 interview that he sketched the design of the restaurant on the corduroy pants he seemed to always be wearing. Perhaps he didn't want anyone else to get their hands on the plans.

Or perhaps "he was embellishing the story," Heimann said with a laugh. "He was an interesting character."

The Chili Bowl had no tables, just a 26-stool circular counter, and Whizin bragged that his young workers, most of them college boys, could "flip a pat of butter from the center of the counter to the edge of any of the 26 plates."

The place was an immediate success with its specialty dish called the chili size, an open-faced hamburger smothered with the homemade goodness.

The restaurant was so popular, in fact, that the owner painted a "Pat. Pending" notation on the outside, thinking his design was unique enough to be patented. Instead, he drew fan mail addressed to "Pat Pending."

Before the decade was out, Whizin had built 22 more Chili Bowls, including one on Florence Avenue in Huntington Park that, he recalled, was the only structure on the block that was undamaged by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

"It's because of the circular shape," he told the Times in 1985. "It gave evenly in all directions. The place was full and all 26 customers ran outside. After a couple of minutes, they peered inside the window, saw everything was OK and came back and finished their chili."

The outside bathrooms were lighted with blue lights and became a running joke on the radio, with comics such as Fred Allen talking of plans to take his wife "out to the Blue Room at the Chili Bowl."

Whizin liked jokes too, one of his slogans being, "We cook our beans backwards -- you only get the hiccups."

During World War II, Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica asked him to keep his Chili Bowl on Pico Boulevard near Bundy Drive open 24 hours a day for aircraft workers on the late shift.

But with the end of the war, Whizin became tired of the business. College men no longer wanted to work the counter, he told Heimann, a cultural historian whose other works include "Car Hops and Curb Service -- A History of American Drive-in Restaurants (1920-1960)." Whizin converted several of the buildings into Punch & Judy Ice Cream Parlors but later closed those.

He built a mall in Agoura Hills that still bears his name, though he had sold it long before his death in 1994 at the age of 88. It, too, has a distinctive shape -- a pyramid on one roof is a familiar sight to drivers on the 101 Freeway.

Today, four Chili Bowls survive in various forms.

One serves up sales talk. It houses a used-car business, the Valley Dealer Exchange, on San Fernando Road in Glendale.

Another old Chili Bowl, the one in Huntington Park that survived the 1933 quake, now withstands nightly musical vibrations as the Guadalajara Nightclub.

The third is a Chinese restaurant, Kim Chuy, on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, and the fourth is the Pico Boulevard one that fed so many Douglas workers during World War II. It's called Mr. Cecil's California Ribs.

The circular counters of the last two have been replaced by individual tables and booths. But their old-time look remains, and diners seem to like it

"The place is a hole-in-the-wall full of goodness," Anita W. of Monterey Park said of Kim's on the yelp.com dining site.

Jason W. of Venice marveled of Mr. Cecil's Ribs on the same site. "It feels like you are eating in a mechanical garage in the '50s. The bathrooms are even outside."

Some of the glamour is gone, though. The bathrooms no longer have blue lights.

Like Whizin more than seven decades ago, these four businesses have done something with a chili bowl, a much larger chili bowl. At least they didn't have to consult Whizin's corduroy pants.

steveharvey9@gmail.com

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Postby Gnomus » Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:18 pm


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Postby nichols » Wed Aug 05, 2009 4:17 pm

Breaking news via Steve Partida:

The Huntington Park chili bowl is closed! the walnut park neighborhood assn. complained about the bar that WAS there.......

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Postby Gnomus » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:16 pm

I went to the library today in the hopes of tracking down more location info on programmatic buildings. I confirmed that the Betsy Ann Sweet Shops was a chain; one of the locations was marked as #9 -- but I don't know if they all were in the shape of giant women or not.

Also, I didn't find any listings for the Big Freezer chain. Since the stores didn't have plumbing, I guess they cut corners by not installing phones as well. What's weird is that I didn't find them in the yellow pages either...

Here's what I found about the 23 Chili Bowls in terms of order built and location:

#01 -- 3012 Crenshaw Blvd
#02 -- 2230 E Florence Ave, Huntington Park (2228 in 1940)
#03 -- 801 N La Brea
#04 -- 5061 Whittier Blvd
#05 -- 3668 Beverly Blvd
#06 --
#07 -- 2453 Fletcher Dr
#07 -- 12244 W Pico Blvd (NOTE: that is not a typo. Most directories list Fletcher Dr as location #7, but the March 1940 directory lists the Pico location as #7)
#08 -- 4351 S Figueroa St
#09 -- 111 N Fairfax Ave
#10 -- 1661 W Manchester Ave
#11 -- 178 S Alvarado St
#12 -- 3141 Cahuenga Blvd, N Hollywood
#13 --
#14 -- 870 N Vine St
#15 -- 1101 S Western Ave
#16 -- 2870 Colorado, Eagle Rock
#17 --
#18 --
#19 --
#20 --
#21 --
#22 --
#23 --

I have been unable to find location numbers on these sites:

501 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra
6530 San Fernando, Glendale
3620 Beverly, LA (NOTE: this would seem to be only blocks away from location #5)
3001 Los Feliz Blvd
222 W Washington Blvd
11982 Wilshire Blvd
1601 E Anaheim Blvd, Wilmington

There's a listing for "commissary & office" at
3620 W Jefferson Blvd (3614 in 1940)


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