Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shakers

Shakers is a not so much a restaurant as it is a combination time warp/American archetype. Imagine a hybrid of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and the diner where Honey Bunny and Pumpkin went crazy in Pulp Fiction. Throw in little details of every happy evening out to dinner with your parents in the 1970s -- complete with a little white porcelain container of crackers and breadsticks -- and you might get an inkling of what it's like at this legendary South Pasadena diner.

Several great local restaurants are owned and operated by the same family -- the quaint French bakery-inspired Wild Thyme (just down the street from Shakers,) Pasadena's sophisticated Central Park Cafe, Beckham --the cozy English pub and grill (also in Pasadena) and fifties-themed Diner on Main in Alhambra. Each is a local favorite, but none quite compete with the flat-out comfort and coolness of Shakers. Not poseur cool -- you know, like the kind of hipster nouveau diners that have a juke box turned into an aquarium, pop art retro advertising lithographs and a drink menu that includes a "Bogart Martini." I'm talking authentic cool. At Shakers, you half expect Dean Moriarty to walk in and sit down at the counter.

The food is yummy and affordable, the coffee is strong and the kid's menu comes with crayons and a coloring page. Come hungry, savor a meal of good, old fashioned favorites and be sure to take home a loaf of the famous zucchini bread.

28 comments:

Wayne said...

This looks right out of the late 60s, early 70s. Look at the ceiling! Look at the Naugahyde!

I just visited Naugahyde.com to refresh my memory. History of the Nauga is worth a look.

This reminds me of restaurants I used to stop at when I drove down to California, in fact the counter seats look identical. At that time they were called VIPS but I haven't seen one for years.

Good job Laurie.

Webradio said...

Hello Laurie !

French food is good, isn't it ???

Have a good day !

Tanya said...

I love Pulp Fiction and totally remember the scenes in here!
I like how that guy is looking right at you!

Snapper said...

When I saw the thumbnail on the portal I thought "Hmmmmm...Edward Hopper" and sure enough. Wonderful photo Laurie!

Trish said...

some of us actually remember when it was named "Salt Shaker" and remember Una, may her memory be a blessing.

except for those new pendant saucer lights and some paint, I am not sure this place has changed in 25 years.

okay food, okay place, lots of nostalgia for old time residents.

Hope said...

Shakers sound perfect! The sort of place our family is always on the lookout for....we love to eat at places like this! I love your words and description ... especially the bit about imagining all the details from dining out with your parents in the '70's. I love this post and the photo!

Shanna said...

I've been going there and to Wild Thyme forever, it seems. The food is healthy and the service friendly.
I would have starved long ago without these wonderful eateries. We got one of their carrot cakes this year for my birthday. It was great!

Ken Mac said...

Brilliant minds think alike!

USelaine said...

I love your description and the moment you chose. My favorite part is the soup spoon ready to be emptied.

My grandfather used to take me to places like this. We were big fans of hot turkey sandwiches with creamy mashed potatoes, all covered with gravy. He always liked to point out a particularly efficient waitress when he spotted one. We would sit at the counter, and he'd drink coffee and I'd drink milk.

Thanks for the memories.

Mister Earl said...

Yes... I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty. When I was a freshman in college in 1966, Ken Keysey and the Merry Pranksters created a happening there one evening. Ken was supposed to give a lecture on psychedellic drugs, but that never happened, at least literally. The highlight was Neal Cassady - upon whom the character Dean Moriarty was based - going on some strange rants.

The restaurant... First it was The Salt Shaker, then it was Shakers. Wild Thyme, its sister, had another name before Wild Thyme, but I can't think of it at the moment. There was a Wild Thyme in Burbank too for awhile, but it's closed now.

The same people used to own the restaurant that is now where Carmine's is. I can't think of the name but it was something like Judson's. Maybe someone else knows. Then Tommy LaSorda turned it into a branch of LaSorda's. Then it was a sports bar, then a Mexican restaurant, and now Carmines.

Cafe Observer said...

A mention of restaurants & Eddie Hopper in one post. Woman, that brings a smile to my face!

L, "de ck is in de mail" for that!

Those are great shady looking characters you caught at the time! This combined with your b/w nites is wunderful.

I'm putting this on your greatest hits album.

Petrea said...

Love this one. Wouldn't be surprised if Dean Moriarty was there back in the day.

Eki Akhwan said...

The range of eating places sounds fascinating, Laurie. I like the cozy atmosphere you captured in this resto. It looks warm, friendly, and relaxed ... just like my overall impression about California in general is.

Thanks a lot for your frequent visits and appreciative comments, my friend.

Cafe Observer said...

Mr Earl, re prior name of Wild Thyme on FairOaks:

I first went there when I think it was called The Bakery. I think that was the prior name, wasn't it? Does that sound right?

I should call my long time SoPasa resident friends to double-ck.

I seem to feel it was better when it was under the old name.

Mister Earl said...

CO - You're right. It was The Bakery. The Bakery had more straight ahead food. Wild Thyme changed to a little more "trendy" or European-influenced food like crepes and chopped salads.

ibakeum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tash said...

L - we gotta see some Movers now!
I'm so glad MrE reminded me it was the Salt Shaker before - Spent some good times there trying to be all "growed-up" by drinking strong, black coffee! Wow.
Was the other place mentioned on Fair Oaks a converted car repair garage? My first real dinner date there & later dinner with my dad for my 17th? b-day. Wow.

Laurie said...

Hi everyone!

Thanks for the comments today. I actually remember when this was called The Salt Shaker because I had lunch here when I was visiting relatives back in high school! I also remember The Bakery -- I ate there a lot when I first moved to Los Angeles and would visit with loved ones who lived in Pasadena.

Tash, I didn't realize you lived in this neck of the woods when you were growing up!

Wayne, Naugahyde... long may it prevail.

Thanks, kids! Until next time...

pauline said...

Great Memories!! The name of the lady referred to by Trish was Onaugh.

Trish said...

The Bakery is right for Wild Thyme's previous name. But, wasn't it something else for 3 minutes in between? Something like Edna's and Pete's or something odd? Or, Shakers II? Can't remember that---that WAS almost 20 years ago and it did not stay long as I recall. What I do remember is when WT opened, the concept of fresh foods, salads, other than cobb or plain green was a huge step from the old coffee house type place. No one seemed sure if it would last. It has!

Carmines has been a number of things over the years. Pick a name, it probably fit at one time. I can't recall them all...Eddie's rings a bell for some reason. All I remember was going there +/- 30 years ago with my mother to meet an old friend of hers, it being a somewhat skeezy place and wondering if as a "child" whether I should really be in the place.

Mister Earl said...

When I first moved to So Pas in 1981, the place where Carmine's is now reminded me of the kind of place my grandmother would like... the kind of place she took us to when we visited her in Cleveland.

Judy said...

Great colors and leading line. I love the guy in mid bite. :~) This is a terrific focus!!

Anonymous said...

Love your photo, but the food at Shakers is the worst!

Joni said...

my mother worked there in the 70s and my father used to come in with his college friends. They have been married 30+ years and have EIGHT kids. we heard so many stories about the salt shaker growing up that it sort of became legendary (so out of curiosity I googled it today & found this blog post). I'm sending the link for this blog post to my mom - she will totally die!

cindy b said...

My daughter sent me your blog addy. I worked at Salt Shaker back in the mid seventies, and still have my nametag! I met my husband there, he was a student at Cal Tech, and he and his buddies would come in for coffee late at night. Also, Prior to being called The Bakery, it was called The Pie Shop(I worked there before SS). Robert Reed(Mr. Brady) used to come in and buy pies to go quite often.
Thank you for posting about the restaurant!!! It made my day!!!!!
I see that my daughter posted too.:)

Walter said...

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Laurie,

I used to hang out at the Salt Shaker in 1976 and 1977. I lived up on Raymond Hill in The Lanai Apartments while attending Art Center. Late night (around midnight or later) coffee and cheesecake was what I usually had and sat at the end booth (usually with a couple of friends), where the guy with the yellow shirt is sitting in the photo.

Tony said...

Did you know that a movie was filmed in the restaurant with Gene Hackman & Barbara Streisand?

The Bakery had visitors like Jonathan Winters And Abe Vagoda.

Actress Rene Russo's sister Toni worked as waitress at the Salt Shaker. She was married to Bernie Taupin.

Tony Bonno

Donald said...

Let's go back about 38 years... Yes, I ate at "The Salt Shaker" in Pasadena. I had just moved to LA and immediately got sick from the change in water from Michigan. I didn't eat for several days, and then BANG -- right to the Salt Shaker for a huge breakfast. I was in heaven.