Billingsley’s Restaurant in West Los Angeles has been serving grand old dinners since 1946 and has established a reputation for excellent quality, traditional service, and time-honored ambience. This past weekend a friend and I paid a visit to see if, 62 years later, Billingsley’s standards have been maintained, and if the appeal of an Old World steakhouse has sustained it’s sheen in a world of a thousand culinary colors.
But first, a little history: Glen Billingsley, Sr., opened the West Los Angeles location in 1946 as Billingsley’s Golden Bull. At one time Glenn Sr. had seven Golden Bulls, three Outrigger Polynesian restaurants, and the catering service to Continental Airlines. Glenn Jr. and Drew Billingsley worked at their father’s restaurants for most of their teenage years as busboys, pantry helpers, and cooks. As time went on they managed restaurants for their father. In 1969 Glenn Jr. and Drew opened their first location in Van Nuys, Billingsley’s Restaurant, and in 1974 bought the West Los Angeles location from Glenn Sr., who was mostly retired by then. Glenn Jr. and Drew have operated these locations with good value, quality, and service at the top of their list. (Fun fact: Glenn Jr. and Drew’s mother is none other than Barbara Billingsley, who played June Cleaver on the hit TV Show Leave it to Beaver.)
Arriving at a little after six in the evening, we were in time for the “Early Bird Specials,” a selection of complete dinners that include soup or salad, potato or rice, vegetable, garlic cheese toast, beverage, and a dessert, all for $18.95. Although this list includes some relatively healthily inclined options like garlic lime shrimp and rainbow trout, the Billingsley’s Restaurant experience is less about calorie counting paranoia, and more about throwing caution to the wind and simply living life to it’s hedonistic full. My dietary police escort, Dale, however, would beg to differ, as she duly chose the Rainbow Trout, sans baked potato but with extra veggies and subsequently made similar suggestions for my choice of dish. After a little consideration and olfactory stimulation from meals being delivered to other tables, I opted for the Yankee Pot Roast that our server, the delightful Maggie, assured me was “tender and delicious pieces of tri-tip in a rich mushroom gravy.”
For the appetizer I went for the Clam Chowder whilst Dale expectedly took the salad, which was standard but fresh, and her option of a little olive oil dressing kept the medical team happy once again. My Clam Chowder was nothing short of excellent. Rich, creamy, and full of flavor, with the garlic toast opening up the proceedings in a manner that befits such an establishment, top marks indeed!
The arrival of our entrees was timed to perfection and both plates looked enticing and cleanly presented, with my pot roast generous and aromatic and the trout colorfully seasoned. With sides of coleslaw, sour cream and chives for myself, and tartar sauce for Dale, these dishes were complete with regard to ingredients and taste, my tri-tip being tender and juicy as advertised, and the trout absolutely succulent. Two fine and satisfying entrees they certainly were.
For dessert we shared some Spumoni and French Vanilla ice creams that rounded off a perfectly delightful evening, and these two early birds flew off content, satiated, and satisfied.
So, to sum up, if you want a genuine traditional steakhouse experience of the gourmand kind, replete with a long cocktail bar with flies in attendance (of the human variety), Dino-era red leather booths, signs on the walls that proclaim things like “next time, bring your wife,” and landmark garlic toast that all come together to take you back to a time of white picket fences, apple pie, and big red Cadillacs, then Billingsley’s is the place for you. Remember to leave the dietician in you at home so you can really have an enjoyable guilt-free experience, circa 1946.
11326 West Pico Boulevard.