If you’re looking for a great celebrity spotting restaurant on your Los Angeles vacation, you’ll want to drop in for lunch or dinner at the Formosa Cafe.
The Formosa in West Hollywood is one of the most iconic restaurants in all of Los Angeles, one we almost lost a couple of years ago. Not only is it frequented by some of the biggest stars in show business, it has “starred” in its share of movies as well.
When the Formosa first opened in 1939, the Samuel Goldwyn studio (later to become MGM) was located directly across the street. The cafe became a hangout for the likes of Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, John Wayne and Elvis Presley.
The Formosa Cafe closed in 2016 and for a time it didn’t look like it would re-open. But the 1933 Group stepped in and spent well over $2 million to restore the iconic cafe to its full glory.
The restoration included the iconic and original Red Trolly car dating back to 1904 that you see alongside it in the pictures. (The Red Cars were run by the Pacific Electric Railway in the early 1900’s and ran all over Los Angeles.) The Cafe was noted for all of the black and white photos of celebrities that adorned the walls and during the remodel they were all located and brought back into the restaurant.
I don’t know the date it re-opened, but LA was thankful it didn’t lose this grand old Cafe. The terrazzo floors and rich red booths remain and the walls are again lined with the black and white autographed celebrity headshots. Another space in the back is called the Yee Mee Loo bar which was rescued from an old bar in Chinatown.
Stars and celebrities that have been spotted more recently at the Formosa include Michael Douglas, Nicolas Cage, Jodie Foster, Matthew Perry, Rod Steiger, Richard Dreyfus, Robert Wagner, Brittney Spears, Karl Madden and Christian Slater.
The Formosa Cafe in the Movies
The Formosa was featured in the popular 1997 film L.A. Confidential in the scene where a detective mistakes the actress that plays the real Lana Turner for a hooker. Actually, Lana Turner was once a regular at the cafe as well… and L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson met with Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger to discuss their roles in the movie.
We see the cafe again in the Jim Carrey movie, The Majestic, in the 1996 movie Swingers and the 1998 moviemakers Still Breathing. It was also a favorite haunt of Elizabeth Short – along with the Frolic Room and the Cecil Hotel – who was the victim of the tragic Black Dahlia murder.
We can’t guarantee you will spot any celebrities when you dine at the Formosa Cafe, but we can guarantee you’ll be glad you went. It’s a beautiful piece of Old Hollywood with great food. It’s located at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood.
More photos after the break…
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