Issue: Issue Summer 2010

The Grand Pubs of Hollywood

In 965 AD, King Edgar “The Peaceful” decreed that there could only be one public house per village. Over 1000 years later there’s a majestic connection to the Cat & Fiddle, a local landmark that’s celebrating its 25th Anniversary, explained Ashlee Gardner:

The Cat & Fiddle Darts
What would a pub be without darts?

“My father named it after one of his favorite pubs in Hillingdon in the west of London, where he was brought up, but it’s said that the name was first inspired by Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, who was affectionately nicknamed “Catherine La Fidèle” (The Faithful).”

It originally opened in Laurel Canyon in 1982 after Kim Gardner and his wife Paula decided that since there was no decent pub around, they’d open one up themselves! Kim was a musician who came over as part of the 1960's “British Invasion”, and he and Paula brought the show to Sunset Boulevard in 1985.

The Cat & Fiddle's bar
The Cat & Fiddle's bar

Though Kim passed away in 2001, it’s as much of a family business as ever, with daughters Ashlee, Eva and Camille involved too:

 “We’ve been family-owned from the beginning, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been here so long, despite lots of competition. We have plenty of regulars, a lovely patio, and we haven’t changed too many things over the years.”

Pig 'N Whistle Restaurant
The Pig 'n Whistle has stood on hallowed Hollywood ground since 1927.

Pig 'N Whistle Restaurant Interior
Its interior style and furnishing (below) sets an upscale, old word tone.

Based in the Thompson Building, one of the earliest designed in the Spanish/Mediterranean style, it’s part of a complex that has been a warehouse for studio make-up and costumes, and home to the Gourmet Hollywood, a restaurant much loved by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Inside, the walls are covered with English paraphernalia; English pub signs, trays and bar towels,  train timetables, maps, a Union Jack flag and even some antique Vanity Fair sketches. If you become addicted to a game of darts, you can buy your own “arrows”.

The food is heaven for a homesick Brit, and for others it’s a chance to take your taste buds to blighty: try the delights of a ploughman’s lunch, Cornish pasty, fish and chips, Scotch egg and bangers and mash. In June, the Cat & Fiddle is going to be opening on the weekends for breakfast and brunch – and make sure you keep an eye out for the resident ghost…

Ye Coach & Horse Pub - conversation around a bar table
Ye Coach & Horses Pub has been in continous operation sin 1934 and is a favorite watering hole of many celebrities and stars.

Located next  to the Egyptian Theatre (there’s even a side entrance from the  forecourt),  the Pig 'n Whistle opened its doors for the first  time in June 1927 to provide food and drinks for movie-goers (this was  before concession stands).

Surviving both the Depression and WWII, it soon became a favorite watering hole for stars like Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Judy Garland, but closed in the 1950’s. It wasn’t until 1999 when the new owners paid over $1,000,000 for a full restoration. In March 2001 the glory days were back again.

Ye Coach & Horse - Street view

Inside, make sure you look up at the ornate, gothic carved wood ceiling and then try to count the number of vintage pig and whistle tiles – they’re everywhere:  

“People love the historical feeling they get when they walk in – it feels like old school Hollywood,” noted joint owner Chris Breed. “They stare up at the ceiling before they’ve even ordered a beer – it really has that “wow” factor.”

Recently voted as having one of the best Happy Hours in LA ($2 beers and $5 well drinks), Ye Coach & Horses pub is the oldest in Hollywood – it’s been here since 1934 – and is a little off the beaten track.  

A hipster dive bar that’s part swank, part sleazy, it has a notorious killer juke box, a Monday night drinking club, and is well-known as a place where stars like Quentin Tarantino, Drew Barrymore and Kirsten Dunst and many more go to hideout and hangout.

Jane Grant, owner since the 1950’s, remarked, “Johnny Weissmuller used to do his “Tarzan” yell outside, and all the English movie stars came here when movies converted to sound and the studios wanted that wonderful accent. The two Richard’s – Burton and Harris – came here too. It’s a real drinking bar, and I think we’ll be here forever, through thick and thin.”

And finally, there’s Dillons Irish Pub, the new kid on the block. They’re at street level in the gothic deco 1930’s Equitable Building at the prime tourist spot of Hollywood and Vine – try and spot the gargoyles on the fifth floor balconies as you go in.

Its loud atmosphere and generous prices have quickly become a favorite for wannabes, locals and tourists alike – they guarantee the lowest valet prices in Hollywood, which certainly helps!

Dillons Irish Pub has a warm, modernistic atmosphere, great food, and reasonable prices.

Dillons Irish Pub - view of the loung area

There’s Irish stew,  of course, but this is no old-fashioned country pub: they serve sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, jambalaya, Shepherd’s Pie and a raw oyster on the half shell for $1 – amongst many others.

Delicious looking hamburger from Dillons Irish Pub

As an ex-pat Brit myself, I’m on a never-ending search for the best pub in Hollywood (as are most of my other friends from the UK) and these four pubs offer the very best of the old and the new – as well as a tipple or two of what you fancy!