Hollywood’s Legendary Formosa Cafe Has Closed! Will Someone Step Up To Save It? Now Is The Time!


Goodbye To The Legendary Formosa Cafe…

Alison Martino, who created the great website “Vintage Los Angeles”, posted this on Instagram tonight:

“Well, it’s unfortunately official. @theformosacafe has closed and the building is for lease.”

Alison told me that “Esotouric’s Secret Los Angeles” broke the story, but once she shared it on her website, it went viral.

Alison has spent so much of her time trying to keep vintage Hollywood alive, and this is just more awful news…but the building owners are apparently looking for new tenants – so there is hope!

If there is someone who can step up, we can save this legendary Hollywood haunt!


Hollywood’s Legendary Formosa Cafe!

Here’s the history of the restaurant, according to wikipedia:

“The Formosa was founded in 1925 by 1920s prize-fighter Jimmy Bernstein. Bernstein operated his establishment initially in a Red Car trolley located just east of The Lot Studios.


Generations of movie stars such as Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable have eaten meals at The Formosa. Frank Sinatra is reputed to have spent many nights at the Formosa in the 1950s, pining over Ava Gardner.

In the 1991, the restaurant was threatened with demolition when its lease expired as plans evolved for, first, The Lot, the soon-to-be renamed Warner Bros studio lot parking lot, and later what would become The Lot shopping center. Due to concerted citizen and preservationist efforts, the restaurant was preserved in its present location as a landmark.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t help save this landmark, which was used brilliantly in the film “LA Confidential.”


In that classic scene, Guy Pearce confronts Lana Turner in the bar, thinking she is a prostitute “cut” to look like a movie star…


This scene was shot at The Formosa, so at least we will always be able to go back one more time to see this classic location…because it has been designated a historic landmark, the building may not be at risk, but a ill-advised interior remodel has destroyed much of what made the space unique…we’ll see what happens now…



The owners are apparently looking for new tenants, so perhaps a great Restauranteur will step up….if you know of someone who has a vision for The Formosa, let them know that the building owners want to save it….I will update as more is known…


Destroying Hollywood’s Past…

This is just the latest example of a classic Hollywood institution closing…just last year, Dominick’s in West Hollywood closed its doors…

Dominick's Hollywood landmark

Here’s a look at this legendary celebrity haunt:


You can still see landmarks Hollywood locations, like Hollywood’s “Hightower” apartment…

Hollywood Hightower building

This location has been used in many films, see them here:


I also posted a story recently about Warren Beatty’s last film, which was a box office disaster:


For me, the way in which it was handled by the studio also signaled the end of Hollywood’s glamour period….you can read my thoughts here if you like:


While I understand that our business is always evolving, the lack of any respect for the past is always troubling.

Journalist / TV Producer Alison Martino is fighting to save Hollywood’s history for future movie lovers to enjoy…

Vintage Los Angeles

Check out my story about her website Vintage LosAngeles here:


Make sure to follow this great site at:


A sad day to have to say goodbye to The Formosa Cafe…makes me want to watch “LA Confidential” with a nice cold drink in my hand…


Categories: Action Films, Art, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Food, food blog, Food Review, Great Films, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Movies, Movies About Movies, Recipes, Restaurants, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, Wacky Food

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34 replies

  1. I have a garage sale prize: painting looking up the street at the “Tower.” One day, I’ll donate it to the Hollywood Movie Museum.

  2. Formosa Cafe is located in West Hollywood, not Los Angeles (Hollywood).

  3. The Formosa was one of my favorite hangouts in the mid 60s. Does any one remember The Naples at Sunset and Gower? I spent a lot of money and a lot of time there. I will always remember Jerry Dunphy from CBS coming in before the 6 PM news and then coming back before the 11PM news. The difference in his reporting was visible. He could drink a lot. There were a ton of celebrities that hung out there. Such fond memories.

  4. Hollywood isn’t anything like it used to be with stylish neighbor stars coming in, the type of crowd that comes in now is far from that world, and unfortunately they ruined the interior history with the latest reno. So if you think it should be saved, maybe consider that some things are not meant to live on forever, especially when their history isn’t preserved. It’s probably best to just remember it the way it’s described over the decades. The reviews have not been very good for a while anyway. Personally, I wouldn’t want any place to live on as if it were an old amusement ride.

    • If the building is a landmark and can’t be torn down, then perhaps there is a way to make it relevant while also preserving what it stands for…not sure the right answer except that people are reacting to the news, so it is touching an emotion

  5. Hi John, I am spreading the word to all my friends who have connections to the restaurant world to see if a worthy tenant might step up to save The Formosa. One suggestion… and please excuse me if I’m being forward in any way — might you be able to put forth a headline about this that is something of a call to action? I’m reading so many friends’ Facebook feeds and they’re all in mourning, not realizing that a new tenant, with an understanding of the great history of the place, could save the day.

  6. The main problem we have with places like The Formosa is that we remember them fondly but we never visit them. As an L.A. native, I visited The Formosa regularly once I was old enough. I was there on May 14, 1998, when it was announced Frank Sinatra had died. My wife had part of my 40th birthday there in 2007, and was looking forward to having part of my 50th there later this year. But the place was ever rarely busy. One could go in there any time of day or night and find the place at 20% capacity. How is that possible in an area of over four million people? Because we love the nostalgia more. Look how great The Formosa used to look! Look how great it was used in Swingers and L.A. Confidential and in this movie and that television show!

    But when was the last time most people actually ate there?

    My excuse is that I currently live in the Bay Area, but I’ve still been to The Formosa in the past year. Was not happy with the interior changes, and I hope The Formosa will get a new lease on life with new operators.

    But here’s the thing… we can’t bitch about classic Hollywood haunts being torn down for new buildings with no character if we don’t patronize them regularly. Musso and Franks still operates to this day without threat of closure or demolition because it’s still popular. People still make the effort to go there regularly. That is the reality of business. Without a consistent flow of patrons, a restaurant will be forced to close, or be forced to make changes to find a new steady clientele.

    So if we are lucky to get The Formosa back, and we are lucky to get it back to its authentic state, we must go to the Formosa regularly, to keep it alive. Or it will die again.

    • Edwards, I agree wholeheartedly. There are two issues: if a building owner simply wants a higher-priced client, there’s nothing you can do – that is happening a lot in LA AND New York. BUT – you are absolutely right: support the establishment! Right now we should all be making reservations at the classic haunts – like Musso & Frank’s – in order to show them they can survive….thanks for your comment!

      • Musso and Frank has an advantage over almost every other busness in America the owners of the restaurant own the building so their busness isn’t under constant threat by their landlord or a developer. The Formosa also became a bit of a pain to go to when they built that mall around it and took the adjacent parking lot away.
        I do agree that we should patronize the places we love, but sometimes that’s not enough.

      • You are correct: owning the building is everything: New York just lost a classic restaurant in Little Italy because the owners up the rent to $42k a month!

  7. Los Angeles doesn’t care anymore….they will all be gone..just a matter of time…this was one of my accounts back in the 1970s.

  8. This is awful. There will be no more L.A. history left. Hoping they leave the building alone. Not sure but believe they can demo landmarks and even historic cultural monuments. I am supporting Measure S in March, to stop sell out to developers and everything is coming down for their illegal over sized projects, voting for candidate up against garcetti, who values nothing historic in L.A. and hoping new councilmembers, especially CD13 get voted in, old ones and mayor selling off our city to developers and we’re losing what makes this city great. It will be unrecognizable… must try to stop the recreation, especially of Hollywood into a skyscraper city, losing all it history and character. Hollywood Heritage, and L.A. Conservancy working hard to save what remains, but if this leadership prevails nothing is safe, not even historic cultural monuments.
    Saying YES to Measure S…it’s our only hope.

    • Yes, hoping that the building is protected, and the owners can find someone who can build a sustainable business there!

    • Garcetti just wants to overshadow NYC to become the Mayor of the largest city in the U.S. … instead of the second largest. He ain’t a Democrat! He’s relentless in his pursuit of foreign developers’ money because he has high political aspirations.
      I loved the Formosa back in the day … will be so sorry if it goes. Hope it can be restored.

  9. What a pity! I hate it when history is torn down.

  10. Some iconic sites indeed, John. I well remember that scene in ‘LA Confidential’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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