December 13, 2021

Photo Essay: 101 Coffee Shop Space in Hollywood Hills Gets Reincarnated As Clark Street Diner

There are certain places I visited before I ever moved to California that really introduced me to the version of LA that I love. 

The Dresden Room, Mozza, Pann's, Norm's La Cienega, Mel's, Yamashiro, and The Magic Castle are a few of them. 

The 101 Coffee Shop, near the Vine Street on- and off-ramps for the 101 Freeway on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, is another one of those places. 

It used to be located in the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel, which became a Best Western Plus in 2011 and has most recently been converted into The Alder Hotel—named after the family that's owned it for over 70 years. Its current owners are Mel and Bernie Adler, both in their 80s, whose parents Hyman and Pauline Adler bought the property (then the Hollywood Franklin Hotel) in 1948. 

The hotel's restaurant space once operated as a pharmacy, until converting to food service in the 1930s. When the film Swingers shot there in the mid-1990s, it was known as the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop, owned by Susan and Michael Moore. It became the 101 in the year 2001 (under the management of restauranteur Warner Ebbink and chef Brandon Boudet)—but it shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened. 
Now, the space has come back to life under new management as Clark Street Diner. 

I was thrilled to go check it out last week and see that much of it is exactly the same—including the brown leather booths (like the one where Jerry and Steve bought me lunch when I was down and out and depressed) and the counter stools (like where I drunkenly ate a late-night tuna melt on Christmas night after having drinks at the adjacent bar).  

All the 1960s-style touches—inspired by a love of Armet & Davis— are still there, too. (The yellow tiled wall looks a bit empty without the former establishment's quirky framed photos, but I'm sure the new management will fill it with something. The jukebox is different, too.)
Even some of the longtime staff of the 101 have been hired back. 

And, of course, the flagstone walls, the terrazzo-style flooring, the multi-colored tiled walls...
...and my favorite booth, right behind the cashier, where I spotted Nick Jonas having lunch once. 
Then there's the table where I saw Aubrey Plaza be rude to her female lunch companion (who'd clearly chosen the wrong place to sit) and storm away for a different seat. 

The menu is relatively limited right now—but they say there are plans to bring back some of the 101 favorites. I hope those include the brownie waffle sundae, the egg white scramble, and the catfish and eggs.  
My favorite way to enter the 101 Coffee Shop—I mean, Clark Street Diner—is not from the sidewalk, but through the hotel.  
It's the most "Hollywood" feeling part of the experience...

...with all the framed celebrity photos (and even some autographs)... 
...and the weird celebrity murals in the hotel parking structure...

...which have been painted around over the years...

...but thankfully not painted over
(I wasn't able to find these murals' provenance. Any tips from those reading this post?)
A 1994 Los Angeles Times article described its location on Franklin Avenue as running "through Hollywood like the cusp between dreams and disappointment." And that may still be pretty accurate, even nearly 30 years later.
But at least we've still got somewhere to stop for a "Last Cappuccino Before the 101," as declared by the mural the Moores had painted on the original circa 1928 brick building (which connects to a circa 1970 annex with an exterior awning and interior breezeway). 

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