I‘ve been on the lookout for a truly authentic 1950s diner since I arrived in California. I finally found it, driving down Wilshire Boulevard and screeching to a halt as soon as I locked eyes on its mighty mid-century neon facade. Only one problem: Johnie’s Coffee Shop isn’t serving any coffee and waffles today … or tomorrow. At a closer look through its windows, the booths of Johnie’s Coffee Shop are empty, the counters are covered in dust and you can be sure the sound and smell of sizzling bacon is only in your imagination. Welcome to Hollywood’s ghost diner…
This unchanged gastro relic of Los Angeles is almost a perfect snapshot of American Space Age design– just without the patrons and staff that once brought it to life.
Located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, it opened in 1956 as Romeo’s Times Square and changed ownership twice during the 1960s when it became Johnie’s Coffee Shop. After more than four decades of service, it closed its doors to the public in 2000.
That coffee-stained newspaper is dated April 1961.
Before its closure in 2000, it was purchased in 1994 by the Gold family, founders of the 99 Cents Only Stores. They leased the old parking lot to the Wilshire Boulevard 99 Cents Only outlet two doors away, hijacking the old neon sign that once lured hungry Angelinos to Johnie’s tables.
But these seats aren’t always empty. In fact, Johnie’s still has one patron that ensures the diner wakes from its slumber now and again. Hollywood is likely the sole reason this time capsule is still standing, enlisting Johnie’s as a nostalgic filming location for various movies over the years. Best known as the setting for the opening of the 1988 cult film Miracle Mile, and also appeared in The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, American History X and Gone in 60 Seconds. It also steals the show in a music video, “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston.
Flashing its front end neons, hoping a Hollywood scout might drive by and fall for the bygone diner, it’s sad to see this awesome time capsule sitting empty, but a curious little stop to add to your off-beat Hollywood tour.
(And in case you’re a films scout, that email is Sharon@AuZoneVentures.com).
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