Carole Lombard and Clark Gable were no strangers to restaurants, such as the Vine Street Brown Derby where they were photographed above. And when either or both had to get out of town and took the train, they relied on railroad food, which at the time was known as pretty darn good -- and not just in the fabled dining cars on board.
This is the Harvey House restaurant at Los Angeles Union Station when it opened in May 1939. Did Lombard ever eat here, perhaps before the fateful trip east that left on Jan. 12, 1942? We don't know, although I believe the train (the "City of Los Angeles") left early that Monday morning, and since she had arrived at the station from Encino in the Valley, she might not have had time for breakfast before boarding.
The Harvey House shut down in 1967, a victim of declining interest in passenger rail travel and the station's diminished traffic as a rail hub. But over the past quarter-century, especially with the growth of short-term rail such as Metrolink and Amtrak service between San Luis Obispo to the north and San Diego to the south, Union Station revived as a travel destination.
Now, more than half a century after the Harvey House closed, the site lives anew.
Welcome to the Imperial Western Beer Company, which began in October as a blend of beer pub (with its own on-site brewery) and restaurant. Its menu focuses on seafood, in the tradition of the Oyster Bar at New York's Grand Central Station. But it's not the only new rail-related venue there.
Next door is the Streamliner, a bar Harvey House officials designed during World War II for servicemen more interested in a drink than a full meal. Today, it serves riders waiting to head home to Ventura, San Bernardino or Riverside.
More about them can be found at https://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-fo-re-union-station-20181005-story.html.
Back in Lombard's day, rail was an integral part of Los Angeles life. As proof, consider the Pacific Electric Building at 6th & Main.
Today, it's known for its spacious lofts...but for many years, this building was a rail hub, carrying commuters between downtown and points east and south. Its last train, to Long Beach (paralleling much of today's Metro Blue Line light-rail trackage), ran in April 1961.
Among its services to riders, the PE was home to a restaurant:
Here's a look at its interior:
Did Lombard ever eat here? Perhaps, if she and her family were headed east on the PE or south to Long Beach. But I think we can safely say she never had breakfast here in December 1941, which is when this menu is from (take a look at these prices!):
Yum. (And no substitutions.)