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“Old School Hollywood”
Review of Formosa Cafe

Formosa Cafe
Ranked #44 of 336 Nightlife in Los Angeles
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Owner description: Where the stars dine: a legendary celebrity hangout where the walls are lined with over 250 black and white photos of stars who have dined there - a virtual "Who's Who" of Hollywood.
Reviewed January 15, 2013

The Formosa was once a legendary place for the stars of old to hang out, eat, and drink, but now it's more of a dive bar with a history. The still serve pretty decent though slightly expensive upscale Chinese cuisine, but nobody really goes here for the food... you go for the decor and the stiff drinks. The classic red exterior and interior remains, the booths are comfy, and the black and white photos of Bogey, Sinatra, The Duke, and the rest provide some Hollywood history. When I lived down the street from the place, this was my go-to watering hole.

A little trivia... the scene where Lana Turner throws her drink in Exley's face because he accuses her of being a hooker "cut to look like Lana Turner" in LA Confidential was shot here... because there are few places still standing that carry so much Hollywood history in their bones. The place is no longer what it once was, but who or what is? I still love you, Formosa.

2  Thank Seth G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (9)
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4 - 8 of 9 reviews

Reviewed December 18, 2012

We just stopped in for a drink, but it was a very cool spot. Lots of old pictures on the walls, the staff was super friendly. Great stop if you are into old Hollywood.

1  Thank Alison G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 9, 2012

The Formosa was on our list of "must see" places while visiting Hollywood - because the famous stars like John Wayne, Lana Turner, and many others frequented the spot while working at the surrounding studios. Legend has it that in the 1950s, Frank Sinatra spent many nights at the cafe pining over Ava Gardner (one of my favorites!) Although the address on tripadvisor says Los Angeles, it is actually in the West Hollywood area.

There is a parking garage right beside the restaurant which offers the first hour of parking free, and that was plenty of time for us to get in, have a drink and appetizer, and get back before our time was up.

Visiting the Formosa is like stepping back in time. While it isn't a place that you would want to go to for a meal, necessarily, just visiting and being there where all of the old great stars ate is pretty cool. It is decorated inside in dark red and black, and looks as if it could have been that way since it was built. It isn't a huge place, but there weren't alot of people there so service was quick. Also, our waitress was extremely pleasant.

We opted for drinks - a diet coke and a signature cocktail - along with an appetizer of six potstickers...somewhat pricey at almost $30, but it's a tourist attraction, so we bit the bullet and did it. It was fun - a place to say you've been to - lots of history, lots of old photos of those who have dined there, and in its own way, charm.

3  Thank StevenVA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 19, 2012

I have been to the Formosa Cafe many, many times. I protested to keep it open when it was, for a time, destined to be demolished and made into parking for Warner's. Lindy made the drinks and Lem Quon could be seen in his booth every night.

I visited it again after a long absence and, unfortunately, found it quite different from how it used to be. Of course, Lindy and Lem are gone and physically, it looks pretty much the same, which is terrific.

The problem was the staff, who were almost aggressively disinterested (although you can subtract the "almost" when talking about the bartender, Jared). Despite the Formosa Cafe still being in the family, this is clearly a crew in dire need of supervision.

Ever been someplace and wonder how a salesperson or waitress can get away with acting so poorly? This happens when there is little or no supervision, and this is the current situation at the Formosa. You can see that they KNOW they can do whatever they want.

The bartender was particularly bad. In a nearly empty bar I could not get his attention while he socialized at the other end. When the bar back told him I was waiting he reacted dramatically; almost violently shrugging his shoulder when the bar back touched him and then swinging around to give me a dirty look. He added extra wait to let me know who was in charge.

Unable to get a drink (in a bar, mind you), I went to the hostess and told her I couldn't get the bartender's attention because of his socializing. Instead of apologizing, she suggested I move to a table, as if I were the problem, not the bartender. In the end, I stayed at the bar and he finally served me.

Staying at the bar, I got to witness him complaining about other customers to the waitress (very poor form), as well as more self-conscious performing. The cheesy theatrics like the dramatic drink shaking (with the strained face to match), the high pours and the strainer flips (which he flubbed every single time) were embarrassing. This is excused when you have a good bartender, defined by a love of mixing and sharing that knowledge and love. Jared displayed neither.

On top of all of this, questions to both the hostess and "bartender" about Lindy, the famous Formosa bartender were met with curt "I dunno's." It was clear they didn't know who I was talking about and didn't care. They don't have to get Lindy tattoos but if you're going to work in the most famous old-time bar in Hollywood, at least know who he is.

I understand that things change; I don't have a problem with that, and I appreciate that Lem Quon's grandson, the current owner, has preserved the Formosa as it used to be, at least physically. However, It's a little sad that the staff could care less about the incredible history of where they work and are not only unsupervised and disinterested, but seem to want you make sure you know it.`

I'm giving it three stars. If you want to see some of Hollywood history preserved it's definitely worth a trip. In all likelihood, you'll like it more than the people who work there.

4  Thank PricelineGuy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 2, 2011

Combination of a good place to eat and drink, and historical place to see. Pics on the walls of Hollywood stars who have been here in the past. Almost like a Hollywood Hall Of Fame. Great 1940s atmosphere.

1  Thank Joemar27
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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