During the Reagan era there was a boom of retro 1950s diners across Los Angeles. The most popular among them, the biker and hip West Hollywood hangout called Jack Rabbit Slims. Motorcycles are heard from Atwater Village all the way to their final destination in Glendale. They park in front of a retro self standing bowling alley turned restaurant with a larger than life jack rabbit cartoon neon sign created by Pat Denner, the artist who helped bring to life “Vegas Vic” the larger than life cowboy neon sign in old-downtown Las Vegas.
Inside the massive up-to-500 people restaurant the maître d’, an impersonator of The Phillip Morris Midget, takes his sweet time for the guests to take in the sights and avant-garde clientele. If there was a theme to the interior of JRS, it would be of a cheesy card board cut out of a 1950s sit com with a laugh track and all. A section of the restaurant is supposed to be an interior of a living room: there are pleather sofas and lounge chairs cuddled up next to a cobble stone fire place and a flashy blue painted wet bar. Another section is dedicated to the house’s exterior: an Astroturf carpet with a putting green and circular metal picnic tables with metal umbrellas. The prime spots in JRS are in the drive-in movie section, or as I like to call it, the fun section. There are six replica convertible cars custom made to sit parties of 4-6. The engines and steering wheels are taken out which is a shame. There’s a pink 1955 Cadillac El Dorado, a red ’59 Edselle, a white ’53 Corvette, ’59 Green and white Buick Electra, a ’50 canary yellow F-1 Ford pick up, and a ’54 black Packard. Being a place that targets the rockabilly, tattooed Elvis fan crowd, the pink Cady is the place to be and the place to be seen.
Patrons have said Jack Rabbit Slims is, “a wax museum with a pulse,” and they are right. The waiters, waitresses, bus boys, bar-backs, and bartenders are dressed like Marilyn Monroe, Martin and Lewis, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Lucille Ball, Zorro, Ed Sullivan, Buddy Holly, and Hilda, the notorious 1950s pin-up queen who even rivaled Marilyn herself in bathroom material that husbands drooled over. Each have their own quirks and act in character like the performers and ushers in a Cirque de Solei show.
The artwork is of pulp 1950s movies, “Rock All Night, High School Confidential, Attack of the Crab Monster, Machine Gun Kelly, etc, etc. There is a stage where the musician impersonators sing covers all night long (Tuesday nights is young Elvis) and a dance floor where one has to take off their shoes in order to bust a move. With so much time being concentrated in the interior design of the place, JRS was built by film-production-designer legend, David Wasco, no thought at all was spent in crafting a menu that rivals the rest of the pomp and circumstance.
In the late ‘90s a franchise called The Fog City Diner popped up around California and the rest of the nation which put a first class stamp on the casual New Jersey owned Greek diner fair with prices ranging from $20-40, but at JRS, though the prices are the same, the quality is not all the there.
The creative director behind the menu manifested 1950s themed names like the Dirwood Kirby Burger, the Douglas Skirt Stake, and the Amos and Andy shake, but stopped there. Everything else is just your average cheese burger, Cobb salad, chicken noodle soup, BLT and pot roast. But hey, this is a themed restaurant and you’re paying for the experience, not for the food.
The real treats are in the treats themselves. They have a $5 dollar shake, which probably in the ‘50s would have been outrageous but by today’s standards it’s normal if not affordable. They use Fosselman’s Ice Cream and blend it with half and half with their own homemade syrups, liquid fudges, and ganaches. The gem is the Chuck Berry: made with strawberry ice cream and blended with fresh blackberries and chocolate chips loaded with vanilla spiced whip cream and garnished with an American Flag. They also supply the shake with automatic seconds: the contents inside the aluminum tin cup they use to mix the shake in. And at the wet bar is their own soda jerk fountain, specializing in egg creams, phosphates, homemade root beers and sarsaparillas, and their house special cherry cokes which tastes like an alpha version of Dr. Pepper.
The cue de gras of JRS is its jukebox, probably the most underrated and best jukebox in all of LA. Live and rare recordings of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Pat Boone and Chubby Checkers. When one song plays, even if it’s a slow tune, people can’t help themselves congregate to the dance floor and do the twist.
And if you’re good, and some people are really good, you even receive one of those “Everybody’s a winner,” trophies that are handed out in little league for the last place teams.
Hey, at least all of that money that’s being spent is going somewhereJ
ATMOSPHERE: Rowdy bikers mixed with hip and trendy Sunset Boulevard Socialites and tattooed rockabilly greasers.
SERVICE: Attentive with attitude. Depending on the 1950s character you receive all depends on the service you’ll receive. If they were a slob in films and TV, then you’re out of luck.
SOUND LEVEL: Loud but you can still hold an intimate conversation at times.
RECOMMENDED: Drinks and milkshakes only. All other substantial food is more or less the quality of a frozen dinner.
DRINKS AND WINE: Full bar and a soda jerk fountain featuring homemade syrups.
PRICES: Entrees are from $20-40
OPEN: Monday-Saturday from 5pm-2am.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
Restrooms: Clean and comfortable, but beware, it is known that the women’s has a section for heavy drug use