Photos: The Proud Bird Reopens As A Food Hall Honoring Aviation History
In 1958, David Tallichet, a former pilot in World War II, moved to Long Beach to start working at the Ivanhoe Room inside the Lafayette Hotel. By 1967, Tallichet was opening his own restaurant along the landing path of Los Angeles International Airport. The Proud Bird (named for Tallichet's favorite airline, Continental) quickly became a destination for travelers and locals alike.
“The Proud Bird...became a popular gathering spot for aviation executives, LAX employees, plane spotters and just about everyone else involved in the aviation industry,” John Tallichet, David's son, told LA Weekly. Everyone from Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong, to retiring pilots and executives of the Southern California aerospace industry have sat at a table here.
In 2013, the restaurant nearly shut down following a rent-increase battle with the landowners: Los Angeles World Airports. But the closure was avoided, and then in February of last year, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, The Proud Bird decided to change.
"The idea was to attract a new audience with the changing food scene in Los Angeles," a spokesperson for The Proud Bird told LAist. After 16 months of renovation, the restaurant has finally reopened as a food "bazaar" (read: a food hall). The once wood-lined, bric-a-brac heavy space is now bright and airy. The long halls of photos and memorabilia redesigned into museum-like displays. The previous menu of chicken, steak and pork chop, now divided into six distinct kitchens.
For those who still want to order up a hearty plate of meat, Compton's former Bludso's BBQ is still carving up beef brisket and pork short ribs here. In fact, Bludso's owner Kevin Bludso had his high school prom at The Proud Bird—a deciding factor in his agreement to join the Bird's reconception.
For those looking for something lighter, the Farmer's Market serves up salads and a poke bowl. Additionally, a chicken and waffles kitchen offers quarter-pound and half-pound orders of its namesake, along with sides including fried pickles and jalapeño poppers. At the grill kitchen, order up a Hawaiian burger (with rotisserie pineapple, soy teriyaki, and spam), or an "El Cubano" sandwich (with melted swiss cheese and smoked pork and ham). An Italian-style kitchen offers subs, a burrata caprese, and pizzas (the "BBQ Beef" pizza is rendered sweet with peppadew peppers). Finally, try the heat and flavor of the red curry noodle soup at the "Asian" kitchen, or the bright sweetness of the tangerine chicken.
From your table, you can watch the planes landing at LAX (every 2 minutes, if you're curious, and so close it feels like you can reach out and touch them). Otherwise, stroll the property to see one of the 16 aircrafts on display (a P-51 Mustang, a P-38 Lightning, and a Bell X-1 among them), or the various exhibits honoring the history of flight.
At the center of The Proud Bird's main building is an exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen (pioneering African American pilots from WWII whose largest chapter of veterans was in Los Angeles). There is also an exhibit for the Aztec Eagles (Mexican pilots who flew alongside American pilots in WWII).
Ultimately, The Proud Bird remains a tribute to flight and the space's own history. And for those stopping through, it continues to be a comfortable gathering place for a meal or a drink.
The Proud Bird is located at 11022 Aviation Boulevard in Los Angeles. (310) 670-3093. The Food Bazaar is open for lunch weekdays 11:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. and dinner Sunday through Thrusday 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Mile High Lounge bar is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.