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Will The Chili Bowl Become An LA Monument?

a black and white photo of a round building with windows. it reads "chili bowl. grill-burgers. egg-royal" painted on the side.
Launched in 1931 by former amateur boxer Art Whizin, the Chili Bowl chain had 22 outposts at its peak. Each building was round and shaped like a chili bowl with 26 stools around a circular counter where diners could get the signature dish: an open-faced burger blanketed with chili. This 1937 photo shows the original Chili Bowl, located at 3012 Crenshaw Blvd.
(Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)
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Launched in 1931 by former amateur boxer Art Whizin, the Chili Bowl chain was known as much for its architecture as its food. Each building was round and shaped like its titular item — a chili bowl. Diners could belly up to the circular counter, sit at one of the 26 seats and order the restaurant's signature dish: an open-faced burger blanketed with chili.

At its peak, the chain had 22 outposts. Today, only a couple are left. One of them is in West L.A. at the corner of Pico Boulevard, between Bundy and Centinela. It was built in 1935 and originally located in Silver Lake but was moved to its current spot in 1939. (It's currently a Japanese restaurant.)

Today, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission approved a proposal to consider adding the Chili Bowl to the city's roster of Historic-Cultural Monuments. The proposal still has to go through the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and, ultimately, the full city council, to make it official.

Along with Tail o' the Pup, the Chili Bowl is one of L.A.'s most famous examples of "programmatic architecture" — buildings designed to look like food, animals or other items — but it's hardly the only one. Southern California has a rich history of buildings shaped like boots, owls, toads, pigs, airplanes and more.

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Updated September 7, 2021 at 1:13 PM PDT
This post has been updated to indicate the results of the Cultural Heritage Commission vote.