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LA's Awesome History Of Weird, Food-Shaped Restaurants

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After decades of dashed hopes and broken promises, Tail o' the Pup, Los Angeles's famous hot dog-shaped hot dog stand, will finally reopen.

The last we heard, this gem of novelty architecture was heading to the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth, where it would be on display but wouldn't dish out franks.

Now, just in time for National Mustard Day (yes, it's a holiday and it happens the first Saturday in August) comes word that the 1933 Group has acquired the landmark — and plans to bring it back as a restaurant.

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The 1933 Group owns a bunch of bars around town — Bigfoot, Sassafrass, Thirsty Crow, Oldfield's, a few others — all themed, often with a heavy vintage vibe. These are the folks who restored Highland Park Bowl to its Jazz Age splendor, resurrected the Idle Hour, a once popular North Hollywood bar and restaurant shaped like a giant barrel, and are in the midst of revamping the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood. They respect the history of the venues they acquire and they seem to know what they're doing, so fingers crossed that they'll treat Tail o' the Pup with the care it deserves.

The Idle Hour in North Hollywood was built in 1941 and renovated in 2015.

Built in 1946, Tail o' the Pup operated (not always at the same location) until 2005. After shuttering, it spent years moldering in storage facilities including a Torrance warehouse and a Lake Elsinore salvage yard.

Excited about eating at this landmark? You can thank Alison Martino, who runs Vintage Los Angeles. According to Los Angeles magazine, she spent years searching for the stand then working with the family of Tail o' the Pup founder Eddie Blake to get it back. Now, the 1933 Group is looking for a new home for the Pup, somewhere street-facing in West Hollywood or Hollywood, near the stand's original location.

Tail o' the Pup 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. In fact, we were ground zero for the bizarre building boom.


The trend reached its apex in the early 20th century. Motoring was still a new pastime and business owners wanted to catch the eye of passing drivers. Unhampered by modern building codes, they threw up these cool and kooky structures.

Sadly, most have been demolished. You can still see a few, including the famous Randy's Donuts and a couple of old Chili Bowl locations

Fortunately, Southern California's rich history of novelty architecture remains well documented.

The Toed Inn

(Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

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Hoot Owl Cafe


Mother Goose Pantry


The Chili Bowl

(Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

The Airplane Cafe


The Feed Rack


The Teepee


The Hollywood Flower Pot


The Pig Cafe


Sphinx Realty Company


California Piano Supply Co.


Zep Diner


The Tamale


The Cream Can


The Donut Hole

Cars exit The Donut Hole drive-in restaurant, located on Elliot Avenue at Amar Road in La Puente, on January 4, 1983.
(Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

The Brown Derby


The Brown Derby Restaurant

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