Cassell's: Memories of meat
It seems like Los Angeles still loves Cassell’s. After Lawrence Dietz’s story about his memories of the recently deceased owner, Al Cassell, we received some great e-mails from readers sharing memories of their own.
Jerry wrote: “I patronized Cassell's every lunch for a two-week period while training at the IBM building next to the Ambassador Hotel back in the early '60s. There was always a line out the door of men in suits and ties. The tout that took me there insisted they were the world's BIGGEST burgers, but I found the taste uniquely delicious. I don't think any place has eclipsed those times at Cassell's. Novelty toppings like bleu cheese or other 'gourmet' ingredients are temporary diversions.”
Gerry added: “What I also remember is the potato salad with horseradish, like no other. At that time I only followed food trends because of a foodie boyfriend at that time, but even so Cassell's had the tasty reputation for a fun and filling place, and also that "the beef was flown in from Colorado" every day. Who knew?”
Len remembered: “Back in '62 I was officed on Westmoreland Avenue, between Wilshire and Sixth. One afternoon late in October I and others from our building sat on the lawn in front, listening to JFK's Cuban missile speech on the radio. When it was all over, thinking that the world as we knew it might be coming to an end, we all decided to walk over to Cassell's for one last of the world's best burgers. But by the time we got there, Al was gone, closed for the day. Somehow the memory of NOT having a Cassell's burger is almost as great as having one.”
Carole recalled going to Cassell’s in the '60s too: “The smallest burger, the one usually ordered by weight-conscious women, was called the "Doll Burger." Those were the days of Friday evening cocktails at Blarney Castle and the Jade Room, or at the Brown Derby and HMS Bounty, and late-night breakfast at Sandy's coffee shop. And of course, dream-shopping at Bullock's Wilshire and I. Magnin. The area was as close to being cosmopolitan as Los Angeles has ever seemed.”
Richard had just revisited the restaurant: “I had just taken my son there to introduce him to a truly great burger. As a native Angeleno, I have always regarded it as the best burger in the city ... even though I love Apple Pan. Still, I wanted to pass on the beauty of Cassell's to the next generation. I hadn't been there in years but the burger -- as good a value as you can get -- hadn't changed one iota.”
And Dean actually worked there: “In 1960, I was a student at Chouinard Art Institute on Grandview. Noons, along with Joe Goode and Ed Ruscha and Jerry McMillan, yep those well known L.A. artists, I waited tables at Al Cassell’s Patio on Wilshire. Once the lunch rush was over and before we biked back to school, Al gave us the day's burger meat to take home (no leftovers for Al: the food was always daily fresh) and Al was always concerned we students were well fed.
“I’m glad you had the opportunity to meet Al; eat a Cassell’s burger. I bet you’ll always remember him. I know we who spent lunch time five days a week with him for a short while back in the 60’s always will. No burger has ever lived up to Al’s, nor likely ever will.”
-- Russ Parsons
Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times