Al Levy, Jewish Pioneer Restaurateur of Los Angeles & Hollywood

Al Levy (Asher Michael Levy)

Values Codes I – H – E – L

 

Al Levy was born in Liverpool, England in 1860.

His father was Bernard Levy, a jeweler, and his mother was Martha Ansell Levy.

The family moved to Dublin, Ireland, where Al was educated.

Al Levy specifically studied the history of the United States.

Determined to come to the “land of opportunity,” Al Levy set his sites Los Angeles, traveling around the Horn at the age of 16.

 

Along the way . . . 

Levy’s first job was at the Techau Tavern, a famous San Francisco restaurant, where he rose from errand boy, to dishwasher, to chef.

After opening two restaurants with partners who ran off with the money, Al Levy was advised to go to Los Angeles where the tempo was slower, and where there were no quality restaurants.

Al Levy, restauranteur, Los Angeles Times cartoon, #WS0653

Los Angeles

In 1886, Al Levy operated an Oyster Bar Pushcart, selling his delicacies to patrons of the Grand Opera House and other theatres.

He imported oysters from San Francisco, which required re-icing four times on the trip by train.

Al Levy's Oyster Pushcart

Al Levy’s Oyster Pushcart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, Levy was able to open his Oyster House on Fifth and String Streets, later the site of the Alexandria Hotel.

His second and larger  restaurant, located at Third and Main Streets, became a center of fashionable night life in 1906.

It was the finest such institution in Los Angeles. Each table had its own telephone, and the chandeliers were all of the finest crystal.

The restaurant was financed by Isaias Hellman of the Farmers  & Merchants Bank.

Al Levy’s restaurant consisted of four stories: the kitchen and main dining room were on the first floor; the second floor had booths for two, three, and four diners; the third floor had banquet rooms for smaller groups; the fourth floor had the large banquet/ballroom, and included the cart from which Al Levy had peddled oysters during his first years in Los Angeles.

1907 B'nai B'rith Banquet at Al Levy's

1907 B’nai B’rith Banquet at Al Levy’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third site, on Spring Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets, was complete with large banquet rooms that became the favorite location for many important dinner functions in Los Angeles.

This was followed by Al Levy’s Tavern at 1623 North Vine Street in the heyday of old Hollywood.

Hollywood romances bloomed in Al Levy’s to the accompaniment of pink lady cocktails, matchless filets, or the inevitable oysters.

Civic

Al Levy was the founder and first President of the Southern California Restaurant Association in 1906.

Fraternal

Levy was a member of the Elks and was a Mason.

Community

Al Levy and his family were members of Congregation B’nai B’rith (today’s Wilshire Boulevard Temple).

He was an early member of the Concordia Club.

Family

Al Levy married Rachel Levy, his first cousin, in 1885.

Together they had two children: Bob and Martha.

 

Al Levy passed away at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in 1941.

He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Al Levy picture by L.A. Examiner

Al Levy, photo from the Los Angeles Examiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

  • Norton B. Stern,” Al Levy: Notes at a Session with Mr. Bob Levy,” Western States Jewish History 41/3.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Al Levy: Report of an Interview with Mrs. Billy (Martha) Zidell,” Western States Jewish History 41/3. 
  • Boyle Workman, The City That Grew (Los Angeles: Southland Publishing, 1935).

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Jews in the Jews

   About this Time

Rosh Hashanah Afternoon Social Calls, Los Angeles, California — 1876

The Hebrew portion of our population celebrated their New Year yesterday. Their stores were all closed for the period, and services took place in the synagogue yesterday. The Rev. Mr. Edelman officiated.

Some of the young gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion spent a portion of the day yesterday in calling. Messrs. [Louis] Lewin, [William] Barnett, E. S. Rothchild, Ben G. Winter, and Marten Lehman made twenty-nine calls.

—Los Angeles Daily Star, September 20, 1876 [Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 5/1.]

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