Saturday, July 12, 2014

Johnny's Shrimp Boat

The original Johnny's Shrimp Boat in Downtown Los Angeles

Johnny's Shrimp Boat in Whittier

The original Johnny's Shrimp Boat was located directly across the Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles. It was the epitome of a greasy spoon, only more so. Bums, derelicts and winos lined the walls of the ramshackled old building.

The food, which consisted of breaded shrimp, beans,white rice with gravy, or short ribs, also with beans, white rice and gravy, or fish and chips, hamburger steak and other such cheap eats. This was not a gourmet restaurant. It would have been right at home in the depression.

Still, for whatever reason, Angeleno's loved this place. I can't explain why. it was just an L.A. thing. It was almost always crowded, especially on a weekend night. It was standing room only, there were no tables or chairs but I think there may have been a small counter. Most of the time we just sat in the car.

Now I had a thing for Johnny's Shrimp back in the 70's. You might call it a weakness. My old trainer, the late, great Mel Epstein knew this. Almost daily, as i would walk through the double doors, Mel would yell out to me, "Get your hair cut, and stay away from Johnny's!" "Oh, okay Mel, I will." Then I would walk down the stairway, cross the street, step over one of the bums and order me a shrimp combo and some pop. I couldn't help myself.

Johnny's was torn down right about the same time as the Main Street Gym, about 1986. Sometime in the mid 90's, I was passing through Washington Blvd, in Whittier, about five minutes from my house and there it was, Johnny's Shrimp Boat. I headed straight home and got Jeri. "We're going to Johnny's Shrimp Boat!" What's that? She said. "That's the place that was across the street from the gym, I've told you about it! She either forgot or didn't care or both but I convinced her to go with me.

Now, there are no bums lying across the doorway at Johnny's in Whittier but it is still a dive. Nothing has changed, and thankfully the food is the same too. The walls are filled with pictures of the original Johnny's. It can be nostalgic.

This is my long winded way of telling you Jeri and I had supper at Johnny's tonight. Jeri had the fish and chips and I had the six shrimp combo. I couldn't make up my mind on whether I wanted gravy or chili over my rice so i compromised and ordered a side of rice and chili.

Jeri is and has always been, a good sport about going to the most unlikeliest places to eat in the most unlikeliest parts of town or anywhere.

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