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Callahan’s Diner from “Zodiac”

Sep 29th, 2014 | By | Category: Movie Locations

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (11 of 16)

In the early years of our relationship the Grim Cheaper lived in Santa Monica, just a few blocks from a local staple named Callahan’s Diner.  Even though I knew the eatery was a filming location and supposedly served up some fabulous grub, for whatever reason we never ventured in for a meal.  I am kicking myself now, too, because the restaurant, which has been in operation since 1948, is set to close at the end of the year.  So when I found myself in the area a couple of weeks ago, I seized the opportunity to snaps some pics of the place.

It was late afternoon when I stopped by Callahan’s, just a few minutes before I had to pick the GC up from a meeting, so, unfortunately, I did not have time to grab a bite to eat.  But the owner, Abraham Vazquez, was nice enough to spend some time chatting with me and invited me to snap all of the photographs of the place that I wanted.

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (2 of 16)

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (4 of 16)

The Streamline Moderne-style building that houses Callahan’s – and the neighboring Vienna Pastry – was constructed by restaurateur Art Groves in 1946 for his eponymous Groves Restaurant and Bakery.  In 1948, he leased out the restaurant portion of the property to Melvin Callahan and Callahan’s Diner was born.  The café proved successful for four decades.  In 1988, Melvin sold the site to Abraham, who thankfully kept Callahan’s name, décor and menu intact.  While Abraham also enjoyed a long, successful run, he recently announced that Callahan’s will be shutting its doors on December 31st.  A new company, LGO Hospitality, purchased the building not long ago and made plans to raise Vazquez’s rent when his lease is up at the end of the year.  He, sadly, cannot afford the price hike.  The good news is that LGO has a long history of preserving historical locations and announced in a press release that while the Callahan’s menu will be transformed, the floor plan and décor will remain largely the same.

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (7 of 16)

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (3 of 16)

Callahan’s has appeared onscreen a few times over the years, most notably in the 2007 thriller Zodiac.  The eatery was featured in three scenes from the movie – well, sort of.  It first popped up as the supposed San Francisco-area diner where Inspectors David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) discussed some handwriting samples over a BLT sandwich.



Towards the middle of the film, it was used in the scene in which Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) bought David lunch and informed him that books on cyphers had been stolen from both the Presidio Library and the Oakland Army Terminal Library.



Now here’s where things get weird.  The third scene to take place at Callahan’s involved Robert sharing with David the various evidence he had compiled on suspect Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch).  Prior to stalking the restaurant, I had come across a piece of Zodiac trivia on IMDB that stated, “Though Callahan’s Diner was a set built for the film, the Callahan’s Diner logo and window script is identical to that used by Callahan’s Diner at 1213 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California.”   I assumed the trivia was bupkis, especially once Abraham had confirmed for me that filming had actually taken place on the premises.  But while watching the third scene that was supposedly shot at the eatery, I noticed that some portions of the interior did not match up to what was shown in the earlier scenes or to the real Callahan’s interior.



What first tipped me off to the inconsistencies was when David was shown leaving Callahan’s through a door located on the restaurant’s western side – a door that does not exist in the real life space.  A partition separating the entryway from the booths was also visible in that segment of the scene.  There is no such partition at Callahan’s, though, as you can see below.


Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (8 of 16)

There was no such door or partition in that area in the earlier scene in which David and William discussed handwriting samples, either.



What was shown in the handwriting sample scene does match perfectly to the real restaurant, though, as you can see below.


Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (8 of 16)

A wide shot of the restaurant was also featured in the evidence scene and, again, it does not match the real life interior of Callahan’s.


Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (5 of 16)

Nor does it match what was shown in the earlier lunch scene.



The interior shown in the lunch scene does match the actual Callahan’s interior, though.  All of this leads me to believe that, as implausible as it may sound, while the lunch scene and handwriting sample scene were filmed on location at Callahan’s, the evidence scene was shot on a set modeled to look like it.  The reason this was done is anyone’s guess.


Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (5 of 16)

Abraham also informed me that Callahan’s Diner had been used in music videos for both Snoop Dogg and Lionel Richie, but I am unsure of which videos.  If any of my fellow stalkers are aware, please let me know.

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (12 of 16)

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (9 of 16)

For more stalking fun, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Los Angeles magazine online.  And you can check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic, here.

Callahan's Santa Monica Zodiac (14 of 16)

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Callahan’s Diner, from Zodiac, is located at 1213 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.   You can visit the eatery’s official Facebook page here.



Leave a comment »

  1. Diane Howell says:

    Nice sleuthing. I’m watching Zodiac now.

  2. Erin says:

    Love a post involving a diner

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