The Golden Spoon Cafe from “The Brady Bunch”Nov 2nd, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
My best friend, Robin, is currently in town with his girlfriend for a week visiting from Switzerland, so I will not be blogging about this year’s Halloween activities until next Tuesday. I will also be taking most of this week off, though I will, as always, have an article on Los Angeles magazine on Thursday. Today, we have a very special guest post written by my friend, fellow stalker Michael, who lives in Minnesota. Michael and I first connected a couple of years ago when he wrote to ask for help researching a location. Michael and I started corresponding regularly and he has helped me track down several locales, namely Haskell’s Ice Cream Hut from The Brady Bunch and the Griffith Park spots featured in both the opening credits of Full House and the Girls Just Want to Have Fun dance montage. (He also recently helped me find another GJWTHF location, but that’s a different story for a different post.) Through our correspondence, I came to admire Michael’s tenacity in getting things right when it comes to filming locations. He is as tenacious and fastidious as I am about reporting the truth and his researching skills are like nothing I have ever seen. So when he informed me of his quest to right an incorrect locale from The Brady Bunch that had been reported on a few websites, I told him I would be happy to help in any way I could. Turns out he didn’t need much assistance from me. Michael was able to figure things out on his own and the story behind his quest is pretty incredible. I am so glad he was willing to share it here. So Michael, take it away!
When I was in elementary school, I would watch reruns of The Brady Bunch every day when I got home, and thanks to its healthy dose of establishing shots, it’s one of the first shows that got me curious about filming locations. Consequently, I’ve always gotten a certain nostalgic satisfaction tracking down and seeing locations that I’ve been familiar with since I was little. For those—unlike me—who escaped childhood without the compete works of Sherwood Schwartz engrained in their brains, in the fourth season episode of The Brady Bunch, titled “Goodbye, Alice, Hello,” Alice quits when the Brady Kids start giving her the cold shoulder after they believe she tattled on them to Mike and Carol about a series of wholesome misdeeds. Alice’s friend Kay replaces her, and as the Brady Kids learn the error of their ways, Kay fills the kids in on where Alice now works: The Golden Spoon, at 4th and Oak.
While the interior was created on a soundstage at Paramount, the exterior is shown in a quick establishing shot. Other than looking like the type of location I’d like to visit—the quintessential roadside diner—the location has always piqued my interest since, unlike most establishing shots, extra effort was taken in the script to give it both a name and location.
Over the years, a number of websites have posted a selection of specious locations for The Golden Spoon, but until recently, all were all easy to rule out. That changed when Chas from It’s Filmed There posted a new Golden Spoon address: 3200 Cahuenga Blvd W, surmising it to be the former home of the Freeway Cafe. He suspected the defunct restaurant, listed at 3222 Cahuenga Blvd W in a Brady-era city directory, had changed its address to 3200 at some point. I thought that the building at that site looked properly aged, but the architecture didn’t seem to match up, nor did the power lines, lampposts, or background terrain.
However, there were a number of things that looked promising; the concrete fencing from the Hollywood Freeway was identical to that seen behind the Golden Spoon, cars zooming through the Cahuenga Pass on the freeway would help explain the traffic reflected in the canopy ceiling in the establishing shot, and the 3222 address would jibe if the last digit were removed, for whatever reason, before filming.
Pulling up historic aerial photos, I could see that there was once a structure to the northwest (left) of the 3200 building. [Editor’s note – the structure is denoted in pink and placed on a present-day map below.] And although the aerial photo was blurry, the layout seemed to match that of The Golden Spoon: a square building with a gable roof, a small addition extending left, and a larger addition extending right. Furthermore, in the historic aerial, the 3200 building seemed to match the present-day aerial, meaning it probably hadn’t been renovated much in the last 40 years, and its address most likely hadn’t changed. It was then that I started working under the hypothesis that it was indeed the Freeway Cafe that was shown on The Brady Bunch, but that the Freeway Cafe was not located at the present-day 3200 Cahuenga—it was next door, in what is now a parking lot. But, without stronger proof, I didn’t feel comfortable declaring this the definitive location.
This summer, while vacationing in Los Angeles at the Millennium Biltmore, I thought I’d walk over to Figueroa Plaza to visit the Los Angeles Building Records Department and see if I could find something that would confirm my suspicions. After a brisk walk on a particularly sunshiny day—as the Brady Kids would sing—I arrived at the records office, took a number, and filled out an information request form. Once my number was called, a very helpful clerk pulled the records for the location. While she read through the various permits for that address, I heard her mumble the word “canopy.” Jumping on that, I asked to see a copy of that file. Lucky for me, it was a 1962 Freeway Cafe permit for the addition of an aluminum canopy and screened patio. Better yet, it included a drawn diagram that matched The Golden Spoon perfectly, right down to the cinderblock fence in front of the right patio and notch taken out of the left patio.
All that was left was to confirm the location of the Freeway Cafe. Unfortunately, that confirmation also proved that the building has since been razed. In September of 1989, Mobil, the owner of the cafe property and gas station next door (to the left), obtained three demolition permits for the gas station, its canopy, and the cafe. Mobil then built a new gas station and canopy, but the restaurant wasn’t rebuilt. There’s not a lot of space on that plot of land, and I can see why the the gas station may have wanted to sacrifice a small aging restaurant for some overflow and driveway space for those waiting for a turn at the pumps. Looking at the demolition map, it seems the original restaurant and left screened patio added a few feet in the rear since the 1962 canopy permit.
After doing a quick digital mashup of the 1989 demolition map, and a contemporary permit map of that plot of land, I was able to accurately determine where exactly the Freeway Cafe once stood—very close to where I’d suspected when I’d compared the vintage aerial photo with the present day map a few months prior.
New map in hand, I took the Metro Red Line to its penultimate stop: Universal City. From there, I walked under the freeway and down Cahuenga Blvd to the Mobil parking lot.
Although the cafe is no longer there, it was easy to line things up thanks to the concrete covering the tanks being a different color than the rest of the dark asphalt lot. According to the overlaid maps, the left-most edge of the cafe would have nearly abutted the separation between the light and dark pavement.
Plus, the terrain across the freeway, lamppost location (that would have been behind the right canopy), power wires, and stylized concrete freeway fence are are still recognizable from The Brady Bunch.
Try as we might, Lindsay and I have found that online references to the Freeway Cafe are rare. According to city records, the original 18×20 building housed a shoe repair shop in the 1940s, and in 1958 was converted into a restaurant. The 1963-5 Los Angeles city directories list the name of the cafe as Bib N Cuff, but by 1966, a new name—Freeway Cafe—is listed. A 1973 edition of The Van Nuys News reports the Freeway Cafe as being owned by Herbert and Louise David of Canoga Park, and a 1976 edition names Jamal Ghassem of Inglewood as the proprietor. Lastly, in a 1988 edition of Orange Coast Magazine, written just a year before the cafe was demolished, they note that although it’s “an old wooden stand overlooking the Hollywood Freeway…don’t let the exterior fool you. This is not a pit stop, but a palace for the connoisseur of ground beef.”
More recently, this selection of the Hollywood Freeway has been in the news, as Universal Studios expansion plans may result in the removal of the southbound Barham Blvd exit, which now routes traffic next to the Mobil station.
Many thanks to Chas at It’s Filmed There for posting about the Freeway Cafe and getting me quite a bit closer to 4th and Oak. And of course, a HUGE thank you to Lindsay for all her help researching this location and for the opportunity to write about it here. [Editor’s note – a HUGE thank you to you, Michael, for sharing the story behind the hunt with us AND for correcting all the erroneous Golden Spoon information.]
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Mobil Gas Station parking lot, aka the former Freeway Cafe, aka The Golden Spoon from The Brady Bunch, was located at 3222 Cahuenga Boulevard West in Los Angeles.