While not as widely known as other Hollywood landmarks such as Pink’s, the Chinese-American restaurant and bar known as the Formosa Cafe played a significant part in Tinseltown’s cinematic history. Opened in 1939, the Formosa Cafe is located across from the site of a notable movie studio lot originally founded as the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, which later became the home of United Artists Studio, Samuel Goldwyn Studio, Warner Hollywood Studios, and, in 1999, simply a studio known as “The Lot.”
Thanks to this proximity, the restaurant has been visited by an incredible number of Hollywood celebrities. Among its former patrons are Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, and even Bugsy Siegel. The Formosa was also featured in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential, as well as a number of other movies and TV shows.
In 2015, the restaurant underwent a major renovation that stripped it of its iconic interior and instead gave it a modern look, resulting in negative reactions from pretty much everyone. Although it was again remodeled in response to the outcry, it closed within a year. In 2017, it was purchased by the 1933 Group and reopened with a restored appearance in 2019.
One of the most notable interior design restorations is a Pacific Electric Red Car trolley, which dates back to 1904. The restaurant claims that it is the oldest surviving Red Car in existence. Inside, there are lots of autographed celebrity photos and movie memorabilia, as well as old black-and-white headshots of Chinese-American actors, telling the history of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Know Before You Go
Cantonese-American classics like chow mein, General Tso's, and orange chicken are all in fine form.