Help Restore the Formosa Café: "Vote Your Main Street" & Open House

The Formosa is eligible for preservation funding from American Express
Formosa Café | Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Housed within a former Red Line trolley car, the historic Formosa Café was originally opened as The Red Spot in 1925 by former prizefighter Jim Bernstein. In 1932, Bernstein expanded and gave the eatery its current moniker.

The Formosa Café had the good fortune of being located just steps from the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, which was founded in 1919 and later known as United Artists Studio, Samuel Goldwyn Studio, Warner Hollywood Studios, and currently The Lot since 1999.

Closed since December 2016, the Formosa Café will be restored to its former glory and managed by 1933 Group, which operates themed L.A. bars like Sassafras Saloon, Bigfoot Lodge, Thirsty Crow and Idle Hour. 1933 Group received widespread acclaim for its renovation of Highland Park Bowl.

Property of Discover Los Angeles
Photo courtesy of the Formosa Café, Facebook

Thanks to its proximity to the studio, the Formosa Café was a popular hangout for a galaxy of legendary stars like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.

Property of Discover Los Angeles
Elvis figurines in a glass case at the Formosa Café | Photo by Daniel Djang

Known as the place “where the stars dine,” hundreds of autographed photos of the Formosa's famous patrons once lined the restaurant's interior. A glass case above a red leather booth displayed Elvis porcelain figurines that were given to former chef and owner, Lem Quon by Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker.

The Formosa Café is a star in its own right. In a memorable scene from L.A. Confidential (1997) that was filmed at the Formosa, Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) mistakenly thinks the real Lana Turner is a prostitute “cut to look like Lana Turner.” The Formosa has also appeared in Swingers (1996) and more recently, in the Season 3 episode of Bosch, "Blood Under the Bridge."


#VoteYourMainStreet from Reach Creative on Vimeo.

Launched in 2006, Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express—in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP)—has awarded over $19 million in preservation funding to more than 200 historic sites across the U.S.

This year’s national campaign, “Vote Your Main Street” features 25 city sites or Main Street areas across the country with historic preservation projects that need funding. The Los Angeles Conservancy has nominated the Formosa Café on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, which is part of L.A.’s historic Main Street, Route 66.

The $150,000 prize would specifically fund the rehabilitation of the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley, the oldest portion of the building.

The public can vote for their favorite neighborhood communities to receive grant funding. The neighborhoods with the most votes will win grants totaling $2 million in preservation funding provided by American Express.

You can cast five votes for the Formosa Café every day through Tuesday, Oct. 31. Sign up and vote here:

Formosa Cafe exterior sign
Formosa Café | Instagram by @antodp9

Open House at the Formosa Café (OCT. 7, 2017)

Join the L.A. Conservancy and 1933 Group for a free Open House event at the Formosa Café on Saturday, Oct. 7. The L.A. Conservancy is working to bring much-needed funding to the Formosa's rehab by 1933 Group. The Formosa is competing against 24 other projects across the country for funding through the Partners in Preservation program. Show your local pride and vote for the Formosa's comeback!

At this special Open House, guests will be asked to vote for the Formosa. The first 200 guests will get a behind-the-scenes peek inside the currently closed landmark and learn more about its history. There will also be free food and swag for voters (while supplies last).


  • 11am: On-site voting, food, and giveaways begin (while supplies last). Note: public tours begin at 11:45am.
  • 11-11:15am: Media access to Formosa Café
  • 11:30-11:45am: Welcome remarks and special guest speakers
  • 11:45am: Public tours begin (first 200 attendees)
  • 3pm: Event ends


  • Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles
  • Bobby Green of 1933 Group
  • Adrian Scott Fine of the Los Angeles Conservancy 

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