Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marcel and Jeanne's French Cafe in Montebello, Cal.

A 1957 advertisement.
(Click on image to zoom in)

The French Cafe was demolished in 2007.  The building sat at the corner of Whittier and 22nd Street for decades.  Its demise upset the Montebello community.  Some hoped that the old structure would find re-use as a community theater.  The following pictures were taken yesterday on my pilgrimage to the site.  (Click on image to zoom in)


23 comments:

  1. This was my favorite restaurant as a kid growing up in Monterey Park. For every birthday or special occasion, my brother and I would ask to go to the French Restaurant to celebrate. I was so saddened to discover it had been demolished. So many fond memories. I wish I could have seen it once more or gotten a menu as a memento. Time marches on but not always for the better...

    MV

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    1. It was also my favorite restaurant growing up in Monterey Park during the 60s. I wonder if we knew each other? Diane

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  2. This was DEFINITELY my favorite restaurant back in the 50's and 60's while growing up in East L.A. My Mom worked there before I started school. I got to go in there while she worked and the staff shoved great French Fries and other great food in my face. I even sat at the bar and Marcel made me Hopalong Cassidy's (Shirley Temple's). How in the world can they tear this place down??? "Ay Ca rumba"! As Bart Simpson would say!

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  3. Thanks for posting my above comments. In case anyone reading this would be interested the French Cafe was actually a Basque style restaurant. You ordered your main course usually roast beef or chicken then soup, salad, french fries, etc were all brought out family style in huge amounts. Marcel and Jeanne (she liked being called Jennette) were Basque from the northern area of France. OK, enough history!

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    1. Hi, I visited Jeanne in 1987 when I was in California, the French Cafe was closed but she lived there. I'm so sorry to know that Marcel and Jeanne's restaurant was desmolished !
      and for information, Jeanne was born in Béarn (not in "Pays Basque")in the southwest of France.

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    2. Sorry but Jeanne was my second niece, one of my grandmother's sisters. They were from the south of France My Grandmother was born in Ogre de Bain about five miles from where my Grandfather was born. Another sister "Grace," and her son Marcel worked at the restaurant. "Little Marcel" wanted to keep the restaurant when "Big Marcel" passed but Jeanne wouldn't allow it. "Little Marcel" and his wife Petra, opened a French Restaurant in Pico Rivera On Lakewood Blvd. next to, I believe what was called The Turf Club. Unfortunately, Little Marcel passed in the early 1990's at a very young age.

      We had many great meals at both restaurants. I truly miss Marcel and Jeanne and Marcel and Petra. We used to fill up on soup, fresh sour dough french bread and Chicken livers in Pate shells, before the main course even got there.
      If anyone has the recipe for their soup, please post it, it was great.

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    3. Hi Steve,
      I'm not sure how you were related to Jeanne but she only had one sister, my Grandmother Grace. You are correct, Jeanne was from a small town called Ogeu les Bains located in the southern part of France. After my uncle died, my aunt Jeanne said "that they build it together they would end it together". My father "little Marcel" had no urge nor intentions to ever open the French Cafe as he respected my aunt's wishes. Having been in the restaurant business for the majority of his life, he decided to open his own years later. You are are right in the fact that many wonderful memories were made in both the French Cafe and the Chateau Briand and I thank you for sharing yours. I know that my family would have been very happy to know that so many people thought so fondly of them as well as their restaurant. Merci, Michelle
      P.S. My grandmother was the one who made the soup at the French Cafe:-)

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    4. Having just spent 2 days in Oloron, Ogeu-les-Bains, and Pau visiting my cousins (of the Lauberge side of the family) I'm sad that I missed visiting this place as an adult. Alexandrine was my great-grandmother, Grace Catharine was my grandmother, and Richard (Reilly) was my father. And I'm Jonathan Reilly. Living the good life in Reseda.

      The world, she is pretty big.

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  4. I have two jugs bottled exclusively for Marcel & Jeanne's French Restaurant anyone have an idea what they're worth now?

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  5. Used to the French Cafe while growing up in Montebello . Actually , had great spaghetti , and the dishes that had a bisquit type of item with gravy !

    Wonder what ever happened to Johnny , the waiter ?

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    1. Sounds like the Chicken livers in Pate shells. They were Great.

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  6. Thanks for the pics. Makes me want to cry. They had the best food I ever tasted. We used to go there all the time from the time I was a baby. I was hoping one of the family members opened a restaurant in the area. We moved away years ago but would come back if I knew I could get food like that. I wonder about Johnny & Fifi too. We always had Fifi for our waitress. I am still trying to make the soup. The only place I've eaten that is similar is (never as good) is Woolgrowers in Bakersfield. If anyone know's of any place like the french cafe PLEASE post it.






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  7. my cousin and i were driving down whittier blvd.the other day and we were trying to remember the actual site of marcel and jeanne restaurant. We were able to pinpoint it to whittier and 22nd. Many fond memories going to dinner with my grandparents in the early 1970s.
    my cousin and i distinctly remember the waiter johnny who we commonly referred to as "juanito".Does anyone out there know what happened to him?

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  8. My grandparents owned the service station at the corner of Maple and Olympic back in the late 50's to late 70's and they always went to the French Cafe on Sundays and sometimes we (as kids) were allowed to go. We didn't know what the flaky shells with sauce were as a kid but loved them. I soon discovered that if I ordered my roast beef well done, I got alot more than anyone else! Even though I now live in San Bernardino Co, I would still drive there to return to a childhood treat.

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  9. Hello everyone- my family went to the "Marcel & Jean's French Café almost every Sunday after church - My Uncle Jim - Jim Matoian from People's Disposal in Santa Fe Springs- Johnny & his wife always waited on our table -we have the recipe for the soup but it never ever tastes the same as the soupt at Frenchies.. I would love to have the chopped liver in gravy recipe - it was delicious - at least let me know the name so I can look it up in a French Cook Book'- thank you Sandy Ross hyesandy @yahoo.com

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  10. just this evening I was telling my wife about the French Cafe...back in the early 70s we'd go there as kids with mom &dad...nothing like it...that chicken they used to make...i can still taste it!!Sad to see its gone...

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  11. I remember the 'vol au vents' the livers in those dishy shells, and the cherries jubilee ice cream. dad would take us there for a special treat in the sixties! i'm looking everywhere for the recipes!!!

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  12. http://www.food.com/recipe/chicken-liver-vol-au-vents-431069 similar to the delicious vol au vents at marcel and jeannes!

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    1. FYI! They were actually chicken gizzards not chicken livers, but they were delicious!

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  13. Oh the memories of The French Cafe...my parents started going there when Marcel and Jeanette first opened - sometime in the late '30's I believe. When my sister was born in 1940 they went for dinner and upon leaving Marcel came running after them reminding them that "they forgot the baby!"...my sister sleeping in a basket carrier. We continued eating there up until its closing. Who could ever forget (or duplicate) Grace's vegetable soup? The spaghetti...the Long Island Duckling...the crusty bread (that Marcelle picked up at a French Basque bakery La Puente in his funny looking Citron car...or those wonderful beef dip sandwiches...and the bar with its cool "dial a song" juke box...Mary Blower at the organ....Angelo the bartender....and Frankie, the best waitress ever! The French Cafe was an institution and I feel so fortunate to have experienced it...if ONLY I could repeat that soup....Grace did once tell my Mom that one secret was adding a turnip, but it doesn't taste the same. Thing is, those people put their lives into their business. One more anecdote...Marcel and my Dad once went dove hunting in the hills off Garfield in Monterey Park...yes there were open spaces back in the 40's there...anyway, Marcel brought the lunch and I still remember my Dad talking about the lunch that Jeanette packed for them...he was salivating, just thinking about it.

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  14. We always passed by this intriguing restaurant growing up in Montebello, and one day we celebrated a birthday here with our late mother. It was our first French restaurant, and the food was unfamiliar, but the portions were generous and Jeanne was gracious and nice. We never returned, but I always saw the old place whenever I returned to Montebello, until one day I didn't! Thanks for the memories. BTW, are you related to the Ms. Uyeda who taught at La Merced Intermediate in the '70s? Thanks, Calvin

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  15. Dear Anonymous of February 15th - I appreciate your recollections. I am not related to the teacher of Merced Intermediate.

    Take care!

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  16. Used to go there mainly for special occasion. I remember the great spaghetti and bread. It seemed like they served a spaghetti course with everything. The last time I went there was memorable too. It was the day Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs in a world series game against the dodgers.

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