By Dan DeNeve
No better book takes a reader back, especially during these long, hot, summer days, than George Geary’s, Made in California: The California-Born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food & Restaurants that Changed America.
The book includes stories of more than 50 eateries listed chronologically by founding dates. Some are still inoperation, while others are just a memory. A few are still growing the chain, while some are in only one location.
Geary begins in 1915 with Saratoga Chips, which became Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakeries and concludes with Peet’s Coffee, founded in 1966.
In between, the reader’s appetite is whetted with such classic joints as Pink’s Hot Dogs in Los Angeles, In-N-Out Burger, Tommy’s (burgers) and Bob’s Pantry, which would become Big Boy Restaurants.
However, Geary doesn’t feed us only burgers and dogs in this coffee table-style book. He waxes nostalgic about A&W Restaurants. Close your eyes and one can almost taste the A&W root beer float again.
If sweets are your thing, See’s Candies, founded in 1921, has also made the cut. El Torito, Jack in the Box, and Round Table Pizza are here, too.
Of course, no book of this subject would be complete without The Brown Derby (1926) and McDonald’s (1940), and Geary does not disappoint. He includes a few that some might not consider or have forgotten, including Taco Bell, Sizzler, and Wienerschnitzel.
What makes this book stand out is that it is not just dry, historical write-ups. Many original and color pictures are included, and each restaurant chapter begins with a brief header that includes: other names the restaurant used, the original location, date opened, the founders, and where it currently is located, if still in operation. Furthermore, there also are tidbits throughout such as the five most popular products, timelines, and products still in operation since the founding.
Geary is well-qualified to write this fun book, as he has also written L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants and The Cheesecake Bible. He is also a culinary travel guide, pastry chef, and cooking teacher.
This book is new, and Dana Point Library just acquired a copy. Even if you are not into restaurant history, this is a fun read.
I highly recommend this book, as it is more than just a history book of California eateries. It is a history of California.
For many of us, it is a trip down memory lane.
Dan DeNeve is a longtime employee of the Orange County Public Library. He currently works at the Dana Point Library as the Adult Services Librarian. He is an avid reader of history, biographies and sports.