Rene and Jean: A Good Place to Eat

My aunt has been sifting through family photos and letters, graciously creating a digital archive. I loved seeing this restaurant menu that my grandmother saved. The date shown, Monday, June 30, 1941, falls between the dates of my grandparents’ civil and religious wedding ceremonies. This would have been a special occasion for them, to drive 80 miles to Los Angeles and have a night out on the town.

They were ranchers. Lillian Ruth Hodenfield and Ulrich “Walter” Mueller met and fell in love while working at the Giese Chicken Ranch in Mentone, CA. They later purchased the small ranch and operated it until 1955. My grandfather would slaughter the chickens, grasping four or more birdnecks between the fingers of each giant hand. My grandmother plucked them and sorted the eggs by size. I am certain that a lot more work was involved, but this has been the picture in mind since childhood.

The bustle of a metropolitan evening must have felt exciting and glamorous. I imagine the young newlyweds on their romantic date: Grandma in her best dress and gloves, Grandpa in his steel blue, corduroy wedding suit, the glow of candles on the white tablecloths. I wonder if they had prime rib or halibut meuniere. (I am tempted to look for a recipe for ox joints bourgeoise.) When they finished their caramel custard, did they go dancing? Did they stroll to the Golden Gopher for a nightcap?

The restaurant Rene and Jean is no more, the site of the building is now a public parking alley. When I offered these images to latimemachine.com, a digital museum of classic Los Angeles restaurants and bars, the curator wrote a sweet note telling me that, “Rene and Jean was definitely one of the greats.”

Renowned L.A. literary figure and O.G. Echo Park hipster, Jake Zeitlin, once wrote, “Whenever somebody interesting would come into town, we’d rope them in. We had Louis Untermeyer one evening, and Lewis Mumford. The routine was usually they would come into the shop, then I would take them over to Will Connell, and Will would pose them and shoot these old-fashioned, cabinet-type photographs of them. Then we would all go to dinner to a French restaurant on West Sixth Street, Rene and Jean… and we would then gather at my shop and talk and make a lot of noise and argue and generally have a hell of a good time.”

That is what I hope Lillian and Walter had that night in the City of Angels, one hell of a good time.

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2 Comments on “Rene and Jean: A Good Place to Eat

  1. Kirsten, Thanks for posting the Rene and Jean menu. My father used to take us their in the 40′s. We would drive in to LA from San Gabriel, eat in Chinatown or Rene and Jean’s before going to watch the Newsreel. We capped off the evening at Olvera St. eating taqitos on the Plaza. Cathi, Loveland, Colorado.

  2. Rene of Rene and Jean’s restaurant was married to Anna McCullough Faron, my father’s sister. I grew up in New York and met them when they, my Aunt and Uncle, visited NYC several times during my childhood. Much later when I was older and spent time with them in their home in Los Angeles …….the restaurant was no longer operating.

    The reason I am writing is because when I was a kid….about 1941, I seem to remember a major magazine article on Rene and Jean’s restaurant. Our family was excited about the aricle as It was a tribute to their success. We had nothing to do with our Calif. relatives success but it did give us bragging rights.

    Now I have a new found relative who is doing a famiy history. So…Is it possible that someone out there would know about that magazine ariticle? Anyone who remembers the restaurant? My Aunt Anna often worked as their cashier.

    thank you,

    Joan Burk

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