Kelbo's Hawaiian themed Restaurant

Remembering KELBO’S!

 The very first KELBO'S location opened at 11434 West Pico Blvd in 1965. A second location opened on Fairfax across from Television City. There were also locations in Inglewood and the Brentwood Country Mart. The two owners Thomas Kelly and Jack Bouck combined the two syllables of their last names and came up with KELBO'S. 

It was described as "Modern Hawaiian". Exotic Polynesian artifacts decorated the walls and ceilings with numerous aquariums throughout giving customers the feel of dining in a real lagoon. The decor was designed by a gentleman named Eli Hedley - who was also responsible for other tiki themed restaurants such as "Don The Beachcomber". Others described it as a "poor man's Luau". I disagree. 

At one point KELBO’S had 75 tropical lanterns and light fixtures hanging from above. Some of them in the shape of pineapples, most of them hanging from nets. But, it was never, EVER bright. They had backlit display of the fancy drinks in the booths making it impossible to miss the row of skull mugs. 

KELBO'S was of the best examples of tiki architecture and one of the first to introduce Hawaiian cuisine (they did not sell it as Polynesian). Prices were reasonable and there was plenty of free parking adjoining at both. Sigh… 

                            photo source

Both locations were favorite destination for Andy Griffith, Kim Novak, Don Knotts, Jack Webb and Huell Howzer to name a few. 

                 Photo source

During the 1970s and '80's KELBO’S featured authentic recorded big band music of the 1930s and and 1940s. Their General manager at the time was Sonny Heideman, a famed trumpeter of "the big band days." Everyone danced late until the waitresses came around asking everyone to stop because Sonny was going to bed. He actually lived above the Coco Bowl! 

Bob Hale, who did the Kelbo's mural, was the weatherman on KNBC's local weekday evening news, after being fired by a Seattle station. He'd quickly draw cartoons illustrating each forecast. This was in the early '70s. (If I recall correctly, he was replaced by Kelly Lange). This mural stayed intact some time after the west LA location closed. Hale also illustrated the menus for Paco's Tacos.

This was one of KELBO'S Windows

I frequented the one on Pico in the 90s many times. It was such a popular place to go to on weekends. They had great DJs on Saturday nights (one called 'Warren the Geeky DJ'), and on other occasions late night jams. 

But, ALL I really remember was having one of those blue drinks....the next thing I knew I was in San Diego with one windshield wiper missing! Kidding...but the place was dark as hell, so all I could see were porcupine fish eyes staring down from the ceiling tangled in nautical gear. 

KELBO'S Exotic Drink Menu

I also specifically remember excellent ribs and the King Kelbo Slim Liner salad dressing. I think they even sold it there. I don'r recall purchasing it. but I did swipe an ashtray that I still have and love.

Kelbo's was a bit west down the street from "Billingsley's" and just east of Gateway where the tracks crossed Pico at an angle. If you headed west from Sawtelle, it would be on your left if if they hadn't torn it all down including the lighthouse. It was replaced with "Fantasy Isand". 

I believe it was all torn down in 2018. 

Memories such as these remind me of other tiki & nautical styled classics no longer with us such as the 'Luau", "Trader Vic's, "The Islander", the "Tahitian", "Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel",  the "Captains Table", and even the "Fish Shanty". Even the old "Corkscrew" in Brentwood comes to mind. 

The Luau
was located on Rodeo Drive owned by Steve Crane. Formally "The Tropics". You had to walk over a bridge to enter. Hard to imagine this on Rodeo Drive today because  Rodeo Drive has something against anything Kitschy these days. 

                                Alison Martino at the Luau  / Vintage Los Angeles Archives

I celebrated by very first birthday at the Luau in 1971. Luckily my mother captured this snap shot. Ever since I have wanted a huger over sized wicker chair. 


Trader Vic's was located in the Beverly Hilton since the 1950s. In 2001 it was demoted an moved to the pool area. It was never the same. Tragically, the original was demolished for a Waldorf Astoria. 

At the Trader Vic's the day they closed. 

The Islander. Located on La Cienega and surrounded by a moat and bridges. At night you could see the giant tiki torches a mile away. It was terribly altered in the 1970s for an Acapulco Restaurant. Today it's a hideous looking apartment building. 

The Tahitian  located in Studio City. 

Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel located on La Cienega between Melrose Ave & Santa Monica Blvd

Vintage Los Angeles Archives

The Captain's Table had two incarnations. This one wasn't that far from the Lobster Barrel just south of Xavier Cugat's restaurant. In the late 60s it moved just below Beverly Park on Restaurant Row. 

The Fish Shanty
was located on Restaurant Row. You entered through a whale's mouth made out of blue mid century tiles and glass (sadly, it burned down)

Vintage Los Angeles Archives

The Corkscrew
located in Brentwood. I kept this menu when I was 10 years old. I found it recently. 
I had a laugh when I turned it over. I see I drew my dad on the back!

It's time for themed restaurants to make a comeback. Stick an umbrella in anything right now and I'm happy!

Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, and pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Alison muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram


  1. Sometime around 1980, NON performed at the Pico Kelbo's. The show is memorialized at I had the good fortune to attend the show, which was billed as a beach/luau/Annette&Frankie affair, but when NON went on, we wedged chairs under the doors to prevent the proprietors from shutting us down too soon.

  2. Nice write up on Kelbow’s but it opened in 1945-not 1965.

  3. I celebrated my gradulation from junior high school at Kelbo's. I loved that place!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts