To the casual restaurant patron, The Proud Bird’s Facebook post from June 6, 2016, probably came as a shock. Lacking a description or any real context, the photo showed the longtime LAX-area restaurant gutted and partially demolished, with a yellow construction excavator in the foreground, seemingly eager to tear down the rest of this aviation-rich establishment. “What the heck,” one fan commented, adding, “so sad” with not one, but two exclamation points. Yes, had this been the end of The Proud Bird, after serving the area both food and aviation history for 49 years, it would have truly been unfortunate.
However, this wasn’t a sad occasion. Instead, it was simply a revelation that The Proud Bird had taken the form of a phoenix, preparing to rise from the construction debris and offer its longtime loyal customers a new dining experience. Last week, after many months of construction and renovations, The Proud Bird opened its doors once again, unveiling a brand-new food bazaar that boasts six culinary kitchens “inspired by the cultural melting pot that is Los Angeles.” Diners can choose from Chinese, Italian and American cuisines, among others, while also enjoying an overhauled cocktail menu from the playfully-named Mile High Club Bar and Lounge.
“Most guests come to a restaurant for the food, and that’s probably been the biggest change,” Specialty Restaurants Corporation President, Chairman and CEO John Tallichet told Flying.
But The Proud Bird is still about far more than the food, as the 50th anniversary reopening also revealed a deeper commitment to aviation history, something that is crucial to John, whose father, World War II veteran David C. Tallichet, got the family food business rolling in 1958.
“There are a lot of similarities from what my dad envisioned with the restaurant when he evolved it over time,” John Tallichet explained. “We still have the planes out front, and we still have the planes out in the park. Over time, he collected photos and put them up throughout. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason; it was just kind of an interesting place to walk around and see all the photos. Because we opened up the inside, we lost some wall space and so we had to reimagine that and create a lot of murals and more dedicated theme spaces. But because we opened the place up, we were able to put an aircraft inside the building.”
When diners walk into The Proud Bird today, they are immediately greeted by a P-40 Flying Tiger replica, which was originally out front. Two years ago, it was removed and sent to a facility for refurbishment; however, questions about the restaurant’s lease left the Tiger’s home in question. Fortunately, the Bird remains in the same location, and so the Tiger was brought inside to hang above a new aviation tribute that includes the Tuskegee Airmen and even a nod to modern aviation’s pioneers, including Richard Branson and Elon Musk.
Longtime patrons might be sad to see the restaurant’s old dedicated rooms gone, but the people who helped make this establishment so iconic are still remembered in delightful stories, like this one about the late Bob Hoover.
“There were certain displays that we had for certain people that had become more than just a bunch of pictures,” John recalled. “Case in point was the Bob Hoover display. He would come in quite a bit, and my dad originally put it down the hallway going to the restroom. He complained, so my dad moved it.”