The well-known establishment has been renovated out of extinction and into a gathering place for family and friends.
On June 29, the Proud Bird, a historic and iconic restaurant with strong ties to the local community, found new life as The Proud Bird Food Bazaar & Event Center. Now, a new food hall with interactive aviation exhibits and a renovated events center, its grand opening marks the 50th anniversary of the restaurant, which is owned and operated by the pioneer of the themed restaurant, Specialty Restaurants Corporation (SRC), and first opened its doors in July 1967.
“The changes have been pretty immense,” said Specialty Restaurants Corporation district manager, Bradley Burkett. “It went from a standard white tablecloth dining experience to now—a Food Bazaar.”
The Proud Bird unveiled its brand-new look and feel as a reimagined Food Bazaar, a dining trend that has recently seen tremendous growth in Los Angeles and across the nation. With Chef Ted Hopson and Ann-Marie Verdi of The Bellwether serving as menu consultants, the Food Bazaar will feature six culinary kitchens inspired by the cultural melting pot that is Los Angeles, and will highlight Asian, Italian and American cuisines.
“We have a bunch of different stations set up within, like a food court environment and you just go from station-to-station,” said Burkett. “They have a lot of specialized foods put together.”
The Food Bazaar is a self-service experience, with ample seating available indoors and on the outdoor patio, with stunning panoramic views of the LAX runways. Upon entry, guests will receive a “Boarding Pass” which enables them to explore the diverse culinary kitchens at their leisure. The Proud Bird will also be partnering with the renowned Bludso’s BBQ and is the only place in the nearby community serving up their famous, mouth-watering BBQ ribs, brisket, and pulled pork.
The Food Bazaar will also give each diner the option of picking exactly what they crave at any time, with a menu that offers up something for every palate and preference. Simpler, classic offerings such as soups and salads, as well as a scaled down version of the menu offerings for young children will also be available, and each meal can be rounded out with a delectable dessert.
The bar program, playfully called the Mile High Club Bar and Lounge, will feature cocktails with a fun aviation-themed twist and provide service with a nod to the iconic first-class flight service of the golden age of travel. The Mile High Club is open to the public and features numerous flat-screen TVs showing local sporting events and offering unique views of planes landing and taking off, making it an exciting spot to stop by for a drink with friends, family or colleagues, regardless of travel plans.
The Proud Bird has always been dedicated to showcasing the past, present and future of aviation, and will continue to stay true to this unique interactive museum aspect by featuring aviation memorabilia throughout the property. Exhibits not to be missed include a P-40 Flying Tiger replica suspended from the ceiling, which greets guests as they enter the Food Bazaar and an exhibit dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and much more.
“We now have a vehicle to really showcase everything just like a museum,” said Burkett. “It’s all the same memorabilia, it was kind of scattered throughout and now we designed it better so people could really enjoy it.”
The Proud Bird will continue to cater to large groups and special events, from corporate retreats to unique and memorable social gatherings. With six renovated banquet rooms large enough to accommodate as many as 1,200 guests, The Proud Bird will offer detailed planning and state-of-the-art technology to ensure that every event is planned and executed with the utmost care.
The Proud Bird was in danger of closing down but was rescued by the outcry of the community, multiple organizations and loyal customers. The Board of Airport Commissioners approved a new lease in 2015 with negotiations taking place over the next two years. The National Association for Equal Justice In America (NAEJA) is one of those organizations that joined in the clarion call to save the L.A. landmark. Both NAEJA founder Royce Esters and state chairperson Stanley Prince have gone on record stating the recognition and importance of The Proud Bird to the Los Angeles African American community.
“The Proud Bird has always been a space for families, friends, and aviation enthusiasts of all ages to come together and enjoy a meal as a community, and we’ve been very lucky to be considered a space where our neighbors and friends have hosted many a special occasion,” said John D. Tallichet, president and CEO of Specialty Restaurants Corporation.
“When we open our doors again after many months of renovation, that feeling of comradery will remain, but everything else at The Proud Bird will be elevated: better food, more room for exploration and learning, banquet rooms that will take every special event to an entirely new level, and an experience truly unlike any other. We are thrilled to welcome our guests back so they can enjoy everything we have to offer once more.”
“You got to come out and give us a try,” said Burkett. “It’s a very different experience but it has a little bit of everything from family to friends—a gathering place.”
The restaurant reopened fully on July 5, at which point reservations will no longer be required. The Proud Bird is located at 11022 Aviation Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045 and will be open for lunch and dinner during the week and an All-You-Can-Eat Brunch during the weekend. For the latest news and information regarding The Proud Bird and Specialty Restaurants Corporation, visit www.theproudbird.com, www.specialtyrestaurants.com or call (310) 670-3093.
Brian W. Carter contributed to this article.