Centenarian (and older) restaurants?
This question gets asked a lot and has always interested me, so I thought I would try to start something of a definitive list. (I was awake early this morning.)
As the other responses indicate, there are apparently NO bona fide centenarian restaurants in LA (with the one possible exception of the Saugus Cafe, see below), and there won't be until the anniversaries of Philippe's and Cole's in 2008. La Golondrina's building is older--built in 1855, I believe--but the source linked below says the restaurant opened in 1924, which still makes it the oldest Mexican restaurant in town.
This might seem odd because Los Angeles is actually older than most American cities (outside the original 13 colonies and New Mexico) but of course we are famous for our transience.
The below list is close to definitive as to restaurants within the City of Los Angeles, but the documentation for other areas is less certain. After a lot of searches I stumbled across some references to the Saugus Cafe having been open since 1887 or 1888 or 1890, but it isn't clear to me (yet) if its operations were really continuous through the 19th century. Still, if this claim is true, it is distinctly older than anywhere else I've identified so far. The Mission Inn started being built in 1902, but I'm not sure how old the current restaurant space is (although LA Library has a menu from 1908), and there has certainly not been any continuity of ownership there, in any event; not to mention that Riverside has been officially excluded from L.A. in the official Chowhound Geography.
Anywhere, here is a first draft of a list of places founded before 1930 that are still open:
1887? Saugus Cafe
1902-08? Mission Inn (Riverside)
1908 Philippe, Cole's
1918 White House (Laguna Beach)
1919 Musso & Frank
1920 Mijares (Pasadena), Barney's Beanery (W Hollywood)
1921 Pacific Dining Car
1922 The Arches (Newport Beach)
1924 Original Pantry, La Golondrina
1926 Cook's Corner (Trabuco Canyon--but not the same building that is there today)
1927 El Cholo, Les Freres Taix
A few places from the '30s (there are probably others):
1931 Canter's (in Boyle Heights)
1938 Lawry's, Tail O' the Pup
By the way, the oldest Los Angeles menu at the wonderful LA Library website menu collection appears to be for the "First Annual Vintage Feast and Ball" at "Don Mateo Keller's, Alameda Street," November 29, 1875. (It's my understanding that Don Mateo Keller was the first winery owner in LA, and that he owned Malibu before the Rindge family bought it.) There's another one from Christmas 1886 for "The Stevenson House" at 1st & Los Angeles Streets. More menus and ads start showing up in the 1890s and 1900s, including my favorite, an 1897 ad for a place called "Al Levy's Oyster House"(!) at 111-113 West Third.
And I noted menus for the Jonathan and California clubs from the early 1900s so if one wanted to include private club dining rooms they'd have to be added.
Additions and emendations are solicited.
re: ipse dixit
Unfortunately, Bobs is no longer on Colorado in Glendale. It's a mini mall now. Bobs number 2 on Broadway is a Chinese restaurant now, and Bobs number 3 in Eagle Rock is a Thai Restaurant. The oldest existing Bobs is in Toluca Lake, which I think was number 4. I believe it was built in the 40s.
When I was in film school, I shot a project at the Alexandria. It's still a great location and was THE hotel in town at the turn of the (last) century. It's a hotel, they must serve food, but you're not going to see the banquets at the lapl website.
The palm court is monument #80 on the cultural affairs dept list
then and now photos
for the menu (see? la food related)
Great detective work!
If you extended the list beyond formal restaurants (some of my info could be sketchy, but...)
1903 Fugetsudo Confectionery (Little Tokyo)
1910 Mikawaya Confectionery (Little Tokyo)
1917 San Antonio Winery
1917 Grand Central Market (Downtown)
1934 Original Farmers Market
1938 Phoenix Bakery (Chinatown)
See's opened their first store in LA in 1921 on Western, but I'm not sure where their oldest continually operating store is.
Also Olvera St. opened in 1930, Golondrina moved there from somewhere else (not sure where!); El Paseo Inn has also been there since the beginning in 1930.