Kid Hit Menu Items: Carney’s makes no attempt to replicate a sophisticated train dining experience from the days of yore. Instead it’s all about hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese (basically a burger without the patty), quesadilla, French fries, lemonade, cookies, shakes.
Adult Perks: Making your children stupidly, ridiculously happy by bringing them to Carney’s. A small beer and wine list is offered. And c’mon, doesn’t everybody love trains?
Pros: See above. The kitchen staff is always cheerful and friendly, and the food quickly shows up on the kitchen counter to be fetched. I routinely see groups of adults WITHOUT young ones eating at Carney’s, so it does have a following of sincere grown-up fans of chili dogs, chili fries and some other cult items. Hitting the Studio City location has also become a favorite ritual for us following haircuts at the Yellow Balloon down the street. I can’t help but hum a little Judy whenever we go.
Cons: To put it kindly, good thing the Carney’s motto (“Probably the best hot dogs and hamburgers in the world”) hedges against an absolute claim to supremacy. A more accurate copy edit would substitute the word “Probably” with “Not.” The gloppy tuna melt served on a hamburger bun is marginally edible. Again, we do it for the kids. Yup, for the kids.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Easy parking in the lot.
Other Tidbits: While the beloved Tail O’ the Pup structure languishes in storage somewhere (designed by Milton J. Black, a master of legit Streamline Moderne architecture), we at least still have Carney’s in West Hollywood and Studio City. I’d rather not get into clichés about kitschy programmatic architecture and such — also because that category doesn’t apply to Carney’s — but these train car restaurants say a lot about our city’s relationship to transportation, history and how it’s not so crazy to see vintage train cars nestled among regular brick-and-mortar buildings on Sunset and Ventura Boulevards. It’s a simultaneously conventional and wacky embrace of the past. Our older son knows the difference between the two Carney’s, and which location has two cars with the extra dining room at the rear (Studio City) and where the kitchens and bathrooms are relative to the caboose and such. The food is secondary (this post is one of those exceptions-to-my-mission), but he’s thrilled to have a hot dog with kraut and a lemonade served in the signature black and yellow Carney’s cup. Actually, the Carney’s powers-that-be should consider harnessing the magical power they wield over kids and put some broccoli and brown rice on the menu. But no matter, Carney’s is a treasure that doesn’t need to be bothered to keep up with L.A.’s constantly evolving burger trends. The only part of “locavore” that might resonate in this setting is whether the first four letters of that word applied to the trains’ schedules back in the day.
12601 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
Also at 8351 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Cuisine: American/Hot Dogs & Hamburgers
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – midnight.