History of the Pig’n Whistle and Their Famous Pot Pie

“…it had the second-best chicken pot pie in Hollywood– with Musso and Frank grill being the best.”

Aaron Belvins: “Hollywood’S Pig ‘N Whistle ‘Gutted’ – Beverly Press & Park Labrea News.”

The Pig’n Whistle was a fairly average restaurant with fairly average prices, but something about this charming little restaurant made it very special. The original menu consists of the typical items you could make at home, and would see on a menu at a delicatessen; foods such as salads, soups and sandwiches either hot or cold.  but also contains a variety of unusual menu items. The menu contains different sections for meals of the day such as the luncheon section which, much like today, held cheaper meals than could be bought at dinnertime.

Pig’n Whistle Menu 1939

A section of the menu labeled “From the Fountain” includes all of the options offered at the candy counter and ice cream shop section of the restaurant, such as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Some of the smaller menu sections are labeled “Appetizers-Soups,” “From the Grill,” “desserts,” “cheeses,” and “drinks.” There is an unusual section of the menu way down in the corner called Pig’n Whistle’s Special Dishes. These special dishes include dishes from other cuisines such as Chili Con Carne, tamales and Spaghetti Italienne au Parmesan. This section of the menu also includes Pig’n Whistle’s “famous” Chicken Pot Pie, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.

The very first Pig’n Whistle is said to have grown out of a candy store and ice cream shop in 1908 that was started by a man named Frank L. Callebotta a few years prior in San Francisco, not Hollywood (Whitaker). It was this location that became the hub of operations for the company and from there more locations began to spread throughout California. By 1912, another location opened in Oakland followed by another opening on South Broadway, Los Angeles in 1914. In 1926, the Pig’n Whistle brand made a push to expand their chain even more, and by 1929, they were opening their twentieth location. The main location was in San Francisco, but when Hollywood started booming, another famous location opened there as well in 1927 (Kang). Located in Hollywood on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard,  the restaurant was surrounded by other landmark attractions, such as the Egyptian Theatre, that would draw crowds and often many celebrities who were working nearby.

Pig’n Whistle next to Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. 1944

Famous fans of the restaurant include Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Loretta Young, Spencer Young,  Barbara Stanwyck, Howard Hughes and more. Unfortunately, the Pig’ n Whistle had a famous visitor who may have contributed to the decline of the restaurant. Aspiring actress and infamous serial killer victim Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia was seen dining at the restaurant in the late ‘40s shortly before her heart-breaking murder (Whitaker). Profits began declining in the early 1950’s and by 1952, their number of locations had shrunk from 20 locations to nine. In 1968, there were only three restaurants remaining in the world, before finally closing its doors after decades of bringing joy to families, celebrities and other patrons of all kinds. For fifty years, the once glistening building fell into ruin as it was passed from owner to owner; no restaurant that made itself at home in the building could measure up to the legacy that the Pig n’ Whistle had left.

However, rising from the ashes – the Pig’n Whistle was reborn fifty years later, after a dizzying 1.5 million dollar, two year long restoration. A man named Chris Breed took it upon himself to breathe life back into the ruins of the once loved restaurant in memory of his father, who was a lover of Old Hollywood. The Pig’n Whistle re-opened its doors in 2001 and stands proudly in exactly the same place it used to over one hundred years ago, each detail restored to its original glory with the utmost care (Kang). 

A Peek Inside

Pig’n Whistle Interior

While the Pig’n Whistle was open to and loved by people of all ages, it made its name as a family friendly restaurant. Both the interior and exterior were decorated very elegantly, and original art was hung throughout the dining area, but children were still able to be free and have fun. The lively and relaxed environment of this ice cream shop turned restaurant could make anyone feel at home. The Pig’n Whistle was also known for catering to their child patrons through cute children’s menus and booklets that were available, and the large menu gave picky children plenty of options to choose from.

The biggest draw of the Pig’n Whistle was its prime location right next to the brilliant Egyptian Theatre next door on Hollywood Boulevard. In the early 1900’s, the concept of a concession stand at a movie theatre was not conceived of yet, and food was not allowed in theatres. Movie-goers still wanted to eat food either before or after the movies, and luckily for them, the owner of Pig’n Whistle saw the opportunity to build its most famous location next door to the Egyptian, with a side entrance leading directly into the courtyard of the theatre for the utmost convenience. Parents could take their children to see a movie and then head right next door for cheap food for the whole family.

Pig’n Whistle Souvenir Menu

Recreating their Famous Chicken Pot Pie

The concept of the Pot Pie can be traced back to the Ancient Greek empire. The original Pot Pie was a flat, crusty galette and made from ground oat, wheat, rye and barley, filled with honey and then finally baked over a bed of coals. Egyptians also took a liking to the pastry and made their own version that included fruits. It was when the Roman Empire finally got their hands on the recipe that they created a galette more similar to the ones we eat now that were savory and filled with meat, oysters, fish and other proteins. However, they took one step further from modern Pot Pies by replacing the edible flaky crust with a hard one that was only meant to serve the filling of the pie. The Romans were also said to have cooked live birds into their pies that would fly out when the pastry was cut, giving birth to the old nursery rhyme “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” (Lum). 

Centuries later, the first proper Pot Pie dish was born. Complete with a flaky pastry crust and creamy meat filling, these pies were known in Europe as “coffins”. In the Renaissance era, Pot Pies became an art form. Pies were made in many glorious shapes and sizes: birds, fish, flowers, castles and anything else you could think of. Fast forwarding to the Victorian era, the Pot Pie, oddly enough, became a big part of people’s lives. The type of pie that a person could afford to make was determined by social class. Game and fish pies were only available to people who had their own land to hunt and fish on. Poor people could only eat beef pies or mutton pies made from older sheep meat if they were lucky. In Europe, Pigeon Pies were only for those who were rich and of high status because raising pigeons for meat in the winter was a costly endeavor. The final development in Pot Pie history came with the end of World War II. The Swanson company became famous for producing individual, frozen chicken pot pies. This was when the pot pie was finally introduced to America in the form that we know it to be now.  

Pig’n Whistle’s Chicken Pot Pie Ingredients

Recreating the Pig’n Whistle’s Famous Chicken Pot Pie was both challenging and extremely fun, especially because of how amazing it tasted once it was finally finished. Finding the recipe for the exact pot pie the Pig’n Whistle used was unfortunately not possible because the restaurant never released their recipe for the dish; therefore, I found an article with a generalized description of what ingredients were used by the restaurant and applied those ingredients to a general chicken pot pie recipe I found online.

The process was actually extremely simple, despite my friends and family constantly telling me how difficult it would be to make Chicken Pot Pie. The recipe was super easy to follow, and the ingredients– which I’m sure were much more difficult to find in the 1930’s– were just a grocery store trip away. The entire process took about an hour and a half, with forty-five of those minutes devoted to the pie cooking in the oven.

Chicken Pot Pie ingredients

While my goal to try to recreate the exact Pot Pie from the Pig’n Whistle was sadly not possible, I did use less accurate measuring tools to try to interpret the recipe as much as possible and recreate the story of the chefs who were making it back then. When the recipe called for six tablespoons of unsalted butter, I used an actual table spoon instead of a measuring cup to measure out the ingredients. I did the same for the teaspoon ingredients, using a small spoon for stirring tea to measure out the salt and black pepper. When the recipe called for a cup of any ingredient, I used a plastic cup that held around eight ounces of liquid to measure out a cup (or more) full of that ingredient (frozen peas, shredded cooked chicken, and chicken stock).

The most challenging part of recreating this recipe was definitely making the pie crust. Making a homemade crust was way harder than I thought it would be, especially because I am not someone who usually cooks, nor have I ever made any kind of bread or crust from scratch before. The biggest challenge I kept running into was making the crust too thin and having it rip or get a hole somewhere in the dough. I kept having to re-roll/knead the dough over and over until I managed to get the thickness even enough without having any holes for the stuffing to fall through. Once I was able to accomplish this to my best ability, I put the dough into a pie tin and began working on the stuffing.

Struggling to knead the dough without making holes in it

Making the center of the pie was actually very easy and quite enjoyable. Since I had never really cooked anything besides Ramen noodles and microwavable mac-n-cheese, I was nervous that I would mess up the dish, especially because I was using actual spoons and cups to measure my ingredients instead of modern day measuring utensils. However, I actually found myself having more fun this way, and I felt more like I was playing a guessing game than cooking a meal.

The biggest challenge for me was making sure I added the ingredients in while stirring and making sure I continued to stir so the food would not stick to the pan or burn. Once the stuffing was ready to be put inside the crust, I carefully scraped it out of the pan and into the pie before placing the top layer of crust over the top.

Making the stuffing for the pie
Pot Pie before going into oven

I put the Pot Pie into the oven with tin foil wrapped around the bottom for forty five minutes and let it cook. This step was the most boring part of the process because all I could do was sit and wait. An hour an a half later, the Chicken Pot Pie was finally finished.

Finished Pot Pie uncut
Finished Pot Pie cut

Sources:

Kang, Matthew. “LA Preservationists Cringe As Unpermitted Renovation Threatens Historic Pig ‘N Whistle.” Eater LA. N.p., 2021. Web. 9 Dec. 2021. <https://la.eater.com/2021/10/26/22746966/pig-n-whistle-hollywood-historic-signage-removed-los-angeles-tempo-urban-kitchen>. 

Lum, Linda. “Exploring Pot Pies: History, How To’s, And Heaps Of Recipes.” Delishably. N.p., 2021. Web. 9 Dec. 2021 . <https://delishably.com/meat-dishes/Pot-Pies>. 

Whitaker, Jan. “Famous In Its Day: Pig’N Whistle.” Restaurant-ing through history. N.p., 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2021 . <https://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2011/05/26/famous-in-its-day-pign-whistle/>. 

Wayne, Gary. “Pig N Whistle.” Seeing-stars.com. N.p., 2021. Web. 9 Dec. 2021 . <https://www.seeing-stars.com/Landmarks/PigNWhistle.shtml>. 

Blevins, Aaron. “Hollywood’S Pig ‘N Whistle ‘Gutted’ – Beverly Press & Park Labrea News.” Beverly Press & Park Labrea News. N.p., 2021. Web. 9 Dec. 2021 . <https://beverlypress.com/2021/10/hollywoods-pig-n-whistle-gutted/>.

For extra information, see the video below!

Video: “Pig ‘N Whistle – Visiting (909) – Huell Howser Archives At Chapman University.” Blogs.chapman.edu. N.p., 2021. Web. 9 Dec. 2021 . <https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2001/10/24/pign-whistle-visiting-909/>. 

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