Trophies Still Roam the Restaurant Range, But I’m Not Game


It’s my annual winter visit home in L.A. and we’re braving the dreaded dead heads, again. Yes,  several of my family’s favorite restaurants are decorated – and disgraced – with massive, wild animal trophies on their walls. Trophies, indeed.

Now don’t get me wrong. My people aren’t hunters, just valley folks who like meat. My father’s side came from the meat packing industry in Nebraska. My sister-in-law’s kin founded Hoffy, the packagers of those hot dogs sold at the iconic Pink’s and plugged by singer Pat Boone. My relatives don’t mind seeing deer heads and bear skins tacked on a wall while enjoying a good rare steak. But my daughter does.

“It’s barbaric,” exclaimed 10-year-old, Lauren, with tears in her eyes, when confronted with the stuffed buffaloes, gophers and bucks mounted at Clearman’s Northwoods Inn in Covina.

Dining at the Inn has long been a post-Disneyland stop, starting with my parents when we four kids were little ranch hands. Cherie and Aaron really went in for the burgers, bowls of red cabbage and the mugs of beer, not to mention the buckets of peanuts and ever so folksy tradition of discarding the shells onto the redwood floor. Yes sir, kids, good clean American fun, except for those sad eyes on the stuffed heads with antlers.


The prized kill passes for nostalgic western memorabilia. And it is shocking for a sensitized child to encounter the animal trophies of yore, which emerge as the anti-green in their eyes. It’s especially jarring for Lauren after spending the day at the “happiest place on Earth“, a theme park peopled with woodland critters personified as our pals.


Try to explain to a child why trophies remain on our walls at a time when we shun fur coats and animal testing, a time when global campaigns are waged to protect our defenseless forest friends.

“This restaurant is very old, like from the 60s, and they hung the trophies because it didn’t upset people back then,” I assure my girl,  hoping she will settle down and agree to eat dinner with us. When she was younger I lied to her, telling her the animal heads at the Inn were fake, just like the taxidermy dioramas at the old San Francisco’s Academy of Science, just replicas of real animals. But now, I have to be honest and apologetic and coax her to remain inside the joint and enjoy her meal amid the walls of death. It’s getting more challenging.

I have to admit, I forget about the taxidermy at the Inn until I’m there and Lauren falls apart. I don’t think we will return next year. Really, the salad swimming in mayo and peanut shells on the floor aren’t worth the battle.

And yet, there are more miles to go on this annual trek before I rest.

My brother has made a dinner reservation at the Saddle Peak Lodge to celebrate my mother’s 82nd birthday. The upscale grill in Malibu Canyon is a favorite of the tony celebrities who live in my brother’s exclusive gated community of Hidden Hills, a ranch-filled paradise where multi-million dollar spreads are interspersed with horse trails and dog runs for its animal loving residents. I hear J-Lo just bought a large property there for just herself and the twins. Don’t tell the tabloids!

The problem is the Lodge they all love showcases numerous animal trophies on its walls, as well as exotic game on its overpriced menu. Holy antlers!


This time, I’m protesting. I have put up a stink about returning to the Lodge for yet another celebration; you’d be surprised how much convincing it has taken. Still, it looks like Lauren has won out this time. We will not be back in the Saddle Peak again, bypassing it for a new hip Hollywood spot, BLT Steak on the Sunset Strip with $40 entrees and $10 side dishes of mac and cheese, lobster mashed potatoes and poached green beans. The modern and stark eatery has no dead heads – just large prints and paintings of  various cows and bulls, a sort of homage to the fare you will be enjoying.

Ironic, isn’t it? Those who wouldn’t think of wearing a fox coat to dinner agree to linger over $52 New Zealand Elk Tenderloin amid the corpses. The roaring fire, the delicious wine, the tender elk, all can make you forget. Make you forget, that is, unless you happen to be a 10-year-old child of the eco age.

This is the latest installment in Luanne’s column, Life in the Green Lane.

Main Image: Fury Scaly

Northwoods Inn, Saddle Peak Lodge

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.