I must say, I live for programmatic architecture. Although its heyday of popularity has long passed, the inner child in me does a happy cartwheel for a giant donut or any other building shaped like the product it sells. And theme restaurants, well, they literally make me jump for joy… Los Angeles has had a history rich with both, but unfortunately most of that kitschy, yet incredible, architecture can only be seen in old photographs.
Luckily, one such restaurant sits happily in the center of Koreatown, set back from busy Western Avenue and mostly obscured from the street. Most people who would genuinely appreciate it do not realize it is even there. Cafe Jack is not a vintage restaurant, although I’m sure that as the years pass it will become more marvelous as its age begins to show. This fabulous boat-shaped restaurant was built in 2007 in tribute to the movie Titanic. The ‘Jack’ in question is the main character of the film, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
This massive ship was constructed nine years ago by its owner, also named Jack, Jack Shin. He used authentic exterior boat material, along with finishing touches such as maritime lamps and an attached dinghy. The inside decor was carefully chosen with both the movie and the nautical theme in mind. The interior features rustic wood planked floors, life preservers, cabin-like rooms and stills from the film.
Serving Korean food and a healthy selection of medicinal teas and smoothies, it is also heavy on sushi roll selections. But the real reason to visit Cafe Jack isn’t merely for hunger, it is because you are hungering for a bigger experience, something to shake you and wake you, to make you smile. There is a reason that I’ve been accidentally calling it Happy Jack since I first learned of its existence, and it isn’t a reference to the 1966 mod-era song by The Who. It is because a themed restaurant is a way to step out of the dull and hum-drum and step into another place, another time, another world. Visiting Cafe Jack is also a visit to your own personal happy place.
Cafe Jack: 508 S Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90020; (213) 365-8882.