The Kayndaves Tiki Head May Go to a Museum

(Editor’s note: CTN ran the story about Kayndaves selling the Palisades restaurant. Co-owner David Licht wrote such a lovely piece about the first restaurant that this editor wanted to share it.)

This was the cover of the menu of the restaurant that was opened in 1991.



Special to Circling the News


This was the first restaurant Dave Licht opened.

We just learned that the Museum of Neon Art (Glendale) wants to hang our neon logo in their space because our head logo dates back decades.

When Kay and I bought Topanga, on October 16, 1991, our tiki head was a broken hunk of yellow neon on the side of the building.

I had only enough money for the down payment to buy the restaurant. I didn’t have the money to fix our signs. Within a month, I maxed out my credit cards. We were living hand to mouth, literally rolling up our change to barely meet payroll every week.

One of our customers – Bill Alsup (now deceased, I think) – offered to fix our two broken neon signs for a few nickels and a bunch of tacos.

He lived off the grid up in Topanga (in a trailer) and was unreachable.  A month passed. I thought he disappeared with my nickels and tacos, which I could ill afford.

But six weeks later, he showed up in his old beat-up Ford truck, spent the better part of the day working on the lower sign, and at dusk summoned Kay and me outside. He made us stand facing the sign, went to the electrical panel and popped on the light.

The only thing he fixed was the yellow neon logo.

And we adopted it then and there as not only our logo, but our greater conscience that would watch over us and keep us committed to making our place a cozy, friendly, affordable spot offering good honest quality food every second of every day.

We certainly missed our mark many days.  And tested our customers patience more often than we wanted to.  But looking back, we did put our heart and soul into our places every day for the past 30 years.

I’m attaching our menu the day we took over in 1991.  The front cover had a hand drawing of our place with the neon logo scribbled onto it – as it was on that neon sign. I’m also attaching our opening day menu in the Palisades.  Each one had color markings that were put there by Kay and me – the night before we opened (we were up until 2 a.m. doing that).

On a side note, my dad grew up in Glendale (which is the site of the neon museum and where our neon may come to rest).  His folks, who I was lucky to know and love, immigrated from Lviv in 1915.

I’m not sure Glendale was a great pick for Jewish immigrants as it was a bastion of antisemitism back then.  My dad’s grandma Dora (who I’m named after) had a little restaurant in Boyle Heights back when it was predominantly filled with Jewish immigrants.  Funny how my great grandma – who I never met and was named after – was a small-time restauranteur like me.





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5 Responses to The Kayndaves Tiki Head May Go to a Museum

  1. Betty Meadows says:

    We moved to the Palisades in 1993 and discovered this wonderful little cantina. A few days after Michael was born we celebrated at Kay N Dave’s. There used to be a little Christmas tree mounted on the ceiling all year long and our favorite table was beneath it. We’ve spent many a happy time celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, after baseball games, and just for no reason at all we would stop in to relax with a few beers, ordered up some tacos and tried to figure out the answer to the daily question and win a piece of candy. Kids were entertained drawing colorful pictures with crayons on a paper placemat and we loved seeing it mounted on the wall the next time we came in…and we could tell who had been in during the week by looking at all the walls covered in crayon art because everyone signed their name and phone #. My favorite plate was the appetizers – mini chimis, chicken taquito, chicken mole quesadilla and a tamale. We’re gonna miss you Dave & Jintana! Hugs from Betty, Keith, Michael & the Red Dogs

  2. m says:

    Love it!!! Thank you, Dave.

  3. Jintana and David (we can’t call you Dave…you know why:-),
    We are so delighted to see that the restaurants you’ve had reflect the work ethic, integrity, and creativity that is so apparent in knowing you both. Our only regret is that we never ate at Kayndaves. We know that LA is losing a beloved, neighborhood place to eat well inexpensively. But luckily, we do get to eat with you in your lovely home in Santa Fe as a consolation prize! We love you both and are honored to count you as our friends.
    Much love,
    Sherrie McGraw and David A Leffel

  4. Kayndaves Fan says:

    We’re shocked and saddened to learn that the Palisades location is closing. We were somewhat regulars at the Culver City location and had been anxiously awaiting its reopening. We were devastated when we learned it was now permanently closed. But at least we had Palisades though it’s a trek for us. Boy do we wish we had made that trek and definitely would have had we been warned this was coming. My son has multiple food allergies, so it’s hard to find places that have options for him and care. Kayndaves was perfect for him while satisfying the whole family. I will miss the ceviche, sangria, and chips cooked in canola oil. I wish Dave and Jintana luck with their future and hope the restaurants that replace Kayndaves bring the same level of quality, service with a smile, and good food.

  5. Michelle McConnell says:

    Hi Kay and Dave,

    I am very sad to hear that the Palisades location is closing. I was so happy when I heard that the Culver City location had re-opened, but then so disappointed when I heard it had closed. I loved your food! Mexican with a healthy twist. And the margs were so tasty.

    Knowing how much I loved your restaurants, friends gave me a couple of $25 gift certificates for my birthday. I wasn’t able to use them because I got them after the Culver City location had closed, and I wasn’t able to go to the Palisades location at the hours it was open. I was wondering if I could get a refund for them? I sent an email to and also left a note at the business where you asked to leave mail.

    Thank you.

    Michelle McConnell

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