Welcome to the fine art blog of San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet. Here you will find photographs of everything from vintage hot rods to rubber ducks and everything in between.

If you are interested in Stefanie's wedding and event photography or portraiture, please visit her client blog.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Friday - The Original

Believe it or not, there's a bit of a fight in Los Angeles about just who originated the french dip sandwich. Two restaurants share this claim to fame, Philippe the Original and Cole's Originator's of the French Dip. Both places were opened in 1908 and neither one of them is budging an inch about who made the popular sandwich first. They both also have great neon signs and darn good food. 
Philippe's was the first of the originals that I tried. I loved the old brick building, the sawdust floor and the vintage style counter service. Their famous french dip is different from the mainstream version you'll find in that the bread is dipped in au jus instead of the au jus being poured over the meat once it's in the sandwich. Believe me when I say you won't need extra au jus on the side. Cole's was a completely different take on the sandwich, but I'll save that for another Foodie Friday post. I do have to say that of the two places, I prefer Philippe's french dip. 
"The Original" in my Retro Roadside Photo Etsy Shop 
Have you eaten at either Philippe's or Cole's? Do you have a preference? And what's for lunch today?

Happy Friday!

- Stefanie

Monday, March 26, 2012

Motel Monday - More for the Cowboys

I've always found the idea of a western themed motel to be a little humorous. Cowboys slept under the stars, next to campfires with their guns. There was no roof over their heads, no protection from the elements and no warm bed waiting with turn down service and a mint on their pillow. At least there wasn't in any of the western movies I've watched. 

Not withstanding the irony of a western motel aimed at Cowboys and Cowgirls alike, the theme certainly makes for great signs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've started to amass quiet the collection of western themed neon signs and there are more waiting on my list.  

The Silver Saddle Motel was a recent photo subject that falls under the western genre. Located in North Hollywood, the motel is small with less than 30 guest rooms and an outdoor pool typical of Southern California. According to a local, the motel used to have quite a bit of western memorabilia on the grounds but all that remains is the giant plaster horse on top of the roof. Oddly enough the horse isn't wearing a saddle, let alone a silver one. Maybe they keep it in the lobby?
Whatever happened to the saddle, I sure hope they keep the sign. It's a metal and neon classic.

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Monday, March 19, 2012

Etsy Finds - On the Road Again

Here's to opening your email on Monday morning and finding your hard work front and center.  Yes... that's my woody print top left. I must have looked a little ridiculous with the smile this put on my face. 

Want your own woody? You can pick up the print in any size from 4x6 to 20x30 in my Retro Roadside Photo shop on Etsy.  
Until next time!

- Stefanie

Motel Monday - Rollin' Like a Celebrity

St. Patrick's Day weekend is over but I'm still feeling the green and have decided to run with it. Thus, in the spirit of my favorite color, today's Motel Monday feature is the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1912 and the city of Beverly Hills eventually sprang up around it. The surrounding streets lined with palm trees are a beautiful place to spend a warm afternoon.

I have loved these Beverly Hills Hotel signs for as long as I can remember... meaning I loved them before I loved signs. The gorgeous typography, the color, and their presentation are striking. In the evening green neon glows from behind the elevated letters of the signs which keep the neon tubes and cathodes hidden from view. They are vintage simplicity and beautiful appeal. In short, the Beverly Hills Hotel sports the Audrey Hepburn of vintage signs. Yes, I said it. 
I just managed to reference Weezer, Audrey Hepburn and Beverly Hills in 200 words or less. I think it's going to be a good week. Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 16, 2012

Foodie Friday - Bring the Green

I don't ever need an excuse to wear my favorite color, but if I did, this Saturday is it. That's right... I will be wearing green every second of St. Patrick's Day. It's not my fault it brings out my eyes. 

In celebration of tomorrow's unique and color specific traditions... green beer, really?... I have two Irish themed Foodie Friday photographs for you. These signs fit together like two peas in a pod. And at this very moment I'm chuckling to myself because peas are green making my analogy even better. Now on to the good stuff.

The first St. Patty's Day beauty is the Shamrock Dinners sign from Yreka, California. Heading north on Highway 99, take the Easy Street exit, take a right and make your way back towards the freeway. The restaurant building is still standing and seems to be rather large. Shamrock Dinners shut it's doors at least 4 years ago and the property was for sale back in 2008. Like most of these closed down places, I can't find a single thing about the restaurant. Based on the sign, I'm guessing they served liquor and food, but that's really not much to go on. I do know that I trespassed to take this shot and was in great fear of being chased off the property. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and this snap was completely worth a little anxiety. A large print of this beauty is on it's way to a new home today. I hear it's going to be the centerpiece of the kitchen decor. 
Not to be left out is Tom Bergin's Steak and Chop restaurant that touts itself as the House of Irish Coffee. Tom's Bergin's Tavern was established in 1936 and has been around for 75 years. They're in the midst of remodeling and apparently are hoping to be around for 75 more to share their Irish heritage with Los Angeles. I must say it's wonderful to see their neon signs in such great shape. Once they've reopened I'll have to return to capture the neon lit at night. I think I"ll have some dinner while I'm at it. I always love a good steak.
 Happy Friday! Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day weekend wherever it may take you.

- Stefanie

Monday, March 12, 2012

Motel Monday - Destination Unknown

One extremely hot day last summer I was driving down Highway 99 through central California and I needed water. A car with black leather interior is a bad idea when you're in direct sun for an 8 hour drive. As soon as I see a gas station sign I take the next exit. The station is understandably packed so I opt to park in the empty dirt lot across the street. There's a building and dumpster to my left. I figured it was just an abandoned restaurant waiting for some new owners to try their luck. 

As I'm getting out of the car I notice that the building 500 feet in front of me looks oddly like a motel. To my right are remnants of an old pool that has since been fenced in. And hiding in the palm trees above me is the motel cousin of those famous Waffle House signs I have yet to photograph. 

Unlike the rest of the signs I've shot, I don't know a single thing about this motel. I don't know it's name... I couldn't find one... or if it is still operational in some way. I can't even tell anyone with any certainty where the sign is located. It's on the west side of Highway 99 next to a gas station somewhere between Stockton and San Diego. That 8 hour stretch of freeway and this photograph are all that I have. Thank goodness I was carrying my camera. 
Stay tuned for this week's Foodie Friday. I found something special for St. Patrick's Day!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 9, 2012

Foodie Friday - Hey Vince!

A few weeks ago I drove up to Los Angeles to chase some neon over the long weekend. I headed as far east as Rancho Mirage to shoot the most awesome car wash sign ever before making my way back towards the valley. I also stopped off at the World's Famous Dinosaurs of Cabazon but we'll save them for another post. Saturday evening ended in Ontario and Covina where neon signs used to be king.

One of the most amazing signs still standing in Ontario is Vince's Spaghetti. The restaurant opened in 1945 and has been in the same location ever since. Apparently Vince's started as a french dip stand before customers caught sight of a member of the family eating his grandmother's spaghetti. Sorta funny how some business decisions are made... Anyway, more than 60 years later that sandwich stand has grown into a 425 seat restaurant that keeps family friendly hours. 

I stopped by Vince's between lunch and dinner service so they sadly were closed when I photographed their sign. I remember thinking their parking lot was rather large, but it you're going to feed 425 people at a time you're going to need quite a few parking spaces. And a lot of spaghetti. 
So who's got pasta on the menu tonight?

- Stefanie

Monday, March 5, 2012

Motel Monday - You're a Shining Star

Baby You're a Star
On my last trip to Las Vegas I made sure to take a tour of the Neon Museum, commonly referred to as the Boneyard. The museum has been saving signs since 1996 and currently boasts over 150 donated and rescued signs. It's also been responsible for the restoration and installation of several formerly retired neon signs around Las Vegas and managed to save the iconic lobby of the historic La Concha Hotel which closed in December 2003. I'll have to tell you more about the concrete paraboloid building and it's architect another time...

Yes, I paid attention on the museum tour. My guide would be so proud.

You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with today's Motel Moday post. Well here goes... The majority of the signs in the boneyard are the original products of Young Electric Sign Company, more commonly known as YESCO. You can see their logo on the bottom of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. YESCO loans out signs to the casinos and then trades old signs for brand new ones as the need arises. The retired signs are then turned over to the boneyard.

According to my museum guide, YESCO currently has a grandfather, father and son team working for them as their neon crafters. When interviewed, the son stated it takes about 10 years to master the art of bending or curving neon tubes for signs. He said they also receive several inquiries about custom signs, but many people are discouraged by the cost. Expressed in it's simplest form, neon signs cost approximately $20 per bend in the neon tube. Not only does this explain how expensive neon is to maintain, but it makes me marvel even more at today's Motel Monday feature.

The Starlite Motel opened in 1952 in North Las Vegas on what used to be called Main Street. Not surprisingly the street was later renamed to Las Vegas Boulevard North. The Starlite still seems to function as a genuine motel and the neon sign out front has been impeccably maintained. I didn't see a broken tube or an unlit star on either side.
Did I mention it's 60 years old? I'd love to look that good at 60.

Happy Monday!

- Stefanie

Friday, March 2, 2012

Foodie Friday - It's the Cheese

In the last Foodie Friday post I brought you Canter's Deli, a New York style delicatessen that's been around for more than 80 years. Today's feature isn't quite as old, but at 66 it is still a senior citizen. 

Cheese 'n Stuff Deli was established in 1949 on Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. Their awesome globe shaped sign includes the tag line "From Everywhere" because the deli carries several food items from around the globe. According to their website, a truck load of goodies from New York arrives the third week of every month. So if you're jonesing for something from the city, make sure you stop by then. The site also includes a vintage photograph of Central Avenue and the Deli in all it's glory.
This part of Central Avenue doesn't look remotely the same any longer, but Cheese 'n Stuff has survived. I really wanted to eat at the deli on my trip but sadly they are closed on Sundays. So after staring longingly through the front windows, I photographed their beautiful sign and went on my way. I don't even remember what I had for lunch instead. 
If you've eaten at Cheese 'n Stuff, please send me your recommendations. I want to make sure I order something delicious the next time I'm in Phoenix.

Happy Friday!

- Stefanie