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A Brief History of Hugo's Restaurant

Hugo’s Restaurant was built on founder Terry Kaplan's vision which included “a kitchen producing original and wonderful foods found nowhere else” and "a compelling and exciting thought...to have a family of co-workers who cared for each other in a genuine way. They would experience support, respect and feelings of well being. That would be the true heart and soul, the inspiring element" of Hugo's.

Little did Terry know that the idea of infusing "well being" into a business would be such a pioneering concept. It's the root that's allowed us to grow and expand in so many ways and directions and still be true to its imperative. Our history is in the buildings, in the kitchen, but our history is also linked to each other, what we've shared working with each other for years, or how many generations have continued the tradition of coming to or working at Hugo's, as well as many other intangibles that create well being.

From the beginning Terry wanted to work with people who placed as much emphasis on a loving environment as they did on taking pride in their work. "People working at Hugo's bonded in a way so obvious that anyone walking in the front door could feel it and share it." This first group proclaimed themselves "Hugonauts."

Once upon a time, when anyone first walked in the front door of Hugo's, they found it was a butcher shop with an actual butcher named Hugo. In addition to the butcher's, the building in West Hollywood, which sits on an extension of Route 66 and houses the restaurant as it is now, was also a grocery, a dry cleaners and a tailor shop, all in a row. Terry, being the compassionate man he was, kept the name in deference to Hugo's widow when he took the business over.

In Terry's hands the butcher shop sold the finest Eastern Veal and shared space with Monaco European Deli and Groceries. When Monaco moved out, the first renovation began, revealing the arched windows you see today which date back to the 1880's. Meaty deli cases took center stage, filled with gourmet take-out fare, such as stuffed roasts, pates, and terrines. Stock pots simmered all day in the kitchen creating a reduction that turned into 12 different sauces. There was a bakery case, too, filled with cakes, cookies and 8 kinds of handmade chocolate truffles among other tantalizing sweets. The floor displays were a feast of exotic grocery items which were incorporated into the sumptuous take-out food.

It was the 80's and foodies were in flower, searching out unusual flavors, seasonings and products. Hugo's became a Mecca, a carnival of tastes, sights and sounds that drew throngs through the door. Not only could they taste everything, they could watch the pasta maker and find out how to use that truffle oil or exotic new mushroom no one else carried. Soon they didn't wait to take the food with them. They wanted to eat right there in the middle of it all. Little by little, the shelves and display cases gave way to more chairs and tables, transforming Hugo's from neighborhood take-out to full-fledged restaurant. A decision to remain open early led to creating breakfast fare as interesting as the dinners. This attracted national media attention which coined the phrase "Power Breakfast" to describe not only unusual menu items like Pasta Mama and Pumpkin Pancakes, but the trio of directors, (Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Landis,) sitting in the corner doing business while sharing morning cappuccinos. (Hard to believe, but in those days cappuccinos were a rarity!) In 1994 Terry retired and in 2000, the next generation company, a community of families - The Kaplans, joined by the Brenners and the Kohnes - opened a Hugo's in Studio City (the site of a former Valley eatery) which received CitySearch.com readers' endorsement for "Best Breakfast" in 2006.

The restaurants rely on the talents of many, from our amazing chef Nabor Diaz, through the entire staff who contribute so much of themselves everyday. What we all are trying to do here still comes back to Terry's desire to be inspiring. Like everyone else, there are times in our day to day operations when we lose track, but Terry's ideals are always there to bring us back to our purpose in serving you and each other. We continually strive to produce original and wonderful food. We continually strive to value and respect each other, and the people we serve, spreading the kind of community we want to have take hold in the world. Being able to share "well being" is as vital an idea to us today as when Terry first proposed it.

Although faces, menus and times have changed, Terry's simple idea continues to be a beacon and the essence of our idea of hospitality. Hugo's is honored to be a touchstone for a community of like-minded people, both employees and customers, who value their time here. If you've felt a connection to the way we serve you and the community, then you're a Hugonaut, too. As Terry said so eloquently, "The menu will . . . change, but please, let's let the Hugo philosophy . . . continue, for love is, after all, our real true power."