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Pacific Coast Highway: The Big Rock Beach Cafe Malibu California

Recently we visited the Anchor Inn Cafe, and the Sport Fishing Pier, both located in Malibu, California on the Pacific Coast Highway. Today’s feature contains images of automobiles at the Big Rock Beach Cafe which was situated east of the Pier near Tuna Canyon Park, and closer to Santa Monica.

The Cafe and the cottages next to it were owned by Harry Canfield, and it apparently opened in 1950 or ’51 after the Trading Post Cafe he owned and also located in Malibu was destroyed by a fire. The lead image shows the eatery shortly after it opened.

The two photos below were taken after more signage was added in the early-1950s. Later, an enclosed area named the “poop deck” was added to the ocean side of the building for accommodating more diners. Today the upscale Moonshadows restaurant is located on the site.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the Huntington Library.


17 responses to “Pacific Coast Highway: The Big Rock Beach Cafe Malibu California

  1. The bottom photo (M-115) looks to have been taken around the same time as the first photo (M-104). The signage is the same (all lettered signs, no building wrap), and the windows match up. The second picture is at a different time (presumably later), with a graphic sign, the wrap-around banner sign, and an enclosed area extending through where the two cars are parked on the right side of M-104.

  2. Very interesting photos! I see images like this, and wish I could time-travel. I bet this was a nice little place to stop at in the early 50s! “A cheesburger with everything, & fries please..”
    The trio of `49-`50 cars in the second photo near the door certainly help pinpoint at least a 2 year period of 1950 or so. A `49 Ford woody, a `49 Chevy sedanette, a `49 Ford Business coupe and a `50 bucktoothed Buick Special.

  3. In the 2nd photograph, parked under “SEA FOODS” sign, is a four-door 1950 BUICK Special; on the far left in the same picture is a light colored two-door NASH, either a 1949 or’50.

  4. My only experience with Malibu, is a few years back, my son, his then gf, and I went up the coast and decided to get a bite to eat. It was right on the beach, forget the name, parking lot PACKED with Mercedes and Lambo’s ( and such) we checked the menu, and the cheapest item was Fish and Chips @ $32 dollars. I said, “um, son, let’s keep going” and “settled” for a $13.95 hamburger and fries down the line.

    • Sounds like you may have stopped at “Dukes”. Great spot with outside dining on the edge of the ocean. Great food, a little pricey, but the best Hawaiian Iced Tea I ever had!

    • Malibu has gone far too upscale, leaving most of us out of the picture though the same people helped build the place up in the first place.

  5. We had a late lunch for an anniversary event here (Moonshadows) last spring. Fantastic food, fantastic service, and a view to die for. It doesn’t get any better than this on PCH – (even though we left the Packard at home in the garage).

  6. Seems like a lot of pics lately, both here and on Shorpy, have a ’39/’40 Ford Tudor somewhere in the pic! This one is a ’39. Something about that body, maybe it’s history in hot rodding, makes it a very appealing profile.

  7. The ’34-’35 Studebaker coupe parked next to the Pontiac station wagon in the first image was by then a fifteen year old car, considered old at the time.

    In the second photo, at the left is a ’38-’40 Packard convertible coupe. With its dull finish and parked off to the side, it was probably an employee’s car.

  8. OK, I’ll take a stab at all of the cars in the lead photo. I’ll start Right to Left, as I feel a little more confident about my choices on the cars to the right.

    39/40 Buick Special Coupe
    49 Chevy Master Deluxe Sedan
    46 to 48 Plymouth Convertible
    40 Chrysler Sedan (Windsor?)
    34/35 Studebaker Dictator Coupe
    46-48 Pontiac “woodie” wagon
    49 Chevy Convertible (?? had a very difficult time coming up with anything on this one)
    38 Buick Sedan
    49 Oldsmobile Sedan

  9. In the first picture neither the roofline nor rear fender of the far left car look right for a 49 Olds but don’t have any suggestions for an alternative.

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