Malibu Sea Lion, Malibu 1960s
The Malibu Sea Lion was a legendary seafood restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), the road that hugs over 600 miles of California’s rugged and beautiful coastline.
Chris Polos, who owned and operated this establishment, bought the former Las Flores Inn for what he called ‘a sack of peanuts’ in 1944 and he and his family set about transforming it into a beautiful restaurant, putting in windows that offered a 300-foot-wide ocean view for its 700 daily patrons.
A lone sea lion – called Josephine – was living on the premises when Polos arrived and barked greetings to guests. Young or ailing seals that became stranded on the rocks outside the restaurant were gathered up, allowed to recuperate in Josephine’s pool near the entrance, and soon became a mini colony.
The Statue of Liberty was only a year older than Chris Polos when he arrived in the United States in 1900 from Greece to join his father and later, his brothers and sisters. Aged 13, he was processed through Ellis Island and, without being able to speak or read English, started out selling fruit and vegetables from a street stand.
The family – his mother stayed in Greece and though they spoke, Polos never saw her again – moved to Chicago but two years later, the plucky teenager hopped a freight train that he thought was heading for California. Instead, he ended up in Minnesota in the middle of a freezing winter.
Later, he moved to St Louis and worked as a cook for the Marine Corps, then worked in candy stores in Iowa and Nevada and at 18, finally landed in San Francisco. He worked for a short time in an ice cream store which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
He married his wife Helen and had a son and a daughter and grandchildren, all of whom were devoted to the smooth running of the restaurant.
When Polos sold the Sea Lion in 1984, he continued to live over the restaurant - making sure the new owners were treating his customers properly. One of California’s most colorful restaurateurs died, aged 99, in 1986.
This menu, from the 1960s, displays sea lions balancing plates on their heads and carry dish rags, as if they were waiters,
The Sea Lion is now the site of Duke’s, Malibu.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.