A little over a year ago my friend Stephen Roullier introduced me to Blue Star Restaurant, a retroasis in the middle of a scrap metal wasteland south and east of downtown, and since then I’ve gone to no place more times for Saturday morning/early afternoon eats, in large part because the grillmaster there rustles up the most awesome burger I’ve ever had.Â Ever. That grillmaster’s name is Paul Greenstein, and if you’re familiar with the downtown scene that thrived waaaaaay before the gentrified downtown as we now know it moved in — with places like Atomic Cafe, Gorky Park, Madame Wong’s, Al’s Bar — than you might recognize Paul’s name since he was a big part of it.Â I believe somewhere else on his curriculum vitae you’ll find he once owned Millie’s here in Silver Lake. On top of that he’s a master neon-sign maker.
I had no idea who he was, of course, seeing as how my connection to that bygone era as a chronic Valley dweller involved one tentative late-night stop at Gorky’s sometime in the mid-1980s after a wide-eyed visit to the old Power Tools club when it occupied the ground floor ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel.
During that same first visit to Blue Star with Stephen that I met Paul and fell in love with his fantastic Date Burger, I also met his car parked out front, hands-down one of the most unique vehicles you’ll ever see. Ever: A 1941 Tatra T87.
A what? Yeah, me too. The rear-engined jet-black sexy beast looks something like a VW Bug on steroids, only with a third headlight and the most hot-damn dorsalist of dorsal fins. It also looked brand spankadankin’ new, not at all like it had been almost 70 years since it rolled off the Czechoslovakian assembly line where it had been built.
There’s one reason and a whole bunch of money behind why. After winning it on eBay in 2001, Paul and his girlfriend Dydia meticulously brought it back — even sent it back to the Czech Republic for a 3.5-year restoration process that they estimate came with a $60,000 pricetag.
And it’s paid off pretty handsomely. There was a great spread on the car in Motor Trend Classics magazine, a precursor to the Tatra recently being announced as the winner of the New York Times’ Collectible Car of the Year Contest.
So why am I writing all about this? Mainly because I’m a sucker for awesomely authenticalized automobilage, but also for a simple little reason. Paul and Dydia had a party this past Sunday at Blue Star to celebrate the victory and Stephen was kind enough to pass along the invitation to attend. And while Susan and I were there I got a good enough shot of the T87’s fantastic badge, above, that I’ve goofed with in Photoshop and may put it onto a t-shirt or frame a print of it.