The Original Saugus Café is the longest operating restaurant in Los Angeles County. It was opened in 1886 by James Herbert Tolfree as “Saugus Eating House,” located at the north end of the Saugus Rail Depot. The train station served as a stop on the vital Southern Pacific rail line connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco. The café provided a place for rail passengers to get a bite to eat along the way. The station itself was named after Saugus, Massachusetts, birthplace of local developer Henry Newhall. The café simply adopted the station’s name.
Two U.S. presidents, Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt, dined at the café (1891 and 1903, respectively). President Roosevelt was said to have enjoyed a New York steak there. Los Angeles Aqueduct builder William Mulholland and Los Angeles Mayor Fred Eaton stopped at the café to eat.
In 1905, the café moved across the street from the rail station to where it now stands. When Hollywood brought filmmaking to the Santa Clarita Valley (especially western films), the café became a place for movie people to gather off the set. Among film notables that spent time at the café were D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, John Ford, Clark Gable, John Hart, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper and John Wayne.
Today, the café is known as The Original Saugus Café. On the surface, the café doesn’t appear any more noteworthy than any other eating establishment, yet it has hosted presidents and a stream of movie luminaries and has seen more years of diners stopping by than any other eating establishment in Los Angeles County.
Sources: Tales of the Saugus Café and LA's Oldest Restaurant Keeps a 130-Year Diner Tradition Alive
The Original Saugus Café
25861 Railroad Ave, Santa Clarita
Oldest Surviving Restaurants in Los Angeles County
Origins of Some Local Food Empires in Los Angeles County