When brothers Eddie and Eli Passy founded Johnnie’s Pastrami in 1952, little did they know that their family business would soon become a beloved Culver City icon. When they opened, you could buy a French Dip pastrami sandwich for $0.70 and a shrimp basket for $1.10. With many bars and bowling alleys in the neighborhood, the owners decided to keep the business open until 3:30 in the morning to capture late night customers. As the business grew, they added a patio and a fire pit to the south side of the building, and later an enclosed patio and fire pit to the north side of the building.
In 1962, Eli Passy decided to leave the business. Eddie Passy asked his brother-in-law Bob Bass, who had been working at Johnnie’s for a few years, if he wanted to purchase Eli’s half of the business and Bob agreed.
According to family members, the secret to Johnnie’s success was to take care of your employees and believing the customer was always right. It helped to create a cheerful dining experience, too. Members recall that when good songs would come on the jukebox, both Bob and Eddie would dance while they were cooking. Eddie Passy died in 1994. After his passing, Bob Bass became the sole owner of the business. Johnnie’s continued unchanged with the same food and service. When Bob passed away in 2012, his wife Sue continued the operation in the same tradition as the Passy family, and her late husband Bob.
In 2016, Vienna Beef Company inducted Johnnie’s into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame. The honor recognizes vendors who represent the company’s products and contribute to their communities. Nearly seventy years after its establishment, the original neon sign, table top jukeboxes, booths, color scheme, and most importantly, great food and service, continue to be part of the enduring legacy that is Johnnie’s.