The film capital's most famous restaurateur, the French-born Brandstatter open the famed Cafe Montmartre on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue in 1922. One of Hollywood's first night spots, movie people flocked to the trendy upstairs restaurant to see and be seen. Formerly employed in the famed restaurants of London, Paris, and New York before coming to Los Angeles, Brandstatter was the maitre d'hotel at the Victor Hugo around 1920 before opening Crillon Cafe near Eighth and Hill streets. A bad business investment in the late twenties closed the Cafe Montmartre, and shortly afterward the caterer was convicted of grand theft and placed on probation. Undaunted, Brandstatter and a partner opened yet another mecca for the film colony, Sardi's on Hollywood Boulevard near Vine Street. Stars and the fans who queued to see them packed the place until it burned down on November 1, 1936. Sardi's was rebuilt, but Brandstatter sold out his interest in April 1938. He dreamed of building a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard, the Bohemia Cafe, that would rival his past successes. The cafe never opened, but construction bills continued to pile up. Converting a former beauty shop on North Vine Street near Hollywood Boulevard into Brandstatter's Grill, he opened the modest restaurant shortly before the Christmas holidays in 1939.
On the night of January 17, 1940, Brandstatter complained of "not feeling well," kissed his wife, Helen, goodbye, and left the grill. At 3:30 the following morning, a restaurant employee drove Mrs. Brandstatter to her Moorish-style home at 4709 Norwich Avenue in Sherman Oaks. After a frantic search of the grounds failed to locate the missing 54-year-old restaurateur, they checked the garage and found him still clutching the steering wheel of his car. Brandstatter had placed a garden hose on the exhaust, ran its length up through the tonneau, and plugged up the window nearest him with his leather jacket. Authorities found numerous loan applications in the dead man' pockets.