Andre Frelier and his brother Pierre owned and operated L’Omelette on El Camino Real Street in Palo Alto, California from 1932 to 1970.
The original restaurant burned to the ground on August 12, 1941 when Harry Gillette, the 57-year old caretaker of the building, inadvertently started a fire when he lighted the gas stove in the café preparing in his breakfast. The flames engulfed the building quickly, killing Gillette.
A new building was erected in October 1941 at 4170 El Camino on a stretch of highway that was alcohol-free. However, L’Omelette did not always adhere to the prohibition-like rules and were raided and fined on at least 2 occasions for liquor sales. In fact, the place became widely known for their liquor sales.
The rebuilt interior evoked a charming bistro with a multi-colored awning and French décor throughout. The chimney near the middle of the restaurant was a popular gathering place.
Specializing in French cuisine and strong drinks with “sec-appeal” the restaurant thrived under the Frelier brothers’ leadership.
L’Omelette was part of the fabric of Palo Alto. Countless wedding receptions, gatherings and events were held in there. However, the Frelier brothers were getting older and looked to get out of the business.
The restaurant was sold to a group of Stanford investors headed by former basketball coach Bob Burnett for $500,000. The new group struggled through multiple management changes and even changed their name to L’Ommies in hopes of attracting a younger crowds. Regular patrons were alienated by the changes to the venerable old restaurant and business suffered.
Louis Borel purchased the restaurant in 1977 and changed its name back to L’Omelette. However, in 1981, Borel would change the name once more to Chez Louis. It would enjoy success throughout the 1980s, but as neighborhood and tastes changed, business suffered and Chez Louis closed in April 1995.