As a companion to T’s 212 sequence about New York establishments, the 213 column highlights beloved landmarks in and round Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is the promise of pace denied.
It’s a metropolis of five-lane freeways the place visitors crawls. A metropolis that teases the potential for immediate stardom, but it might take years to land a SAG card. Los Angeles is the birthplace of In-N-Out Burger — its very title auguring swift satisfaction — the place the drive-through traces stretch to infinity. Behold the Maseratis within the queue: desirous to race, pressured to idle. Angelenos know the sensation.
So wherever that issues occur rapidly and easily on this city? These are the spots to be treasured. And prime of the checklist for me is the Apple Pan, established in 1947.
Which isn’t to say it’s a fast-food joint — pace isn’t the supposed predominant attraction. The truth is, the Apple Pan owes its fame to 2 issues: its menu and its time machine inside. Push by means of the swinging picket double doorways and also you’re within the Platonic superb of a no-frills ’40s diner. Nearly all the pieces is because it was 76 years in the past. Lacquered wooden traces the partitions and window frames. There are not any tables. As a substitute, a U-shaped countertop with seating for simply 26 clients frames a central island of brick-lined grills, deep fryers and stainless-steel prep stations. There, a gaggle of cooks and servers in old-school paper hats churn out French fries and sandwiches with the self-discipline of a bee colony. A window alongside the again wall permits a transparent view into the baking space, the place extra employees pull little steaming golden volcanoes from a stack of ovens. These are the Apple Pan’s famed apple pies, with their distinctive domed crusts.
All of the meals prep is seen always. The message is obvious: “We’ve nothing to cover. We’re happy with these elements and we’re glad to be scrutinized as we flip them into your lunch.” An indication above the doorway proclaims, “High quality Without end.”
To dwell as much as the slogan, the menu has been saved spartan: Simply seven sandwiches, about as many pies and a few sides. Each element of each dish has been refined over many years. The grilled cheese arrives garnished with three pickle slices and three olives, and you’ve got the sense that that is the optimum variety of every required. Order an entire apple pie and it comes boxed with a bit cup of additional syrup, so you possibly can add moisture throughout reheating at residence. In keeping with the co-owner Shelli Azoff, the key ingredient of the signature Hickoryburger shouldn’t be its smoky sauce, however the countervailing cool freshness of iceberg lettuce — every leaf chosen for max crunch. “We don’t actually use the skin leaves,” she says. “It’s all the center.”
However whereas the precision-made burgers fulfill and the décor charms, I feel what endears regulars to the Apple Pan, whether or not they notice it or not, is its breakneck, clockwork system. The sense of being cared for by a crack unit — just a few of whom have labored there near 50 years — who know precisely how one can optimize each second you spend in a seat.
Take, as an example, the fries. No matter else you order, they are going to be served first — in what looks like seconds. Instantly, your starvation abates. Instantly, regardless of the clamor, you realize you’ve not been forgotten. Together with the fries comes an empty cardboard plate, onto which your server unceremoniously slaps just a few dollops of ketchup from a bottle of Heinz. It seems that makes for very handy fry dipping. None of that is one thing you’d suppose to ask for — “Fries first please, and will I bother you for a plate with a splash of ketchup?” However that’s the purpose: On the Apple Pan, you don’t have to ask. You may, for a couple of minutes on this sprawling, crawling metropolis, calm down someplace small and sane.
For a touch on the origins of the Apple Pan’s obsessive give attention to service and longevity — high quality endlessly — verify the historical past of its co-founder, Alan Baker. Again in 1927, alongside along with his mom and his brother, he opened a Hollywood sandwich joint referred to as King’s Kitchen, which someday thereafter burned to the bottom. He, his spouse, Ellen, and his household spent years saving money and inventing recipes to launch a follow-up. You may think about Baker’s vowing that this one could be constructed to final.
Certain sufficient, the Apple Pan turned a landmark, the type of place to which generations of West Aspect Angelenos have reflexively headed after Little League follow or an evening on the motion pictures. Azoff remembers frequent visits throughout her teen years within the Nineteen Seventies, the most important impression being the little diner’s honor system seating. “You’d have 15 folks standing towards the partitions, ready for a seat,” she recollects. “Folks would eat, they usually’d go. They didn’t dillydally, as a result of they had been respectful, at all times, of individuals ready.”
And so the Apple Pan rolled on into the twenty first century, serving clients at a clip. The Bakers’ daughter, Martha Gamble, finally took over. Then Martha introduced in her personal daughter, Sunny Sherman, to assist run it. In 2019, phrase obtained out that Sherman was seeking to promote.
Apple Pan regulars held their collective breath. Would new house owners raze the place? Or worse, maintain it open, and alter it in any manner in anyway?
Azoff knew how they felt. She and her music mogul husband, Irving (who by the way manages one other Los Angeles establishment — the rock band Eagles), had already stepped in to purchase and protect one other old-school West Aspect eatery: the Beverly Hills diner Nate ‘n’ Al’s, established in 1945. A good friend instructed they do the identical for the Apple Pan. “They wouldn’t promote to simply anybody,’” says Azoff. “Irving and I went out to dinner with Sunny and her mother, who has since handed. They needed to really feel comfy that we had been the sort of people that would maintain it as it’s. I stated ‘Sunny, I’ll by no means change something.’”
That goes for the workers — all of whom have been retained — the inside, the menu and the recipes (with just a few additions, like an off-menu Unattainable Burger and — accessible solely on weekends — a pie that’s one-third chocolate cream and two-thirds banana or coconut cream). And even when Sunny Sherman is now off the payroll, she’s nonetheless on high quality management. “She lives across the nook,” says Azoff. “Typically I’ll get a name from her saying, ‘There aren’t sufficient bananas within the pies immediately.’ And we instantly resolve it.”
A number of different nods to modernity had been pressured upon Azoff by the pandemic: She transformed the car parking zone to outside eating area — which has turned out to be a boon, successfully doubling the restaurant’s seating capability — and cost, money just for over 70 years, can now be made by bank card. None of this has resulted in any perceivable lag within the Apple Pan system. The opposite week, I wolfed down some fries and a Hickoryburger and slapped down my card. Within the time it took to look briefly away, it was again — cost processed, with a receipt. I stood up from the counter, seemed out at Pico Boulevard and the visitors I used to be about to drag into and wished I’d simply taken my time.