Some people question L.A.’s history, but the city has weaved a rich tapestry that started on Olvera Street in 1781 and now spans for miles in every direction. L.A.’s culinary heritage includes a crop of diners that date back as far as the 1920s and feed people for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Discover 10 of these compelling comfort food destinations.
Eastside restaurateur Dana Hollister, a driving force behind places like Villains Tavern and Cliff’s Edge, also steers Brite Spot, an Echo Park diner that dates to 1949. An aqua-walled patio with plant life and orange chairs gives way to a dining room with shiny red booths, angular wooden counter, and Mid-Century modern molecular model chandeliers. A sign near the entrance encourages guests to “Keep Smiling.” The food also serves as a reminder. Sunset Ranch cage-free, organic eggs factor into gut-busting breakfast dishes like Southern Decadence, a sliced buttermilk biscuit plated with chicken fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, and country sausage gravy. Chicken and waffles combine Belgian waffles with corn flake and almond crusted chicken tenders. Later in the day, look for a lamb burger, patty melt, or multi-meat loaf. Raid the pie case before departing, preferably their standout salted honey slab with caramelized custard and topical dusting of sea salt.
1918 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
The Coffee Co.
Most people drive by Westchester on the way to LAX, but some restaurants are worth a pit stop, including The Coffee Co., a breakfast institution from Gus Kazemi that dates to 1978. The corner space sports a brown awning, glass and brick front, and railing lined with colorful planters. Inside, you’ll find art-lined tan walls, wood tables, rust colored banquettes, and coffee bins with beans like House Blend, Moka Java, and Hawaiian Hazelnut, all brewable or baggable. The Coffee Co. excels at breakfast. House specialties include corned beef and chicken hashes, breakfast burritos, and eggs Benedict. Belgian waffles are a canvas for toppings like roasted pecans, chocolate chips, or spicy chicken sausage. Lunch is more lax, starring simple foods like Mediterranean chicken and rice, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and soup of the day. The specials board yields hits like shrimp and grits bolstered with cheddar, cherry tomatoes, and bacon bits.
8751 La Tijera Blvd., Westchester
A gigantic bucket of fried chicken signals your arrival at Dinah’s, a sprawling diner near the Howard Hughes Center that debuted 1959 and is still going strong under Teri Ernst’s watchful eyes. The retro space contains blue and red booths, and old radios on a high ledge, including a 1939 Emerson, 1936 GE and 1952 Silver Tone. Dinah's also has a wraparound counter, claw game and faux stone walls. Their sign depicts fried chicken for good reason, and their crisp-skinned specialty is available by the bucket. Monday is AYCE Fried Chicken Night at Dinah’s, with each person entitled to bottomless bird, a buttery roll, walnut studded banana bread and choice of two sides. Perhaps canned green beans and pineapple-studded cole slaw? Their food flow doesn’t stop with fried chicken. Pancakes, waffles, omelets, burgers, salads, soups, and pasta dishes also proliferate.
6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City
Du-Par’s, which now has six branches in L.A., San Diego and Las Vegas, started at The Original Farmers Market in 1938. Biff Naylor bought the chain in 2007 and soon after reopened a market location. Now you’ll find a retro cool space with red booths, wood tables, and historic black-and-white photos. A patio with white picket fence sports green umbrellas and marble tables. Naylor’s father Tiny Naylor created the patty melt, so of course Du-Par’s serves a quintessential version with Harris Ranch chuck, caramelized onions and melted Swiss on grilled rye. Fluffy buttermilk pancakes are essential breakfast eating, especially when paired with melted butter, boysenberry and maple syrups. Steak and eggs, French toast made with house-baked brioche, and crispy hash browns also get morning love. Later in the day, chef salad, fish & chips, and sliced turkey are top sellers.
6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
Millie’s Café is a Silver Lake classic that long predates circling hipsters. In 2000, Robert Babish took over, and he and chef Martin Garcia have made sure the restaurant remains a neighborhood staple. The space features a wall of silver and black coffee pots, sidewalk seating, eight swivel chairs at a black counter overlooking the open kitchen, and an auxiliary dining room. The Devil’s Mess is the most famous dish, featuring scrambled eggs tossed with Cajun-spiced turkey sausage, and cheddar, topped with salsa, guac and sour cream. Since this is Silver Lake, they've added an Angel's Mess (“Just Because It's Vegan Doesn't Mean It Has to Suck!”) substituting tofu, vegan sausage and casein-free soy cheese. Maynard's Special name-checks Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, who apparently prefers scrambled eggs with spinach, tangy goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. A choice of sides includes a homemade muffin-shaped biscuit (a muscuit?) and griddled rosemary potatoes. Breakfast is available all day, and plates more appropriate for lunch include burgers, shrimp chipotle quesadillas, and turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwiches.
3524 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake
Nick’s Cafe has been open since 1948 and now resides across the street from the Los Angeles State Historic Park, formerly known as the “cornfields.” Before that, the neighborhood housed the River Station freight yards, and used to draw rail workers in droves. Current owner Rod Davis took over in 2009 and receives valuable contributions from chef Luis Flores and lead server Kim Sinclair. The space features a horseshoe-shaped yellow counter with upraised red swivel chairs. The sign depicts a cartoon pig holding a cleaver, which hints at the specialty: ham. Nick's Famous Ham N Eggs touts lean, thick-cut ham, griddled to a sear, served with a choice of toast or biscuit, hash browns or tomato. Go with biscuit and browns, and make sure to request tomato preserves, which aren’t normally on the counter (or menu). Nick’s Café also crafts omelets, breakfast sandwiches, skillets, and eight weekend Benedicts. Breakfast is an all-day affair, though they do transition to burgers, “monster dogs,” melts, and sandwiches.
1300 N. Spring St., Chinatown
Original Pantry Café
Long before L.A. LIVE was a glimmer in AEG’s eye and skyscrapers arose, the Original Pantry Café was a Downtown L.A. dining draw. Claims that the restaurant has “never closed” and “never without a customer” since 1924 are mostly true. Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan currently owns the restaurant, which features a mauve awning, long white counter overlooking a short order kitchen, light wood and white walls lined with black and white photos. A wall-mounted menu places an emphasis on 24/7 breakfast. Buckwheat pancakes, turkey sausage patties, and ham steak are popular choices. A basic plate of bacon and eggs with griddled potatoes and choice of buttered toast is also appealing. At lunch and dinner, you get into burgers, steaks and chops.
877 S. Figueroa St., Downtown
George and Rena Panagopoulos ran a pair of cafes before opening Pann’s near LAX in 1958, and son Jim carries on their legacy. Armet and Davis created an iconic Googie design that includes a peaked roof, faux stone walls, speckled floor, glass fronted patio lined with plants and cacti, red cushioned booths with wood tables, geometric counter with cream colored stools, pyramid-shaped and cylindrical lantern. They scaled back to breakfast and lunch in 2016, but still serve a heap of comfort food. Mix-and-match breakfast comes with a choice of biscuit or buttered toast, proteins like fried chicken, blackened catfish, and spicy Andouille sausage, and a pair of sides. Perhaps country potatoes and eggs? Belgian waffles and buttermilk pancakes also end up on a lot of tables. To participate in Champagne Brunch on Saturday and Sunday, just add $6.29 for drinks like champagne or a mimosa. If you prefer your meal between bread, consider the triple-decker chicken sandwich, Thanksgiving-style turkey sandwich or cheeseburger.
6710 La Tijera Blvd., Los Angeles
This classic diner in east Santa Monica dates to 1958. Ted Delgado, owner of nearby Teddy’s Café, started at Rae’s and purchased this restaurant in 1992. The retro building features an aqua and white facade with red neon sign. Inside, a well-worn speckled sky blue counter with blue swivel stools overlooks the griddle. Booths combine wood tables and red cushions. Hearty breakfasts include broiled ham steak stacked with glazed pineapple, bacon bit waffles, and “hobo breakfast” with ham, bacon, sausage, three eggs, and buttermilk hot cakes. Bindle not included. Lunch incorporates tuna melts, chicken cheeseburgers, and shrimp cocktail “supreme.” Best sellers are boxed on the menu. It’s unclear what year this sign appeared, but heed Rae’s warning: “No Roller Skates.”
2901 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
The Serving Spoon
This “urban eatery” has been serving soul food in an Inglewood strip mall since 1983, a year after Harold E. Sparks relocated from Ohio and left the auto industry. Now his daughter and son-in-law run the show. Expect comfortable booths, a social wood counter, and photo-covered walls, including Martin Luther King, Jr. The Serving Spoon specializes in chicken and waffles, with only chicken wing drumettes or breast. The Cookie pairs a waffle with soft pat of butter that melts instantly, a squeeze bottle of maple syrup and a quintet of fried chicken wing drumettes. A dusting of cinnamon is available if you like. Other waffle combos include The Rambo, The Richard, and The Sparks #1, named for the local WNBA basketball squad. The Serving Spoon clearly has a way with waffles, but in case you fear fluffy ridged discs, consider sandwiches or daily specials like meatloaf (Monday), beef short ribs (Thursday) and oxtails (Wednesday).
1403 Centinela Ave., Inglewood
The Best New School Diners in L.A.
Read on for ten new school diners that are taking classic comfort food into the 21st century.