Several years ago I made my first-ever visit to downtown L.A. for a job interview. I gave myself several hours to get there from San Diego, and ended up having time to kill beforehand. I wandered around a while until I saw the Pantry, and at that point I would have gone in no matter what the food or prices, just for someplace to sit and read. To my surprise though, it was excellent diner fare and insanely cheap. I had a quick breakfast, and yes, I did get the job.
Since my first visit was on a weekday, it hadn’t occurred to me that there could be a wait on the weekend. When Mary and I got there (on a Sunday), there was a really daunting line along the south wall of the building. I hadn’t eaten anything all morning and was starting to feel The Panic. I asked Mary to hold our spot while I investigated the front, and I saw there was a separate, much shorter line for a counter seat. We switched to the short line and were seated a little bit sooner than we would have in the longer line, which to us was worth it. Plus, there was much more to see at the counter. At a table we’d just be staring at each other.
I had 2 eggs, potatoes, and toast, for just a bit over $5. Mary ordered a meal consisting of biscuits and gravy with a side of potatoes (about $3.50), and she wisely added a side of toast. The breakfast prices include coffee or tea.
I used to think the absolute best toast on the planet was at the Ramada Express (now the Tropicana Express) in Laughlin, Nevada. No more. The Pantry sourdough toast is cut thick from very sour sourdough bread, and it is heavenly. The rest of the food is typical but well-made diner food. The toast is the little touch that pushes it into the realm of awesomeness. Well, that and the prices.
The Original Pantry Cafe
877 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017