TO LIVE & DIE IN LA: THE APPLE PAN. A PERFECT SLICE OF AMERICA
There are those among the DH readership who have expressed the opinion that I should probably end my life in an institution. If that is the case, may I respectfully suggest that it not The Big House, but one like The Apple Pan in West L.A?
A few days ago as Sybil was drifting off to the land of Nod, I was channel surfing and stopped when the image of a plump piece of meat sizzling on a grill appeared in front of me on the TV screen. It was part of a news feature about one of L.A.’s longest established hamburger joints, The Apple Pan and showed clips from two previous reports back in the 1970’s and early 1990’s.
The hamburger has, apparently been made in exactly the same way since the place opened in 1947. It looked good enough for me to make a mental note to add it to my list of places to try. I turned the bedside light off filled with thoughts of ground beef in a bun. It turned out that restaurant was situated only a short hop from Sybil’s apartment and, last night after a meeting, we decided to stop in for a late supper.
The restaurant certainly bears the scars of sixty-three years of business. The sign outside, missing neon lettering for God knows how long, announced our arrival at “A Pan”. Inside, the counter seating was ripped and worn and the staff, many of whom have been working there for decades shuffled slowly around the kitchen as they prepared food for hungry diners. There was a long line forming however, which bode well for the food and the smell was enough to make two hungry people wait patiently in line.
By the time we were able to squeeze onto two swivelling counter stools we were starving and Sybil grabbed at a menu. There is little choice with only seven sandwiches on the menu including tuna and egg salad, but people come to The Apple Pan for two reasons, the hamburgers and the pies. I ordered their original steakburger, while Sybil ordered the other option, which came doused with Hickory sauce.
Food arrives quickly and without fuss. This is where the US gets it so right with hamburgers and we in the UK usually fail so miserably. It is not just that they know how to make them far better than we do, it is the fact that they can produce burgers of this quality with amazing consistency, but without the great ceremony and even hubris, which seems to attend the opening of burger joints in London.
The Apple Pan hamburger is delicious. Part of its USP is the addition of thick wedges of lettuce to add extra crunch. The fries too are “proper” crisp and suitable to be dipped in a combo of ketchup and hot sauce. But, the truth is that within a short radius of Sybil’s apartment, there are over a dozen places serving hamburgers which would make any lovers of ground meat patties in the UK shed a tear and that does not include the nearby outlets of IN n’ OUT, Rally’s, Carl’s Junior etc etc.
We polished off the hamburgers quickly, wiping sauce from our chins as we returned to the menu to ponder on dessert. Again, the choice is limited, this time to three types of pie baked fresh on the premises every day. I am a sucker for American apple pie, particularly when served with a dollop of ice cream and the ones at The Apple Pan are a perfect example of the genre. A thin crumbly all butter crust breaking to reveal a filling with enough substance to the apples to ensure you are not just presented with a bowl of mush.
We were, if you will forgive the pun, in and out in under half an hour, ideal for a late night supper and a perfect slice of Americana. There are, as I have said, dozens more burger places for me to try when I get to LA and I intend to do my best to give them all a fair hearing. I am sure, however that I shall return for another slice of the action at The Apple Pan. It may not be for a while, but I suspect very little will have changed when I do.