"It's not much but it's ours"

Friday, January 08, 2010


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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please. Some of us are on the dreaded New Year health drive. Don't do this to us!

Friday, January 08, 2010 6:00:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

That burger is a work of art.

If you ever find yourself in Tennessee, try out breakfast at the Arcade Diner in Memphis. Had some wonderful, heart-stopping food in that city.

Friday, January 08, 2010 10:49:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey! Are you still in LA?

I just finished reading your book tonight, and would love to take you eating if you're still around and are up for it. I've lived here for 15 years and can probably dig up some place you haven't tried yet.

Have you been to Zankou Chicken? Place Yuu? Furaibo? Clementine? Fatburger? Din Tai Fung, home of the soup dumpling? Scoops Gelato? Anywhere in Thai Town? If not, you are missing out.

Saturday, January 09, 2010 7:40:00 am  
Anonymous Paulie said...

This is America at it's best - sticking to what it knows and delivering on time and on budget.

Saturday, January 09, 2010 11:15:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We were, if you will forgive the pun, in and out in under half an hour"

What pun?

Sunday, January 10, 2010 9:19:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

"In and Out" "In N' Out"

Sunday, January 10, 2010 4:21:00 pm  
Blogger Sass said...

The Apple Pan burgers and a supercold coke are the best hangover cure EVER.

And have you tried Tommy's burger and/or Fatburger yet?

Sunday, January 10, 2010 9:52:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

@Rachel - pleased to hear you enjoyed the book enough to find the blog. Only in LA for a few more days, but perhaps next visit which will be V soon. If you search under LA, you will find some posts about Din tai Fung, Jitlada and K-town. I am a great fan of LA's ethnic dining.

@Sass - trying to limit my burger intake for health reasons, but Tommy's is on my list. Is Fatburger any good?

Sunday, January 10, 2010 10:16:00 pm  
Anonymous F.Howard said...

And none of the dreaded sesame seeds on the bun(something introduced by Mickey D's to prevent the bun from being crushed in their multi-bun packs-they have a lot to answer for!).

Monday, January 11, 2010 9:18:00 am  

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