Los Angeles, CA 90017
I had just finished meeting some friends for drinks at the Crocker Club, a downtown bar/club that was masterfully transformed from a bank, and I needed a late night bite to soak up the liquor. At midnight, I knew one place that would be open: The Original Pantry. Its claim to fame, the Pantry is owned by former LA Mayor Richard Riordan and it never closes. They sell shirts that say, "Never closed since 1924". Well, almost never. Except for when the city closed it down in 2001 for health violations. But who remembers that, not the Pantry.
I parked across the street for $2 and the wait was about 15 people and the same in minutes. The crowd is mixed; you get the wine bar patrons, a following from Staples Center, Mayan goers that struck out early, an alternative/artsy crowd that I'm not sure where they hang out at, and even the 1950's diner crowd appropriately heading for the counter.
The portions are large enough to pack for a weekend camping trip and still come back satisfied. The flavors, on the other hand, left me wanting more. Excluding salt and butter, I counted 4 ingredients on the plate: eggs, ham, potatoes, rye and maybe I missed the ham glaze. It’s basic, true to its roots. The best part was the potatoes, cooked with a great crust on the outside. Dash on some salt and in a nostalgic manner from my childhood, add one part ketchup to every two parts potato and I’m set. The ham was a bit dry, I think a sous-vide technique would have worked wonders on the finished product.
The bacon was too crisp for the omelette. I understand a contrast in texture can elevate a dish, but this seemed more like I kept biting my fork through the soft egg and cheese. They came with the same potatoes that I enjoyed in the first dish, so I wasn't complaining, not that I could finish the first portion. I opted for the sourdough with the omelette and was pleased with the thick slices and generous smear of butter.
After finishing my meal, I was left to wonder if the Pantry would be known without its history, probably not. The food was homemade, but average and uninspiring. I still like it and think people should try it once; like with any food landmark, it adds a needed diversity and richness to a city.