Until its Farmers Market flagship closed a couple of years ago, Du-par’s was the last of Southern California’s quality-obsessed coffee shop chains, vendors of Midwestern-style coffee, vivid-yellow chicken pot pies and date-nut bread smeared with cream cheese, Denver omelets and patty melts, passable club sandwiches and truly excellent buttermilk pancakes, tangy, slightly chewy and perfectly browned. Then the chain was sold — to W.W. “Biff” Naylor, whose father founded the once-proud Tiny Naylor’s chain 80 years ago. Biff installed his daughter Jennifer Naylor as chef. She was a Wolfgang Puck protégée who had been the chef at Granita for almost a decade. The longtime customers who lived and died for Du-par’s French toast, a masterpiece of short-order cookery that involved cheap bread saturated with milk and eggs until it took on the consistency of an impossibly rich custard, started contemplating the Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s.
Is the French toast the same? It is not — it’s more of the egg-dipped-and-fried school than of the buttery, puddingy variety I had always insisted was the best in town. But to everyone’s surprise, Jennifer Naylor’s Du-par’s is neither a chefly interpretation of a coffee shop, like BLD, nor a parlor of seven-sprout omelets and tofu scrambles, neither a postmodern Fred 62–esque pastiche nor a shiny 1950s nostalgia hut. It is, more or less, Du-par’s, but with a killer hash browns recipe, very decent bacon from Daily’s, a reputable Caesar, and all the tuna melts, Monte Cristos, tri-tip sandwiches and liver-and-onions any coffee shop aficionado could possibly want. And both locations are open 24/7. 6333 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 933-8446; 12036 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 766-4437.