Best Soul, Food - 2008
Like a cleft apricot, the logo of Fred 62 diner sits above a stretch of Vermont Avenue pavement in Los Feliz, where the smoking, chattering masses talk too much and too, like, loud as they ease your suffering soul.
These are the outdoor tables, at which alcohol is not served, street gazing is optimal and the smell of good cigarette smoke ignites your fantasies as they walk by, partners attached.
Fred 62 is 24/7. Technically, this means that you never need to eat at home, a thought both tempting and expensive.
When you wait, in the singular, for a seat inside (since there has only ever been one of you), you will end up at the counter within skin-sticking distance of other diners, decades too young, partners attached.
You're here for the buzz; for the waitress who looks like Mary Steenburgen; for the Cabernet whose succulent, dry taste has you straining to read the label.
For the waiters in black T-shirts with JESUS IS OUR DISHWASHER and EAT PORK on the back — and a professionalism that keeps their fingers off the wine glass rim while more touted establishments remain oblivious.
But crucially, you're here for the plates of edible art they make of every menu item.
Who knew apple slices could channel Venus flytraps? That grilled shrimp could live alongside bendy oblong tofu in a swath of creamy penne? Or that the salmon slab in the dish called Fairfax High could taste just like the raw bacon you sneaked at 12?
At 4 a.m., or 7, at Christmas or Halloween or on July 4, there will be people in here, either alone and nodding off or in validating groups, while flames erupt in back amid loud laughs, and gravied mashed potato craters whisper, "Eat me. Eat me, why should you be denied?"—Mel Yiasemide