Yes, we all know the stereotypes. Cops sit around at doughnut shops, drinking coffee and knocking back crullers. Do some of them? Yes, probably, but certainly not all. On Sunday night, I was fortunate enough to jump in a squad car (front seat, I promise) for a ride along with SMPD Officer Dustin Braschi on the "C Shift" (6 PM to 6:30 AM), to see what a real police officer does on the job, where he gets his coffee and what he grabs for dinner. Things began with lattes at Caffe Luxxe, after which we caught a felon (parolee at large) in, of all places, the parking lot behind the Trader Joe's on Pico. Once our criminal was properly processed (and I received my requisite stare down down from a thoroughly confused convict), we sat down for a chat over some raw oysters. Wait, what?
"I've always liked Fanny Bays," said Officer Braschi from the corner table of Blue Plate Oysterette.
"Those are great," responded our server.
"Let's start with two of those, two Barron Point and two Wellfleet."
After an eager handshake from the restaurant's general manager, and a big familiar smile from a red-haired server, it was clear that this restaurant was not simply chosen for my benefit. "I'm just glad we had a chance to break for dinner before everything closed. On the C Shift, if things get busy early on, your only options are places like Izzy's, Norms and Denny's." Even when the SMPD are on break, they can't exactly go drive off their beat for lunch. When in uniform you're always, to some degree, on duty and need to stay close at hand. Even his choice of seat-- the corner, his back to the wall, his eyes overlooking the restaurant-- is completely tactical.
We finish our oysters and not long after, our ahi sandwich, sweet potato chips, lobster roll and fries arrive. "For some officers, it's just about fuel, replenishment. But for me it's as much about fueling the body as it is the brain." For a job that requires a keen, inquisitive eye, you can imagine why a chili burger from Tommy's wouldn't exactly keep you at peek performance.
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"La Grande Orange, I like that place a lot. The food is great and the people are really nice. Sometimes we'll go to Poom Thai or Kay 'n Dave's. But if we've got to take a guy to county, we love to go to King Taco on the way back. If we're driving a guy down to South Bay, there's a good chance we'll go to In-N-Out. But I get the best ideas for where I want to eat when I'm working. You're always driving around and looking, so it's natural to get intrigued by certain restaurants."
There is one thing, though, that can keep police officers from frequenting certain establishments. On occasion, if a restaurant employee happens to get arrested, the officers try to keep each other abreast of the situation, and will probably avoid that spot for a few days. It's just a precaution, but hey-- why risk it? Nobody, after all, wants a resentment-infused loogie in their Cobb salad.
But regardless, next time you see a police officer, rather than clenching your muscles in fear, you may want to try asking them for a restaurant recommendation instead.