Cream (the Eric Clapton band, not the dairy product) blasts; two pretty girls in their late teens bop self-consciously and mouth the words as they stand in the pastry line; the wait for a table has just gone from 30 minutes to an hour.
From the blond wood bar set up along the front of the room where customers wait to be seated, the distance to a coveted spot at one of the communal tables is only an arm's length. You can smell the pizzas as they arrive in front of grateful diners. If you were so inclined as to become a pizza bandit, you could even reach out and snatch a slice, then run out into the Santa Monica sunshine and down the block, that aromatic pizza jammed in your mouth as you ran. Not that pizza banditry is on your mind or anything. Not at all.
At one table, a breakfast pizza arrives in front of four young women. All four whip out phones and point them at the hot pie, clicking away so as to capture their meal: impossibly thin, crisp crust topped with roasted potatoes, pickled chile, pork belly and fried eggs. "Instagram moment!" the waiter jokes as he turns quickly toward his next task.
At the same table, beside the girls, a couple is served a small bowl of branzino ceviche. "I literally eat that stuff by the bucketful," the waitress gushes. "They make it fresh every day, so if there's any left over at the end of the night they just give it to whoever's working. I take home tubs of it and just pour it down my throat."
Behind the glass next to the cash register, a fresh pan of pastry is coming out, taking its spot under the gorgeous loaves of bread and beside the cakes and other goodies. Its flaky crust is topped with vanilla custard and fat halves of impossibly delicious-looking peaches. It's a new form of exquisite torture: this much hunger, so much food, so so close.
On the stereo the Kinks are playing, then the Stones. In the line of people waiting, more people dance in place, nodding to the music, coveting their spot at the table. "Have you saved room for dessert?" the waiter asks a couple who've just had their plates cleared. The line freezes, straining to hear the response.
"What's that?" the woman asks, pointing to the peach-topped pastry. We deflate. We know she's not going anywhere.
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