The Apple Pan
Here is the homey plaid wallpaper; the worn wooden walls; the clean, warm funk of frying meat. Here is Coca-Cola poured into paper cones snug in plastic holders. Here are the long, thick French fries that are customarily served with a separate cardboard plate for the ketchup. No matter how many waiting people may be crowded in behind you, the countermen will always draw you another cup of coffee from the gas-fired urn. When nostalgia-mongers attempt to duplicate the Los Angeles hamburger experience, it is to the Apple Pan hamburger that they should turn. The top and bottom buns of an Apple Pan hamburger are both crisped and slightly oily, crunchy at the edges, working toward a near-complete softness at the middle; the pickles are resilient dill chips; fresh iceberg lettuce furnishes a dozen-layered crispness at the core. The beef, generally cooked to a perfect, pink-centered medium, is juicy and full-flavored, and the cheese, half-melted to a kind of sharp graininess, is good Tillamook Cheddar. 1081 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 475-3585. Open Tues.Sun. for lunch and dinner. Lunch for two, food only, $10$15. No alcohol. Takeout. Cash only.
This is wonderful chili, dense and comforting, lean and hearty, with a cumin wallop and a subtle, smoky heat that creeps up on you at the counter like the first day of a Santa Ana wind, flavoring your breath for half a day even if you don't pile on the onions. It also goes strangely well with a cold glass of buttermilk (which is good, because Chili John's serves nothing stronger than near beer). The beans are nice, too, firm and smooth, with a rich, earthy bean taste clearly perceptible even through the pungency of the chili. You can get chili with beans and spaghetti, or beans and spaghetti alone: Tex-Mex pasta fagioli. Dessert is that Midwestern oddity, pineapple-and-lemon cream pie, cool, smooth and sweetly delicious, with a dusting of graham-cracker crumbs where you might expect a crust. 2018 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank; (818) 846-3611. Open Tues.Fri. 11 a.m.7 p.m., Sat. till 4 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $9$12. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only.
At Kokekokko's counter, you will inevitably start with something that tastes like the chicken equivalent of the seared albacore sashimi so popular at new-wave sushi bars: thick slabs of breast muscle that have the weight and texture of good tuna sashimi, grilled just until the center begins to get a haze over its pinkness, lemony, with a dab of wasabi on each of the three pieces on the skewer. Grilled chicken hearts, skewered and served with a smear of hot Chinese mustard, are tough in the way a good chuck steak can be tough, and intensely chicken-flavored, the way a skirt steak somehow tastes more like beef than any other cut. Tiny grilled hard-boiled eggs could be the unborn chicken eggs beloved of Yiddish-speaking grandmothers, though they are suspiciously similar to quail eggs. 203 S. Central Ave.; (213) 687-0690. Open for dinner Mon.Sat. Dinner for two, food only, $30$50. Beer and wine. Street parking. Disc., MC, V.
Musso & Frank
It's 3:30 p.m. at Musso & Frank. The warm scent of wood smoke spreads across the room. A red-jacketed waiter comes over and pours a clear, cold martini, Hollywood's best, from a pony into a tiny frosted glass, then carefully spoons Welsh rarebit -- rich and warm, if a little grainy -- from a metal salver onto crustless toast. Here in these worn wooden swivel chairs beneath the ancient hunt-scene wallpaper, this seems very much the perfect gentleman's lunch. The service is solicitous, but mostly leaves you to your own thoughts. You can order coffee and a bread pudding, and people-watch for hours during the pre-theater rush. (You can even eavesdrop.) Musso's, the oldest real restaurant in Los Angeles, is an easy place to be happy. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; (323) 467-7788. Open Tues.Sat. 11 a.m.11 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $25$40. Full bar. Validated parking in rear. AE, DC, MC, V.
The biggest hams I saw? No contest . . . that would be the Three Stooges -- er, Tenors -- in 1994, belting "O Sole Mio" at a Dodger Stadium redecorated to look like the world's biggest tiki bar. The best ham, though, was at Nick's Cafe downtown, a plateful of thick slices fried to smoky denseness, ribboned with sweet fat, fibrous and chewy in a way that only real ham can be, and blackened crisp at the rim. There are ham omelets here, sandwiches made with ham alone, and hardcore sandwiches made with ham and a fried egg, but the best way to have the ham may be straight up, doused with the restaurant's fine, searing house-made salsa and served with a bland pillow of hash browns. If the world were just, Nick's would be as renowned for ham 'n' eggs as El Tepeyac is for burritos. 1300 N. Spring St., dwntwn.; (323) 222-1450. Open Mon.Fri. 5:30 a.m.2 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m.11:30 a.m. Breakfast or lunch for two, food only, $6$12. Takeout. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only.
It's not like you get to choose what you want to eat at Sushi Sasabune, which is the Westside's sushi-bar equivalent of
Seinfeld's famous soup Nazi, but if you manage to survive half an hour here without asking for a California roll or an order of tempura, you may be presented with a crab roll the size of a Jamaican spliff. The crab rolls here are minimal things, with none of the gobo root, shaved bonito or radish sprouts that garnish most of their equivalents around town, but they are great anyway, almost precisely half crabmeat and half rice, set off by the smoky toastiness of the freshly grilled seaweed that serves as a wrapper. 11300 Nebraska Ave.; (310) 268-8380. Open Mon.Fri. noon2 p.m. & 5:309:30 p.m., and Sat. 5:309:30 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $30$50. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V.
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