My family have been Apple Pan regulars at least since Lew Alcindor played freshman ball. The top and bottom buns of an Apple Pan burger 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; the sheaf of fresh iceberg lettuce provides a dozen-layered crispness at the core. The beef, generally cooked to a perfect, pink-centered medium, is juicy and full-flavored; the cheese, half-melted to a kind of sharp graininess, is good Tillamook Cheddar. And come dessert time, no matter how many waiting people may be crowded in behind you, no matter how hungrily they stare at your enormous slice of incomparable Apple Pan pie, the countermen will always draw you another cup of coffee from the gas-fired urn and give you with it a dram of fresh, heavy cream. 10801 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 475-3585. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–mid., Fri.–Sat. till 1 a.m. Dinner for two, food only, $9–$14. No alcohol. Takeout. Cash only.
The last place you might expect to get a great chicken pot pie is Broadway Deli on Santa Monica’s Promenade, a res taurant that displays $200 bottles of Vosne-Romanee in the window, and tomatoes in its grocery that cost $7.50 a pound. Scottish smoked salmon, sure, but not a chicken pot pie. This $9.95 pie, though, is an elegant variation on the theme, a soupbowlful of thickened chicken broth, shot through with fresh herbs and wisps of chicken, studded with fat, sweet chunks of carrot, and peas that taste like peas, and capped with a giant, crunchy disk of puff pastry — the savory equivalent of the deconstructed napoleons Broadway Deli co-owner Michel Richard makes at Citrus, and just the thing with a glass of Clerc-Milon on a rainy afternoon. 1457 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; (310) 451-0616. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $20. Full bar. Valet parking weekends. Takeout. AE, Disc., MC, V.
This is wonderful chili, dense and comforting, lean and hearty, with a cumin wallop and a subtle, smoky heat that creeps up on you 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 fazool. Dessert is that Midwestern oddity, pineapple 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.
Henry Moffett’s Chicken Pies
Moffett’s slogan, at least the one printed in the Covina Yellow Pages, is “People drive for miles for our Swiss steak,” and an issue of the January newsletter of the Bellflower Chamber of Commerce, taken from a stack in the foyer, reveals that the slogan of the city of Bellflower, before its dairy farms were replaced by subdivisions, used to be “Where a Cow Is Queen.” But
really, a chick en — maybe the giant chicken on the roof — is queen at Moffett’s, and the chicken pot pie here is a flaky, full-crust discus blanketed in yellow gravy and filled with nothing but large, juicy, clean-tasting chunks of meat and a little more gravy, sort of a purist’s conception of the dish. Try the thick homemade noodles on the side, and pick up a pie to go. But don’t drive all that far if Swiss steak is really what you crave. 16506 S. Lakewood Blvd., Bellflower; (562) 925-5061. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $20. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking. AE, Disc., DC, MC, V.
Johnny Reb’s Southern Roadhouse
Johnny Reb’s prides itself on its barbecued ribs and links and pork, which are fine in a generic-Southern-barbecue sort of way. But the T-bone steak, coated with Prudhommesque seasonings and charred, is great (if not precisely as rare as you might wish). The batter-fried pork chops are juicy and crisp. The curls of fried catfish, cornmeal-coated fillets that practically dissolve on your tongue, are the best in the county, all spice, juice and crunch. And although you will not be hungry after a Johnny Reb’s meal, at least one person at your table should order the pecan pie, which is rich and pully, full of nuts, and has the kind of perfectly crisp, ultrashort crust that falls to powder at the touch of your teeth. 4663 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; (562) 423-7327. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $20–$25. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V.
Pie n’ Burger
The burgers here come jacketed in white paper and are compact enough to remain intact through three-quarters of their life — they tend to be as genteel as the Pasadena neighborhood, these hamburgers, only a distant relation to the greasy monsters that explode into pungent goop. Then there are pies: ultrasweet pecan pies, custardy coconut creams with marshmallow topping, banana creams oozing from beneath tall lashings of meringue, gummy fresh-strawberry pies and classic canned-cherry pies — none of them great, but the ideal conclusion to a genteel hamburger lunch. 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 795-1123. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch for two, food only, $10–$15. Beer and wine. Takeout. Cash only.
The Pines is the kind of place where the waitresses joke about being picketed by Weight Watchers: Imagine a biscuit that comes automatically blanketed with a luscious cream gravy that must be the stuff of every cowboy’s dream. Or visualize an enormous oval restaurant plate hidden by a golden oval pancake half an inch thick; sliding across the surface of the pancake, a robin’s egg of melting butter leaves a salty trail; next to the plate is a little bowl of fresh tomato salsa, juicy in the Central California manner rather than spicy, and another of chopped jalapeño peppers. (Called a tortilla cake — the batter is enriched with masa, cornmeal and ground hominy — this pancake tastes the way you’ve always wanted a tortilla to taste, warm and soft and sweet as corn, fragrant, slightly burnt around the edges.) Or envision a three-quarter-pound Pine Burger, the hugest thing, bigger in diameter than some asteroids, the best conceivable version of a coffee-shop hamburger. Got the picture? Good. Now hope you saved room for the raisin pie. 4343 Pearblossom Hwy., Palmdale; (805) 285-0455. Open daily 7 a.m.–2 p.m. Breakfast for two, $8–$15. No alcohol. Cash only.