Bay Cities makes a decent turkey sandwich, a loud, greasy meatball sandwich, and a very respectable hero with Parma prosciutto, ripe tomatoes and cheese, but the sandwich of choice here is a monster called the Godmother, which includes a slice of every Italian cold cut you've ever heard of and a couple you might not: salami, mortadella, prosciutto, cappicola, ham, provolone cheese — all on a nearly footlong, properly chewy French loaf. Fully dressed, the Godmother includes lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard and a few squirts from unmarked squeeze bottles that probably add up to a garlicky vinaigrette. A Godmother feeds a couple of people at least, and the guys behind the counter will look at you quizzically if they suspect you're planning to eat a whole one yourself. 1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-8279. Open Mon.Sat. 8 a.m.7 p.m., Sun. till 6 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $6$9. Beer, wine and liquor for takeout only. Takeout. Lot parking. ATM, MC, V.
Benita's, a small takeout stand in the true American tradition of overspecialization, serves Belgian fries and only Belgian fries — no mussels, no burgers, no shakes. Benita's fries them twice, the first time in coolish oil, which cooks them ä through; the second time sizzles the fries to a fine golden brown. They're not greasy at all, and the oil they're fried in is superpolyunsaturated 98 percent cholesterol-free something. And you'll find more things here to put on fries than you ever thought possible: malt vinegar, red-wine vinegar, white-wine vinegar, salt, pepper, cayenne, seasoned salt, mustard and even ketchup. For an extra few cents, you can get a remoulade sauce spiked with tarragon, a creamy Dijon-mustard dip, or a thick garlic mayonnaise that will announce your presence in a room five minutes before you actually show up. There's even a chili that tastes like the orange stuff you get on hamburgers — which is to say, pretty darn good. 1437 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; (310) 458-2889. Open Sun.Mon. 11:30 a.m.9 p.m., Tues.Thurs. 11:30 a.m.10 p.m., Fri.Sat. 11:30 a.m.midnight. Fries for two, $3$5. No alcohol. Cash only.
John Bull English Pub
John Bull serves some of the best beer around — the usual pints of Bass and Harp and Guinness, sure, but also the hand-drawn drafts of real ale that never seem to make it anywhere else. Witness the wonder of brewing that is Newcastle Brown, less a beer than some dense, dark country bread miraculously drawn into a glass, tapped with a special hand pump that injects just enough air into the uncarbonated ale to produce a tickling spritz and induce a head the color and texture of thick, unpasteurized cream. Plus, the fish and chips are everything you could wish for from a Brit restaurant, sweet fillets of North Sea cod enrobed in a light beer batter and fried to a delicate crunch, served with a little pill cup of freshly made tartar sauce and a pile of decent steak fries. A half order, the “tiddler,” is just enough to take the edge off a pint of Newcastle without leaving you too heavy for darts. 958 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena; (626) 441-4353. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $9$17. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, Disc., MC, V.
Papa Cristo's Taverna
At Papa Cristo's, six bucks buys a whole grilled fish stuffed with garlic and herbs, or a giant skewer of spicy grilled beef, or a plate of spaghetti plus half a roast chicken, garlicky and crisp-skinned as the ones you find at Zankou. Six bucks will also buy three lamb chops, four if you're lucky, steeped in garlic and oregano and grilled quickly over a hot fire; crisp, brown, and edged with just enough fat to round out the lamb's sweet gaminess. These aren't the thick, prime loin chops you'd find at Michael's or Campanile, and they are usually cooked somewhere on the far, far side of rare, but it is hard to imagine more flavorful meat. After 15 seconds with a plastic knife, you will risk burnt fingers and eat them with your hands. 2771 W. Pico Blvd.; (323) 737-2970. Open Tues.Sun. for lunch and dinner till 7 p.m. Lunch for two, food only, $9$12. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking in rear. AE, Disc., MC, V.
Philippe the Original
Everybody who has lived in Los Angeles more than a year has heard how it was Philippe himself who invented the French dip sandwich — 60 years ago, when he accidentally dropped a sandwich into some gravy. The place is so much a part of old Los Angeles that sometimes it feels as if it isn't really a part of Los Angeles, as if it belongs to a city much older and much more attached to its distant past. The lamb sandwich is wet and rich, with something of the gamy animal pungency of old-fashioned roast meat, while all around the restaurant you can see nostrils flare as people hit a little depth charge of Philippe's hot mustard in their sandwiches. Philippe's is a fine place, too, for lunch, dinner or breakfast: crisp doughnuts, decent cinnamon rolls, and coffee for 10 cents a cup. 1001 N. Alameda St.; (213) 628-3781. Open daily 6 a.m.10 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $7$12. Takeout. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Cash only.
At Polka — as, I imagine, in most Polish families — the cooking is honest, incredibly inexpensive, fresh and homely, based on good meat, fresh vegetables and lots of gravy. To start, there's a bowl of lettuce salad, a bit of shredded red cabbage and grated carrot added for flavor. Then come the entrées: soft, juicy boiled kielbasa, heady with garlic, served with mushroom-spiked mashed potatoes and a little pot of mustard; kotlet, oniony pork loin, crisp and covered with fresh broiled mushrooms; gulasz, a brown, plainish beef stew, hearty if bland; pierogi, the large, floppy kind, stuffed with ground beef and flavored with something like pie spice; and golabki, cabbage stuffed with a similar mixture. Dessert is pretty much limited to little goblets of chocolate pudding topped with swirls of canned whipped cream. Try the Polka tea, flavored with a dash of rum, instead. 4112 Verdugo Road, Glendale; (323) 255-7887. Open Wed.Sun., 11 a.m.9 p.m. Prix fixe dinner $6.99, lunch $4.99. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only.
The Red Lion Tavern
The Red Lion may not be the most refined restaurant in Los Angeles, but it has always been a good place for a beer and a wurst: knackwurst, bratwurst, weisswurst, bockwurst, German-style wieners, also the tasty smoked pork chops called Kassler rippchen and the jiggly pork shank called eisbein. Early in the evening, there's usually a scattering of native Germans at the bar, though lately they've been outnumbered by arty Silver Lake dudes and the kind of shaggy music-scene guys who always know where to find the best suds in any neighborhood. The Red Lion serves Bitburger on tap, but the beer to get is the relatively uncommon Franziskaner Weissbier, tart as limeade, refreshing with a slice of lemon on a hot summer night. The popular sausage platter is kind of spectacular-looking — a giant plate covered with bratwurst and knackwurst, cut into chunks — but oddly enough in this palace of meat, the best dish may be the fish dish called rollmops: cool, silvery slabs of marinated herring, cleanly fishy, so heavily vinegared you can choke a little on the fumes if you take too big a first bite. The herring comes with a great pile of something close to the perfect potatoes, fried crisp in bacon grease and dotted with wilted onions — just the sort of platter for which liter-size beer mugs were invented. 2366 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 662-5337. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $16$22. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, Disc., DC, MC, V.