It’s 10 a.m. on a Labor Day weekend and already it’s Africa hot. The sun is burning a hole through the parked cars, promising no more than a late-summer day of languid diversion. It’s lazy time, and my friend Robert and I head for Dusty’s. We are greeted at the entrance by Maria Miller, an attractive, 50-something blonde woman who is wearing her usual oxford shirt and khaki pants. The refugee from icy Montreal busses me European-style, then tells me she’s been down and out for a couple weeks, probably from exhaustion. “I think the past three years have finally caught up,” she says, summoning a tired but sincere smile.
Has it been three years already? Holy shit. Dusty’s seems like it’s been at the eastern end of Sunset Boulevard forever, having taken root instantly and effortlessly (though Maria might beg to differ), the way something does that’s been a long time coming. Inside, the large, open, well-lit room is already two-thirds full, which, considering the time of day and the holiday weekend, speaks well of her efforts to make a comfortable, friendly place for the locals to converge, converse and eat well without having to take out a second mortgage.
Dusty’s is as much a sign of the times in Silver Lake as it is a product of Maria’s vision. For better or worse, the fast-gentrifying hood is home to as many working pros, you know, with the usual accessories, kids and dogs and shit, as it is to struggling artists, musicians and blue-collar families. The new bourgey boho class, and yes, dammit, I’m a member, have been looking for a place to kick up their feet after years of doing time in the cramped and chaotic quarters of Millie’s and Madame Matisse. Noble establishments though they are, I confess to being happy to give up my counter seat to the next generation of asymmetrical haircuts for the chance to stretch out a little . . . and have room on my table for a side dish. Relaxed and dignified, Dusty’s seems like it’s been expertly engineered for people like me who can’t quite remember how or why we got our first tattoos and only dust off our guitars for the occasional backyard-barbecue jam session.
Maria came down from Montreal, after running several successful adventures in real estate and food service. As with most of us, she came here for a new start. The real estate business was boring, she says. “I was tired of people asking me to fix their toilets. I was too young to stop working, and I didn’t want to be in the cold weather anymore.”
Maria sits down with us at one of the long tables with cushioned benches that seem to want you to linger. These are among the amenities Maria searches for to enhance the experience. “We keep reassessing what we’re doing to make it more comfortable.”
Her plan for Dusty’s wasn’t much different from her restaurants in Montreal — to offer “casual, reasonably priced, good food with no pretensions.” After scanning the opportunities around town, she found Silver Lake more accommodating than the site she initially eyed in West Hollywood that required a half-mil ante.
Robert orders a veggie omelet. I go for the eggs over medium, ham and potatoes. The eggs are always perfect here, and the potatoes bear special mention — crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. As with Montreal itself, the French influence at Dusty’s is ever present, but not overbearing. There are eggs chasseur and Molière and omelets Florentine and Lorraine, and I think that’s all French stuff. And there are various sweet and savory crepes, and the French toast is commendable, but I usually just get eggs and ham or bacon and soak up the egg yolk with the yummy baguettes. Today, I top my breakfast off with a fruit salad with a honey-mint yogurt sauce. It’s got stuff in it that I don’t know by name, but it tastes damn good.
Dusty’s does lunch and dinner also, and there’s a lot to choose from, but the menu is completely accessible, and the ingredients always seem fresh. It’s also developing a bit of a wine-and-beer bar scene at night, but the breakfasts here are the real draw and set the tone for a laid-back day. So finish your coffee, have a chat with your friend, someone you know from back in the day is gonna come through the door any minute. They’ll probably even be able to pull up a seat.
Dusty’s 3200 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 906-1018