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Cafe 50's Diner - Worst Diner in L.A.; What is the best L.A. Diner?

Being a midwestern boy, I'm a bit of a diner afficianado. While I understand that the chances of having a matronly blue-haired waitress scream out the order "Adam and Eve on a raft & make it snappy" is not likely to be heard in a traditional diner here in L.A., I do expect the food to comfort and the service to be at least decent.

Fasten your seatbelts, when you visit Cafe 50's Diner on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice you will experience non of the charm one associates with the classic diner experience. Other than the decor, you will leave angry and disappointed.

Upon being seated, we waited nearly 10 minutes before being offered coffee or water. Finally, after placing our order, the food came before the coffee did. My O.J. never arrived. Not once during the rest of the meal did the waitress or table staff ever refresh our drinks or inquire as to the quality of the food.

The food, breakfast in this case, was worse than the slop I was served in Army boot camp.

* I ordered a bacon, mushroom, onion, and cheese omellette. The "guts" of my omellette were grilled together,mixed with cheese, then plated with the egg covering the "guts" of the omellette that were stuck to the plate. The "guts" were whipped together so fast that the onion wasn't even marginally carmalized and the bacon was the charred remains of meat. The home fries were so tasteless that ketchep and tabasco couldn't allow me to tolerate more than one bite.

* My friend ordered steak and eggs. Upon looking at the gray, thin flesh of what was supposed to be steak, I know he was having a similarly miserable experience. I was really embarrassed that I had suggested we eat breakfast here.

Finally, the meal was over, we had to hunt down the waitress who needed to adjust the bill for the missing O.J., but never offered an apology for the shoddy food and service. Denny's may be awful, but if you compared the two restaurants side by side, Denny's would be like dining at The Ivy in comparison.

For L.A. diner food, I will simply have to truck up to the valley and visit my old haunts such as Coral Cafe in Burbank, DuPar's in Studio City, and Mel's.

I would love to hear everyone's favorite L.A. Diner.

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  1. Pann's

    1 Reply
    1. re: Wes

      Ya, I agree that what PorterhousePatick might be looking for is a cafe like Pann's.
      A great menu and Googie style. But LA has no more true Diners. Diner 's are found in MA, to NJ, to VA., to ..., but not Los Angeles. Developers killed them all. But L.A. has a number of great Cafe's. Begin with Pann's

      Pann’s
      6710 La Tijera Blvd (Cross Street: La Cienega Boulevard)
      Los Angeles, CA
      90045-2090
      (323) 776-3770
      http://www.panns.com/index.htm

    2. Rae's, on Pico blvd. in Santa Monica (just west of McCabe's Guitar Shop). Looks and feels the part. Generous breakfasts (and very busy on weekends) and inexpensive diner grub... Also, just barely a 'diner', but Swingers (also in Santa Monica, but to the north) puts a spin on the experience. Good burgers, salads, and fried stuff, and I bel;ieve its open 24/7.

      3 Replies
      1. re: silence9

        I must agree - I love Rae's! Good portions, good food and super casual atmosphere!

        1. re: redglowh

          im going to triple that. I love Rae's. its a 50's style diner, because it was actually FROM THE 50'S. can't go wrong with their portions and their prices. blows most places away.

          1. re: Brown Dolphin

            Add me to the list of Rae's lovers! It's a real diner and the prices can't be beat. I had an amazing patty melt there awhile back with fries, cole slaw, and iced tea for under 10 bucks!!

      2. Try Ocean Diner on Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach - I've never been disappointed by the food there. Also, Cozy Cafe on PCH in Redondo Beach is a great dive, er, diner. Sorry, neither of these reside in a classic diner 'building'.

        1. Bob's Big Boy gets my vote.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I love Bob's as well! I also like Dupar's in Studio City and at the Farmer's Market. Although it's not a diner, I love Musso and Frank for things you don't see these days on any menu. Aspic anyone?

          2. Dale's Diner in Lakewood.
            Shorehouse - Belmont Shore and Seal Beach
            Harbor House - Sunset Beach and Dana Point
            Woody's - Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and Huntington Beach
            Ruby's - okay, it's a chain, but their breakfasts are pretty good, if that's what you're after

            4 Replies
            1. re: CynD

              Love Dale's! Been going since high school. Great omelettes, heavenly apple pancakes, sinful chili cheese fries. My sister gets her hash browns well done then eats them with their buttermilky ranch. Evil. Great biscuits & gravy and hand formed burgers also.

              1. re: Oh Robin

                Dale's Cajun burger with swiss cheese and avocado with a side of onion rings is on my short "bucket" list. Once a month!

                1. re: torty

                  Could you tell us where Dales' is located? Thanx

                  1. re: Neta

                    Linked ...

                    -----
                    Dale's Diner
                    4339 E Carson St, Long Beach, CA 90808

            2. I eat really often in Ronnie's Diner in MDR.

              I'd say I'm the only one who does, except it's always packed on the weekends.

              1. Pann's as noted above and Jan's on Beverly

                1. As a midwestern girl, I really enjoyed Pann's. The food was great, although when I visited, the restaurant had an unpleasant, musty smell. Still the food was good enough to visit again.

                  1. Pie and Burger South Pasadena
                    Nick's on spring street north of chinatown -- great ham and eggs
                    I also remember a diner on Santa Fe avenue in Vernon, close to the stench of Farmer John's abbatoir, but I can't remember the name....it's rich and real, where the vernon grandees collect to trade stock tips before they go back to boss around the foremen of their respective light manufacturing enterprises

                    la abeja in cypress park

                    TV cafe on olympic and figueroa for the pancakes and menudo...and the decor

                    1. Nicodells? on Santa Monica -- near the court house... is that the name?

                      and also DuPars.

                      1. Pepy's Galley on Venice or _____'s Diner on Main St (Tom? Bob? I can never remember the name)

                        1. Cindy's on Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock. Just east of Trader Joe's.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Sam D.

                            you must be choking..... the food at cindy's is ...inedible.

                            1. re: chiliranch

                              Well, a table full of friends and I had a perfectly satisfactory breakfast at Cindy's last year, just one of several good meals I've had there. Waited about half an hour for a table to open up, too. Now, I know that simple popularity is no guarantor of GREAT food - Cheesecake Factory, anyone? - but I think even an uninformed palate can distinguish between the edible and inedible, and avoid the latter. I find the CB hash and eggs to be eminently edible, and the Eggs Bennie and pancakes got raves.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Cindy's was recommended so we gave it a try for breakfast a couple of years ago. The scrambed eggs were nearly inedible - whites and yolks not mixed, and a bit burnt. Perhaps they've improved.

                                1. re: tiberdog

                                  I love my scrambled eggs barely mixed - scrambled in the pan rather than beaten in a bowl - while cookbook author Nika Hazleton flatly declares that style to be "disgusting". So one man's delicious can often be another man's inedible.

                          2. Ed's on Robertson below Melrose.

                            1. Nat's in Sherman Oaks
                              mmmm homemade muffins and jam

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: msmd310

                                would that be nat's early bite on burbank boulevard?

                              2. Traditional diner: Pie n Burger
                                High-end diner: Doughboys.

                                1. Pann's or SW in Culver City. S&W has great food, good service, all for a good price. Beware the lines for breakfast on the weekends!

                                  1. I assume everyone here is well acquainted with my Pann's addiction, but closer to home (Pasadena) I'll second the vote for Cindy's and add The Reyn on North Lake. Only caveat is that if a "diner" to you is a place that not only opens early but also closes late, neither of these qualifies. I don't know exactly when Cindy's closes, only that I've never seen it open in the evening, but The Reyn is open for breakfast and lunch only, closing at 2:30.

                                    1. i'm quite partial to nick's on pico just west of la cienega.

                                      snug harbor in santa monica is another favorite.

                                      but as a fellow midwesterner, i know what you're thinking and i wouldn't necessarily apply it to either of these.

                                      1. Just for the sake of covering all the bases there is also a Mel's Diner in WeHo on Sunset Blvd. as well as the one in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Blvd.

                                        http://www.melsdrive-in.com/hoursandl...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: tony michaels

                                          Been to Mel's on Ventura several times. Yeah, it's a theme park, no more authentic than Johnny Rocket's or Ed Debevic's, but the food is good, plentiful and cheap. Burgers and malts, man...

                                        2. Bobby's on Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills. Killer breakfast. Going on 50 years now.

                                          1. I love cafe 50s. Hey Porterhouse Patick: you ordered the wrong thing -- cafe 50s does simple greasy egg dishes best. forget the fancy omelettes! If you ever go back, try the eggs over easy. cafe 50s is really nice on weekday mornings - friendly, full of locals, and the service is almost always good. at least once a month, I go there with friends and we'll hog a booth for a good 90 minutes.. the coffee refils keep a-coming, and there's no attitude. but, yes, the coffee sucks!

                                            1. It's been a long time but Rae's on Pico used to have great biscuits and white gravy. Anyone been there lately?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: clairelouise

                                                yes, they do and their really inexpensive.

                                                1. re: gbpniko

                                                  Agree that they are inexpensive, but I don't think they come close to the John O'Groats biscuits. Still, Raes is a decent place to have breakfast before or after the Pico and Cloverfield Farmers Market on Saturday. Actually, the better choice is Amandine. We love it on Saturday mornings after the Farmer's Market.

                                                  1. re: maudies5

                                                    I wish that the biscuits at J. O'Groats were good, but I find them to be much too dry and crumbly. You practically need to wash each bite down with your beverage just to keep them from getting stuck in your throat and they literally fall apart if you try putting butter or jam on them. Pann's has the most wonderful biscuits in Los Angeles, by a mile.

                                                    -----
                                                    Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                    6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                              2. Also, don't go to Dinah's. It's AWFUL. Even their so-called specialty apple pancake. YUCK.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: clairelouise

                                                  respectfully disagree about the apple pancake.
                                                  there are three dishes that i like at dinah's family restaurant:
                                                  1) the baked apple pancake that you so dislike
                                                  2) the baked german pancake served with lemon wedges and powdered sugar
                                                  and
                                                  3) the chile relleno omlette

                                                2. I totally disagree, there's a special tacky charm of cafe 50's that many other cafes in the area can't touch. Sure it's dirty and some of the food may (at times) be cooked a little unevenly, but calling this Venice landmark the worst diner in LA is way too harsh. Cafe 50s has tons of character and the food is actually on the good side of normal diner fare. By the way, Mel's sucks- unauthentic chain with a far too corporate mentality. If you prefer the plastic diner, maybe you don't belong anywhere near Venice.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: jandv

                                                    I guess what get's me about cafe 50's is that it is fake, put on tacky charm. It isn't tacky carm because it has been aorund forever an not eveolved beyone the 50's style, some one DELIBERATELY built is to be that way, like Johnny Rocket's and Mel's

                                                    Dont ge t me wrong, I have gone to and enjoyerd the heck outta Mel's.

                                                    Sorta the same way the Medieval Times is faux medieval (in fact it is FAR from medievil, it is a fatasy pastiche), Cafe 50's takes what people think of as symbolic of the 50's and packages it into a "dining experience."
                                                    Bobby's in Woodland hills has the tacky charm because it has just not changed in forever. A lot of the best diners do. but with land and real estate being what it is here, few survive.

                                                    there are more back east and in the midwest, or in smaller towns on the edges of suburbia-in rural california. Or tucked into little pockets here and there.

                                                    Nosatalgi theme dining can never match up to the real thing.

                                                    1. re: jandv

                                                      i used to like cafe 50's about 20 years ago.
                                                      since then, either my palate has become more discerning or their food has become terrible.

                                                    2. I disagree about the 50's Cafe as well. I've been a regular since moving to LA nearly 15 years ago. The service has always been prompt and friendly, and the basic food is good and affordable. They have excellent from scratch blue cheese dressing for salads and amazing from scratch tortilla chips. My husband and I loved their breakfasts and no one I've ever known to eat there got sick. Don't know what was off with your visit, but I've always had a good meal and a fine time.

                                                      1. As L.A. foodies we're used to traveling great distances for unique food experiences. Diner food is, by its nature, local food -- at its best it can be very good, but not necessarily worth the effort if you're not in the neighborhood.

                                                        I've twice been asked on CH if Fred 62 is worth a trip, once from someone on the Westside, the other time from someone in Tustin (!!) The answer is no. But if you're in the area, give it a try -- and if you haven't been there in the last five years, trust me that the service has improved considerably.

                                                        Can a place qualify as a diner if you have to wait to get in? If you think so (and I do), don't go to John O'Groats on a weekend. But on the (few) weekdays I've been in the area, I've walked in.

                                                        I think Grawlick's diner on Santa Fe Ave. in Vernon is El Treno? He also mentioned Nicodell which is no more.

                                                        Linking to all ...

                                                        -----
                                                        Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                        6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                                        John O'Groats
                                                        10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                        Doughboys
                                                        8136 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                        Ocean Diner
                                                        959 Aviation Blvd, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

                                                        S & W Country Diner
                                                        9748 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                                                        Nick's Cafe
                                                        1300 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                        Fred 62
                                                        1854 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                                        Pie 'n Burger
                                                        913 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

                                                        Du Par's
                                                        6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                        La Abeja
                                                        3700 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065

                                                        Pepy's Galley
                                                        12125 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                        Harbor House Cafe
                                                        34157 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92629

                                                        Du Par's
                                                        12036 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                                                        Jan's
                                                        8424 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                        Coral Cafe
                                                        3321 W Burbank Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

                                                        Rae's Restaurant
                                                        2901 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                                        Swingers
                                                        802 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                                        Bobby's Coffee Shop
                                                        22821 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364

                                                        Cozy Cafe
                                                        307 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

                                                        Bob's Big Boy
                                                        4211 W Riverside Dr, Burbank, CA 91505

                                                        Shore House Cafe
                                                        5271 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90803

                                                        Bonadonna's Shore House Cafe
                                                        941 Pacific Coast Hwy, Seal Beach, CA 90740

                                                        Harbor House Cafes
                                                        16341 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92649

                                                        Woody's Diner: Huntington Beach
                                                        7871 Warner Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92647

                                                        Woody's Diner
                                                        16371 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92649

                                                        Woody's Diner III
                                                        209 Main St, Seal Beach, CA 90740

                                                        Ruby's Diner
                                                        100 Citadel Dr Ste 222, Commerce, CA 90040

                                                        El Treno
                                                        5403 S Santa Fe Ave, Vernon, CA 90058

                                                        TV Cafe
                                                        1777 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90021

                                                        Cindy's Restaurant
                                                        1500 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

                                                        Reyn
                                                        635 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                                        Nick's Coffee Shop & Deli
                                                        8536 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

                                                        Snug Harbor
                                                        2323 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                        Nat's Early Bite
                                                        14115 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401

                                                        Mels Office
                                                        8585 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                                        1. I believe most of you folks are confusing diners with what we used to call coffee shops (until the advent of Starbucks and the like). A true diner is indeed that, a converted dining railroad car. Los Angeles had a few back in the day, but diners were mainly an East Coast and Midwest phenonemon. A few of the restaurants mentioned hew close to diner type menus (Rae's for example) but they are not diners. Joints like Cafe 50's and
                                                          Ruby's are meant to evoke a 1950's Ozzie Nelson malt shop atmosphere. The bulk of the establishments you are calling diners call themselves "family restaurants." I still insist on calling them coffee shops, but I guess I'm old school these days. Anyway the best of the bunch still serve classic American comfort food, and put a smile on my face no matter what you call them.

                                                          1. Edies diner in Marina del Rey was as close to a diner (built like one) as you can find on the westside...

                                                            the food was once very good .. they were sold years ago to a corp/chain type and the food quality went away...

                                                            I always wondered how can you screw up a burger and fries order? Edies showed me...

                                                            1. LeRoy's in Monrovia, great food (especially breakfasts)!

                                                              1. Haven't been to Nickle Diner downtown but hear it's unreal. Also, not the best diner food but certainly enjoyable, is Delores' in West LA. I wouldn't make a special trip for it, but if you find yourself on that side of town and want something inexpensive it's worth a try.

                                                                1. eagle rock has some great diners, far from lincoln blvd but there are three great diners there, pat and lorraine's on eagle rock blvd by occidental college, cindys on colorado near pasadena border and armon's on eagle rock blvd at colorado. i grew up with these places and love them but the food is great and the service perfectly dinery

                                                                  1. Paty's on Riverside in Toluca Lake, and Eat on Magnolia in N. Hollywood. Also the Village Coffee Shop in Beachwood Canyon.