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Apple Pan: First timer tips?

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Yes, I am almost 40 years old and yes, I grew up in Los Angeles and YES, I even grew up and lived about five miles from the Apple Pan and yet I've never been there. My Australian husband who has only lived in the US for 8 years has even been there, but it was long ago and he has no memory for detail.

So we have a screening at the Landmark tonight and thought why not hit the Apple Pan. So any tips? I heard cash only so I'm prepared for that. I heard they've got killer pie, so I may skip the fries to save room for the pie. What else do I need to know?

P.S. I've never been to Tommys or Pinks either (I'm clearly deficent in the area of LA junk food landmark eating)

P.P.S. If your tip is to skip it, I acknowledge your right to say it, but will likely ignore it. Searches on this board bring up a lot of anti-Apple Pan sentiment.

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  1. My suggestion would be that one of you order a Hickory Burger (tasty hickory sauce that is the consistency of ketchup) and the other order a Steak Burger (chunky red relish) and one order of fries well done (with a side of hickory sauce) and share all three items. That way you can decide which burger you both prefer and not OD on too many fries. When I was younger and wasn't concerned about the calories I used to order one of each, I like them both plus Iced Coffee served with real cream, fries and pie!
    I'm not a fan of Apple Pie but the Banana, Cherry and Berry Cream Pies are really really good as is the Pecan Pie. Ignore the naysayers and enjoy!!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: sel

      sel summed it up almost pefectly, the apple pie is almost dreadful, unless they only have that on offer, in which case you'll need to doctor it with danish vanilla ice cream and cheddar cheese. the fries are filling so one should be more than enough for two, if you are going to be ordering up burgers and dessert.

    2. i have been eating at apple pan for over 33 years now. seems like everything is a bit smaller than when i was a kid. first thing...there is no waiting list. stand either one one of the sides or in the front and take a seat when open (but people waiting before you ..but next to you..go first). i personally dont care for hickory sauce but if you like it...get it. steakburger with cheese is my favorite. fries are great too. they personally squirt out the ketchup for you. and the apple pie and banana cream pie are my favs. enjoy. i am jealous. some parking in back. cash only. closed on mondays. enjoy!

      1. Since you are (what people nowadays call) an Angeleno, you should certainly go to the Apple Pan -- also to Pink's, Tommy's, etc. -- and maybe you'll be one of the legions who actually like the place. I don't, because it's boring, and the hamburger meat is boring. (Good buns, though.) My advice is to add lots of flavors to your burger, always a bad sign.

        The next time you're in the area after that token visit to AP, you might want to go around the corner on Westwood to Junior's instead and have their outstanding steak, eggs, fried potatoes, and thick-cut cinnamon toast. Much more better meal.

        1. Almost two years ago, I posted a mostly negative review of The Apple Pan that provoked a robust, often heated, love-it-or-hate-it debate with over 150 responses. You might want to take a look at it, especially since I doubt anything about The Apple Pan has changed since then except, probably, the prices:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372510

          1. I love the Apple Pan and have been going there since I was a kid (I think that's kind of essential in the great debate as to whether you "love it or hate it"). I always get a hickory burger with cheese, although the tuna salad sandwich is good as well. Fries are great, and do save room for dessert, if you are a fan of banana cream pie, as theirs is the best in town. They also have whole cream with their coffee. Be prepared for a little sticker shock -- a burger, fries, soda and a slice of pie will run you $15+ per person. If it's crowded, the protocol is to pick a side of the counter, and wait for seats to open up.

            15 Replies
            1. re: DanaB

              "Be prepared for a little sticker shock -- a burger, fries, soda and a slice of pie will run you $15+ per person."

              When I was last there about two years ago, my bill for a burger, fries and soda - no pie - ran me $13 including tax and tip. So unless the prices have miraculously come down, I believe the cost for the meal DanaB is describing is closer to $20 per person.

              1. re: Arthur

                the apple pan is not the best burger in the world, the most comfortable place in the world or the cheapest. but you know what, while the westside pavilion, circuit city, banks etc, went up around it, the apple pan stayed. how many other restaurants can say that in that area. sure their owners could have sold the land for 1.5 million bucks, but they love the restaurant and their loyal customers. so its more than the food...its an institution.

                1. re: Arthur

                  Burger with cheese $7
                  Fries $2.15
                  soda $2
                  pie, cream pie $5.75
                  apple pie with ice cream $8

                  You are at least looking at $20 if not much more with tax and tip.

                  In fact, a burger and soda with no fries and no dessert, will be at least $12 with tax and tip.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Outrageous!

                    Slap a second patty on that burger and it *might* be worth the $7.

                    By the way, I paid $8 for a chocolate souffle with coffee ice cream at the French/Japanese fusion place Orris on Sawtelle. To pay $8 for dessert at a roadhouse coffee shop is just obscene.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      actually i think the apple pie itself is $5.50 with a dollar upcharge for whipped cream or ice cream (if you choose just to get a scoop of ice cream on its own, it's 2.75) but the pecan pies are 5.75 so if you get a scoop of ice cream or whippe cream on it, it'll be 7.75. basically, i am ashamed to say it, but i have had a slice of apple pie on occasion there and only that, and on occasion (actually more than an occasion) of the pecan pie with of of course whippe cream and with tax and tip at least 10 bucks. Someone Alice I don't think we're in Wonderland anymore.

                      Now I don't have to support the place but stupidly I still do. It's irratioinal on my part.

                2. re: DanaB

                  Hickory or Steak Burger: $6.35 (add 50¢ for cheese)
                  Fries: $2.00
                  Pie: $5.50
                  Soft drink: $1.50 (for a 12-oz. can...nice mark-up)

                  Total, pre-tip and pre-tax: $15.35

                  1. re: BeenThereAteThat

                    So with tax and tip, we're talking $20 for a fast food meal.

                    Look, I want to love The Apple Pan... i really do. But the extraordinary price is just not worth it for me.

                    The only thing that even makes me consider going back is the whipped cream (for which they charge an additional $1.50 or so). It's thick enough to stand a metal spoon up in.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Since when was sitting at a counter stool and having a made to order burger, french fries, soda, and a homemade piece of banana cream pie tantamount to "fast food"? Sure the food comes out fast, but speedy service does not a fast food meal make.

                      This is a restaurant not McDonald's. If you want a big mac that's been sitting under a heat lamp for half an hour you're in the wrong place. I'm glad other people don't like the Apple Pan. It makes it easier for me to score a seat.

                      1. re: ReelMike84

                        "This is a restaurant not McDonald's."

                        Not a restaurant exactly, more like an overpriced, cramped, highly uncomfortable, counter-only, semi-dilapidated roadside diner with chaotic seating, customers crowded directly behind you praying for you to vanish as quickly as possible, and some of the surliest of servers. If you enjoy that kind of experience - which to me is akin to a meal on an old New York subway platform during rush hour - then The Apple Pan may be for you.

                        By the way, ReelMike84, The Apple Pan is indeed a fast-food joint, albeit not one in the modern corporate chain model. And in case you are unaware, many fast-food chains also serve burgers that are made-to-order and piping hot, e.g., In-N-Out and Wendy's.

                        1. re: Arthur

                          According to Wikipedia, "Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with low quality preparation and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away. The term "fast food" was recognized in a dictionary by Merriam-Webster in 1951."

                          One reason why the Apple Pan is expensive is that they have opted to maintain quality ingredients and portion size through the years. Their burgers are just as big as they were when I was a kid, and are made with top notch ingredients. As noted by Mr. Taster, there's real whipped cream on the pies, plus, there's the fantastically rich vanilla ice cream you can get a la mode on your pies, real, ripe fruit in the pies, and real cream for the coffee, which is brewed double strength.

                          I get loud and clear that you are not a fan of the Apple Pan, but it is certainly NOT on par with a place like Wendy's or In-N-Out when it comes to ingredient quality, or taste, IMHO.

                          1. re: DanaB

                            "Their burgers are just as big as they were when I was a kid."

                            Which is not big at all.

                            "It is certainly NOT on par with a place like Wendy's or In-N-Out when it comes to ingredient quality."

                            I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you there, at least as far as In-N-Out is concerned.

                            1. re: Arthur

                              Here's where I feel AP is sub-fast food and it is a significant part of my dining experience.

                              A can of soda. A can. Lame. In a flimsy paper cup. Even more lame.

                              The sensory feeling of that flimsy paper losing the battle against the can (from a liquor store) of soda just puts me right off. Yes, yes, I know that it's retro, but there's a very good reason, in this case, that it's not done that way anymore. It's awful.

                              I think the burger is on par with InO. I like InO fries, so that's a taste thing (like everything else).

                              But, really, once it started running me $20, I just started feeling like like a sucker.

                            2. re: DanaB

                              Thank you DanaB for that. I appreciate the backup and I'm in complete agreement as to your assessment of quality when compared to places like In-N-Out and Wendy's.

                              Sure they make the burger when you ask for it, and maybe when compared side-by-side to an Apple Pan burger Arthur you can't taste the difference in quality, but I certainly can.

                              I love double-double's animal style, but if given the choice between the Apple Pan and In-N-Out I'd gladly take the counter stool.

                            3. re: Arthur

                              I am an Apple Pan visitor more than a number of years.

                              But I do agree with your valid sentiments Arthur. although i do like the roadside feel of the place, if you just focus on the interior and don't look outside, you actually do feel like you are in the middle no nowhere. The illusion helps when visit late on a weeknight and there only a handful of customers present chomping on burgers and slices of pie.

                          2. re: Mr Taster

                            you are absolutely right Taster. that's over half the reason why the cream pies are so great.

                            Is it price gouging? with the utmost certainty. Do I still get duped into going there often for some inconceivable reason? once again, with certainty.

                            I must be nuts for going there. But then again you just can't get their cream pies anywhere else, they are better than the cream pies at Pie n Burger in my most humblest of opinions but that would be it's nearest competition (in full disclosure: I have not been to Jongewaard's Bake n Broil as of yet).

                      2. Bring more that $20 per person.

                        1. Now that I've been there, done that, I'm coming down on the 'pro' side of the Apple Pan debate. Burger was tasty, the fries were perfectly done and the pie was great (banana cream). Yes it's more expensive than In and Out, but you can't get pie at In and Out and I personally don't like their fries. I liked the atmosphere at AP, it was great people watching, such an eclectic mix of customers, we were there early and didn't have to wait for a seat. I'm glad I finally went.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Muhlyssa

                            Glad you enjoyed Apple Pan, for the experience, though I'm one who thinks it is way overpriced. Next stop -- Tommy's. The original on Rampart and Alvarado is the classic, with two parking lots and two separate structures with their own lines. You can get the same chili-cheeseburgers and dogs at the Santa Monica location on the S/W corner of Pico and Lincoln -- the gloppy chili (no beans), the chopped onions, the thick-sliced tomato and pickle. Get the double-chili-cheeseburger (a single patty gets lost in all of the condiments) or maybe the dog (though personally I needed a knife and fork to eat it) and beware of the plethora of Tomy (one "m") or Big Tommy or other imposters. Then Pink's -- for the line, the photos on the wall, the intricate dog incarnations, the tourists and people waiting -- everything is great except the hot dog. After those, we can discuss Tito's Tacos and then argue about which places are next in line.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Hey Nosh, I'm game for Pinks but there is nothing about Tommy's that appeals to me, so I might have to pass. I'm very familar with Tito's (another place with lots of differing opinions on CH), and I am on the pro side for TT as well.

                              1. re: Muhlyssa

                                The thing that brings be back to Tommy's (Santa Monica) is that they serve thicker fries than are the norm, and when I order them welldone they are really cooked extra -- a touch darker, much crispier, but not at all burnt.

                                1. re: Muhlyssa

                                  I think Pink's and Tommy's are both dreadful. the late Jay's Jayburgers was great for the type of chili burger that tommy's serves, but done much better.

                                  And pink's chili dogs are just not worth the wait, the dogs are pedestrian at best. and their chili is not much better than tommy's/.

                                  but then again both are institutions so you'll probably go anyhow, so decide for yourself.

                                  Lastly, somewhere you should go if you haven't already for the chili dogs is Carney's, great good, garlicky snappy dog and great chili to go with it. also, for a more gourmet version you will need to hit up Fab's dogs in reseda.

                              2. re: Muhlyssa

                                AP banana cream pie. The old timers behind the counter, no impersonal chain experience, the burgers are just a bonus.

                                1. re: ahuacatl

                                  That freaky dude who looks like Drew Carey's grandpa once gave me the hairy eyeball for asking him how they make the whipped cream so thick. I don't consider that a great experience.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    Taste,

                                    that's Gordon for you. Sometimes he's kind of nice, other times you think he's never seen you before. Or maybe the times, he acts really weird is his way of joking???? Im not quite sure.

                                    In the end, the proprietors of the Apple Pan will have the last joke on our behalf.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      I first went to The AP in 1970 and Gordon was there. The heavy cook (I forget his name, Charlie maybe) has been there even longer. Amazing! Gordon has always been nice, sometimes sarcastic but in a friendly way.

                                      1. re: sel

                                        I got late into the apple pan game. Probably a little over ten years.

                                        If you can remember way back to 1970, does the quality still seem the same?
                                        I thnk they get their ground chuck from Chicago, which is all right by me.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          I don't think the quality or any other aspect (other than the cost) of the Apple Pans food has changed since my first visit.
                                          As far as the meat, it may not be the now popular Waygu product (often incorrectly referred to as Kobe Beef) on so many contemporary menus but it is of a very high quality. One of my relatives was a close friend of the owner of Superior Meat Co. that was located on Pico Blvd. for many years and he said that they supplied The AP as well as many top L.A. restaurants. Now that Superior is gone, I don't know who The AP's supplier is but the meat tastes the same as it always has.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            I am 41 and was born in LA, and started going to the Apple Pan around the age that I was first able to eat a hamburger, so that would put it around 1972 or 1973. My dad was also born in Los Angeles, in 1934, and he's been going there since he was a teenager. While I don't have detailed information on where they supply their meat, it is the one place in town where the food still tastes exactly as good as it did when I was a kid. I.e., there's no nostalgia factor going on -- like few things in life, the Apple Pan's food has remained the same.

                                            1. re: DanaB

                                              That's kind of what I thought myself, the beef staying the same. But how is it that it still stays consistent even like when (one of you mentioned above) that they have to change their suppliers.

                                  2. re: Muhlyssa

                                    Glad you liked it...truly. And, yes, it's something everyone in LA should at least experience for themselves. Of course, not having to deal with the awful customer queue is a big plus.

                                    When I go out to eat, I don't like being stalked by vultures, and I don't like being a vulture myself.

                                  3. The biggest tip I think would be to arrive with appropriate expectations. It's a neat, old time burger place/lunch counter. The burgers, fries, and pie are all good, and the atmosphere harkens back to a different time, but it will likely not change your life or your understanding of the role of food in the universe. (That's probably not what lunch counters are for.) Hope you dig it; I think it's a cool little LA spot.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: David Kahn

                                      David, you said it all. Apple Pan is a Mid-West 1930/40's Drive-in. When you see the front door you should notice that decades are about to fall away as you step inside. That counter, those cone cups, the people doing some good eat'n -- life at a different place and time.

                                      IMO, the meat is very good, the bun is avarge, the banana cream pie is one of the best, the service matches the ambiance and put it all together it is worth the money every so-often. The food and ambiance at Apple Pan, IMO, is therapy for most of the places in L.A.. My only advice is never go at rush hour becauase the place is really a nut house full of people seeking therapy.