Pann's: several bangs, one small whimper
Okay, so it's my birthday, and I was just gonna take it easy...and then a client says he has some addresses he'd like pictures of, down around Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, and when can I do them? How about NOW? I suggest, thinking UUuummm, lunch at Pann's - happy birthday, Will! And thus it came to pass that I finally got to check out (1) the CFS folks are going on about, (2) the gravy someone was grousing about, and (3) the biscuits, which they now have all day long. Oh, and might as well revisit that pea soup, too, just in case they've ruined it...
The soup, I'm thrilled to report, is if anything better than it used to be. It was formerly a simple potage of dried peas cooked in a savory broth, with no other solids in evidence, then it went through a phase in which it had visible chunks of carrot and ham. The chunks are no longer visible, but they show up in the texture, and the flavor is meatier and more intense.
The biscuit, none of which I've had in a few years, has become a lofty thing the size of a kid's fist, and while not exactly flaky (very hard to do in a diner kitchen) it's tender, with a nice crust, sufficiently light interior, and no metallic or alkaline off-flavors. I'd say it's now on a par with Nashville run-of-the-mill, and pretty damn good.
The CFS was a bit odd, I thought, in that while it was meaty enough, the flavor was not much of beef but had a porky aftertaste, as though it had been fried in lard. It was also a bit chewy - not as in chunks-of-gristle chewy, but clearly a piece of meat you couldn't chew at all if it hadn't had the blisterin' bejayzus pounded out of it. The gravy was meaty and savory up to a point, but it and the meat suffered badly from Pann's reticence about using salt. I'm aware that most of their clientele is of an age closer to mine than to the citywide average, and we need to be monitoring our sodium intake, but a little salt added before cooking is more effective than a lot of salt added to the plate, especially if it's meat we're discussing. And this meat and gravy - and the otherwise OK mashed potatoes - needed a lot of salt.
What else? Only the rather boring Chef's Veg, not as boring as it used to be, but parboiled and blanched green beans and sliced carrot heated up with enough butter-like substance to give them a nice flavor, though again in dire need of some salt.
I will like to try the CFS again, next time as breakfast with eggs and stuff. The biscuits and the gravy are definitely worth further exploration. This was not dirt cheap; Pann's never is, but $20 including tax and tip is not bad at all. Oh, and the clan matriarch and I found we were both celebrating birthdays, though - ahem! - rather different ones, hers being her 92nd. Made me feel like a teenager, which I always enjoy...
I wish the Bake n' Broil would hire Pann's biscuit-maker, because I prefer BNB to Pann's on almost everything else, although I do enjoy the more-urban azmofear, as Patti Smith would say, at Pann's. BNB CFS with its overbeaten, nearly collapsed infrastructure is not one of my favorites, however. Now if Pann's would only get real country ham to slide between the pull-apart halves of those fine biscuits, I could close my eyes and see Dixie. Shucks, I can do that anyway. (P.S.: Happy Birthday, Will!)
We were there last night to use my birthday coupon they mailed to me for being a "frequent diner" (you get a cool Pann's card to carry with you). Split pea soup and the half fried chicken dinner with a baked potato, fresh steamed spinach and a fantastic biscuit (too far to drive to Nashville last night) and a brownie shake to gild the lily completely. They had to roll me out on a hand truck and tip me into my car (groaning with satiated pleasure).
I was there last night as well (without a birthday coupon though) and also had their (delicious) half fried chicken dinner, albeit with the (decent and chockfull) N.E. clam chowder, (so-so) fries and cole slaw and, of course, the (fantastic) biscuit. I spared the hand truck a second trip by taking the chicken breast and cole slaw home for lunch today and skipping the (otherwise excellent) shake.