The Pantry is a living monument in LA that has been able to withstand fleeting food trends and shaky economies. It’s a verifiable time capsule, not just in terms of appearances, but in the food itself.
For example, go there and order the toast. You can get anything else you like, but trust me on this - get the toast. When you do you’ll soon realize that any toast you’ve had until this moment has been but a cheap imitation, a poor pantomime, a plasticized replica of toast. True TOAST is Pantry toast. Everything else is a lie.
They’re not going to give you a couple of insipid slices with butter on the side. Oh, no. They’re going to grab half a loaf of fresh bread, cut it into thick slices, and butter the hell out of them. Then they’re going to toast them so the buttered sides get crispy and brown. And then they’re going to serve it to you with more butter on the side. Do you need that extra butter? No. But do you want that extra butter? Yes, you do.
Whenever I’m given the option of sitting at a counter or a table at a restaurant, it’s the counter all the way. That’s where all the action is. You can watch and interact with the people who are feeding you that day. Even if it’s diner food, it’s still personal - there’s a person back there cooking for you.
Watching diner chefs who’ve been at it a long time is akin to watching a ballet of efficiency. Every night is both a performance and a rehearsal. They know all the steps and stage blocking. It’s a frenzied dance that’s been whittled down to a bare routine. The Pantry has been open since 1924 - the routine is perfect.
When you leave the Pantry you’ll notice the framed picture of past employees stretching back to the restaurant’s beginning. It’s on the wall across from the stand-alone kiosk where you pay for your meal. It’s a reminder that good, honest places endure. It’s a reassuring constant in a city where the shiny and new takes precedence over the tried and true.