A parking lot for six cars, a tiny well-kept path of tight hedges, loud swinging doors, a horseshoe counter, and a window into the pie room. No praise of the past on the bare, smoke-stained walls, no neo-retro signage or bullshit 1950s photographs printed from too-small JPEGs pulled from a Google search for “1950s restaurant.” No Buddy Holly playing; in fact, no music at all. The Apple Pan is just an old room, and therefore it has a real sense of time and place. You can feel the ghosts of Los Angeles. Some of the guys working there have been there for decades—strange SoCal amalgamations like Butch, who sounds like a surfer bro but looks like an old RKO movie boxer. The Apple Pan’s customers comprise a wide, weird spectrum of the city’s residents. It’s a good spot to sit and stare. And it’s comfortable in an unselfconscious way that can be hard to find here. It’s a good place for a late-night cup of coffee or sandwich alone.
I think the identity of Los Angeles for a long time was as the end of the West, a place made up of everywhere else jammed into one spot, and the menu is a nod to that. That said, the menu is also tiny. Japanese-master-chef tiny. You can get a burger, and you can get a burger with hickory sauce. A cheese sandwich and a ham sandwich are on there, too, but only for, like, late-night nibbling, I suspect. Fries. That’s one-half of the menu. The other lists pies. That’s all. So it’s obvious what I’d order right now: a Coke, a burger, a slice of banana-cream pie. They pour the Coke into a paper funnel held by a wide-mouthed silver container. For some reason this makes it taste better. The burger is, hands down, the best fucking burger in the world. This isn’t a conversation. Usually without hickory sauce or cheese, as it’s not needed. They put, like, half a head of lettuce on this thing, along with pickles—and that’s enough. The pie is an indulgence, but fuck it. Their apple pie is amazing, but right now I’d order the banana-cream since no one else does a good banana-cream pie in LA—except the Apple Pan, where it is excellent. They serve everything on thick paper trays except the pie and coffee, which are delivered on green-rimmed porcelain. It’s perfect.
From “The Apple Pan” by Sammy Harkham for Lucky Peach, 2017; Photo by Gina Ferrazi