I’ve driven past legendary Dolores Restaurant many times on my way to and from the 405 on Santa Monica Boulevard. And every time, I’ve passed it off as a strictly seniors hangout because of its dingy-looking, old-fashioned exterior, proximity to senior-loving Santa Monica and “Since 1944” sign. “Why would I go there for an after-hours meal/breakfast when there are many better late-night places/breakfast joints to choose from?” I’d shrug. Besides, I like a little atmosphere with my dining experience. It’s a whole package thing with me.
But leave it to my roommate Dre to expand my horizons. She’s been extolling the virtues of Dolores ever since we moved down the street from it, especially that cinnamon roll. So when a friend and I wanted to grab a quick breakfast before we headed off to work, I instinctively suggested Dolores.
An immortal coffee shop, dating from 1944. Like eating at grandma’s house with two desserts — Jell-O and tapioca pudding. Fresh baked goods and T-shirts for sale. Claw machine with toys and astrology vending machine in lobby.
On a weekday before 9am, there was ample parking in its lot. Walking in, it felt like we stepped into another era/another town what with the salmon-colored booths, grandma-appealing wallpaper and concession stand of boxed candies near the cash register. Where else in L.A. can you buy a Tootsie Pop or Snickers bar as you pay the bill? This morning, the restaurant wasn’t too busy but all the good booths were already taken up by a variety of people from student-types to bag ladies to white-haired couples.
I hopped into our two-person booth and instantly regretted it. That salmon-colored seat is HARD! It took awhile for my tush to recover.
Vicky, our salty, New York-accented waitress (love her!), then popped up from around the corner and greeted us with a “Hi, honey” and some menus. She told us about the really cheap breakfast specials. Two pancakes, two eggs and two bacon strips or a breakfast burrito for only $3.99! Sold! I picked the former.
We enjoyed our fresh, piping hot coffee and the freshly squeezed orange juice for a moment before our plates were brought out to us. That was fast. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for here. My scrambled eggs were runny and flavorless and even the Tabasco sauce couldn’t save it because the texture just made it unappealing. I tried to slop up the eggs with my fork like a good sport but…ugh.
The two pancakes were accompanied with a small cup of orange-tinged “butter” and two packs of Aunt Jemima syrup. Charming. How did they get the butter that color? Looking more closely, I guessed that they prescoop the butter and leave it out in the fridge. But this “butter” didn’t even taste like butter but simply fat. And the pancakes themselves were rubbery.
The only really great things about this meal? The bacon strips. They were just the right amount of crispy, not hard. I looooove bacon and these didn’t disappoint. Also, the coffee didn’t have that burnt, acid taste of usual diner coffee. But tasted fresh and strong, so there was no need to mask it with creamer and sugar. And great OJ. This, too, tasted fresh as well as sweet. I wonder if it really is freshly squeezed. And of course, I loved Vicky. An “older” Japanese woman with a smoker’s face and lanky stance, I just wonder how she ended up working here. What’s her story?
But in the end, even though the food wasn’t anything to write my grandma about, I have to say that I enjoyed my side trip to this gritty, old-fashioned alternate L.A. It’s good to take a break from Bread & Porridge and Jack ‘n Jill’s every now and then, and just keep it real.
11407 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90025