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Original Pantry Cafe ~ Downtown Los Angeles

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Original Pantry Cafe ~ 877 S. Figueroa St. Downtown L.A., CA 90017 ~ (213) 972-9279

My grandfather is currently 99-years old, with all his mental faculties intact and I guarantee the man never ate raw foods, sushi, or wheat grass in his life. As nice as he is, he'd probably choke you if you tried to take him to Urth Cafe. A grad from New York's Slavic L.E.S., he grew up on kielbasa, pierogi, and blood sausage, and continued on the path of meat n' taters-World War I foods stuff you can still find today at Original Pantry, which has been serving pork chops, sausages, and steaks in Downtown since 1924.

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Said steaks and chops here aren't all frou-frou'd up "American Cuisine" with blueberry reductions and cauliflower foam, but rather kind of look like they've been through a battle with your car tires. In fact, few really come here for the food, so much as for sustenance, ambiance, and a look back to Downtown's olden times.

Every dish is a little tough, and judging from some of our counter-mates, these patrons are what they eat. The hardscrabblest customer here seems a cut above homeless, really just staying at a flophouse, and not yet a true member of the 'Row. They still have like 1980's walkmens and semi-clean haberdashery along with their DTs.

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When you sit at the counter at O.P., you're usually greeted by this cool old waiter with a warm disposition and a serious-hustle that puts our beloved Lakers to shame. First thing you're hit with before you even agree to stay is a mountain of free coleslaw, drowning in mayonnaise, surely considered a healthy vegetable serving back in G-Paw's day. Next comes a great big loaf of bread, perfect for dipping into the slaw slime or buttering up. By this time, I'm usually full and haven't even ordered, but stay anyway.

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Again, things come simple and very-grilled or very roasted here, whether it's sirloin tips , the hamburger loaf, or the rib roast, none of which are that cheap really. Most dishes are from $8-$14.

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I hit the burger on my last visit, which arrived with no fixings, save for onion integrated in the patty. Mediocre burgers often get saved by tons of fixins and there's nothing on this save cheese, so it's pure beef really. A little oily and very thick, it is a meal fit for the true masticator, definitely filling and surely comforting without resorting to tricks, shenanigans, tomfoolery, or damned monkey business. The patty is big, loose, and a little rugged, topped with American cheese on toasted sourdough. Hard to eat, but good. Good, but not spectacular in taste necessarily. It's no 25 Degrees, but it does the trick.

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If KRS is hip-hop, then O.P. is L.A. If you love your city, you gotta hit Original Pantry at least once, who knows when it will become some lame-ass bar that throws the word "dirt chic" around while hosting Brian Austin Green's comeback album release party. Long-live O.P. and long-live Los Angeles history!

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