Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Du-Pars: Sub-par?

I get a lot of recommendations for places to go, especially for places that are considered standards of the Los Angeles diner "scene." Usually these come in the form of emails or a grab of the elbow at a get together or party. Delores' came from an elbow grab at a party and Jouni's Cafe came from an email. I really appreciate these tips; they let me know people are reading Dinerwood, and that's a good thing to know.

I've gotten a lot of double or triple recommendations from folks. I know I need to go to the Apple Pan on Pico, and I've been trying to plan a trip to Chip's Restaurant in Hawthorne since forever. These are places that a lot of people tell me to try out. (Occasionally, I get recommendations for places I've already reviewed and I lament Blogger's lack of an index function.) However, one place that no one has ever recommended to me, but is pretty much as old school as you can get in L.A., is Du-Par's.

Du-Par's has three locations; the newly restored original is located at 3rd and Fairfax, part of the Grove/Farmer's Market complex. I really dislike that area because of the sheer awfulness of the general population of the Grove, and I also had a really bad date there once and it's just too painful to return. So because of these feelings and to further serve my Valley readership, I decided to hit up the one in Studio City.

This Du-Par's is located not too far from the 101 off of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd. #1DC Antoinette and I strolled in for a late breakfast two weeks ago. I was impressed by the size of the place--it was much larger than it looked from the outside. A giant counter and close to two dozen booths make for a spacious dining experience. I imagine only at peak times would you have to wait for a spot.

Du-Par's feels old without looking it. It seems more well-maintained than comfy, and it appears that this location was probably the object of renovation as well. The chandeliers and stained wood seem faux-classic, not authentic.

The waitresses wear some truly wonderful old fashioned outfits, complete with hats! I wasn't going to ask one to pose for me because that would have been creepy.

Loving pie as much as I do, I appreciated that the walls were decorated by pie-themed posters. This, the display case at the front, and the on-site bakery, clued me in that this place takes pie very seriously, which I completely respect.

Then, when we sat down and looked at the menu and I saw that there were roughly twenty pies on the menu, including a "pie of the month," I knew I might be in heaven.

#1DC Antoinette, however, may have been developing a different feeling. The first crack in the golden facade appeared in the menu as we looked at the prices. It seemed a bit much. A second crack appeared with the coffee. I did find it bitter, but not overly so. Antoinette thought it was awful.

Antoinette started with a cup of pea soup, made from yellow peas. I can see why they wouldn't have it listed as "Yellow Pea Soup" on the menu because the giggles of everyone inside would be deafening.

Antoinette noted that yellow peas have more of a garden, earthy flavor, whereas green peas taste more salty.

I ordered the short stack of pancakes. I thought it was pretty damn cool that they supplied melted butter--yes, real butter--for the pancakes. I had never seen that before. The pancakes themselves were pretty good: fluffy with a hint of batter taste, which I liked. These hadn't been stirred too long or cooked to a tough consistency.

For her entree, Antoinette ordered the chicken salad sandwich on raisin bread with a side of fries. The chicken salad was sorely lacking in chicken and was way too liquidy. The raisin bread was a nice touch but was toasted a tad too long and had started to burn. Looking around at the other tables, we discovered that all the bread seemed this way. The fries were greasy and had a strong oily aftertaste.

So far, I was still really enjoying my Du-Par's experience. Antoinette, not so much.

But I thought that perhaps the pie would win her over.

I asked our waitress for a slice of the pie of the month ("french pear with walnut crumb topping" according to the Du-Par's website) but was informed that it was sold out. You must have to get there pretty early in the morning to get the pie of the month. I ordered their regular pear pie instead.

I thought it was delicious. It had sliced pears with a cinnamon glaze served over a custard type filling. Antoinette was, in fact, not impressed.

In the end, our breakfast cost $37.81, which I'll admit was steep. Still, I was enamored with Du-Par's. Was I just blinded by the waitress uniforms and number of pies? Or was Antoinette right, her meal, with the exception of the soup, was not very good, especially for the price. Plus, she said the bathroom was pretty gross.

I needed to give Du-Par's another shot. Antoinette would not go again, so who could I take with me?

Enter: The Parents.

Mom and Dad, who last appeared in the Pancake Circus review, came to town last weekend and I brought them with me.

We got there early, right at breakfast time, and there was still no wait. This place should be more popular at the time, unless more people are on Antoinette's side than mine, which wouldn't be the first time.

Getting there so early meant we could order from the Blue Plate Special menu, which lightened the dollar load a bit. The blue plate specials include coffee, which is a nice touch.

My mom got a pancake, egg and bacon special. She ordered the bacon crisp, and by God she got it. She agreed that the pancakes were better than at most places.

My dad got the same thing, but with turkey sausage instead of bacon. It's interesting to note that turkey sausage is the only option; they do not have regular sausage at Du-Par's.

I ordered the french toast and turkey sausage. The french toast was pretty basic. The turkey sausage was just okay.

I do really love that the blue plate specials are not served on blue plates but rather regular plates that say Blue Plate. That's some subversive stuff right there.

I once again tried to order the pie of the month and was denied; our waitress wasn't even sure if they had had any that morning. I think that whole enterprise might be a myth. I took a gamble and went with the gooseberry pie.

Gooseberry pie is tart--more tart than rhubarb. There's an interesting touch of grape to the taste as well, although that could be psychological because gooseberries look like tiny green grapes. The crust was flaky, but dense, so it didn't turn to dust in my mouth. The waitress recommended ice cream with it which I imagine would be very good.

The total for the three of us was only $33.56.

The conclusion my parents and I came to is that Du-Par's is good, but over-priced. You will probably want to go there for breakfast and get the blue plate specials so you aren't dropping a tank of gas worth on one meal. They also have a neat gimmick of the Beat the Clock menu. From 4 to 6pm, selected menu items are whatever price the time is when you order them.

The criticisms Antoinette had are totally justified, but a place that has twenty something pies cannot be all bad. It just can't be.

Food: Overall, decent. Breakfast seems safe.
Service: Friendly...and wearing hats!
Price: High for the portions and quality.
Pie: A LOT.

12036 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City
(818) 766-4437


Anonymous said...

I live in Granada Hills, CA. DuPar's opened a new restraunt here and it's server's and the food is way below PAR. If any corporate DuPar's see's this Blog - please go to the Granada Hills DuPar's and get things RIGHT. I remember DuPar's as the BEST in past years let's keep up the on sight visits.

Anonymous said...

i went to the granada hills dupars for breakfast, service was terrible -the bill was $40.00!!!!!! for 2 breakfasts, then i got sick, i called the health department and they closed the place for 2 days for cockroach infestation and unsanitary food handeling! never again!call the health department if you dont believe me-626-430-5400