Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Twain's: The Price and the Pie-per

Deciding it was time to take Dinerwood away from eastern Los Angeles and western San Bernardino counties, I hit the mental filing cabinet for “places to review.”

"To the beach or to the north?" I pondered. On that late, lazy Sunday night, I settled on the north. Number One Diner Companion Antoinette and I ventured to the valley to eat at Twain’s.

Nestled just south of the 101, Twain’s is a spectacular piece of retro dining. Its bright yellow sign is like a beacon above the palm trees and sushi bars and storefront boutiques, Twain's is classic 70s diner in every way. Oh yes, the sign rotates.

We stepped inside the mostly empty restaurant and were greeted by a friendly waiter who told us to sit anywhere. We chose a booth near the back, since it is much easier to take pictures while not in the center of it all.

After a moment, an even friendlier waiter came by and took our drink orders. Faithful readers will understand my joy that table was already stocked with coffee mugs and as soon as I turned the waiting coffee cup over, my cup was filled with fragrant hot coffee: strong enough to feel but weak enough to drink straight.

Looking at the menu, I experienced some sticker shock. A grilled cheese was $7.50 while most of the items hovered around $10.00. I thought it was a little pricey, but kept perusing. I always love a place that has surprises on the menu and Twain's has several. I was debating between the Ukraine Omelet or the Warsaw Pact Omelet. The Ukraine had sour cream, mushrooms and olives, while the Warsaw had polish sausage and cheese. The Ukraine was tempting, but the Warsaw won out.

Antoinette ordered a cup of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich. The bread had perfect crispness and the cheese was melted, but not to the point of seeping out. It crunched when bit into and had none of the greasy or soggy qualities that a sandwich overdone can exhibit. Even though I am predisposed to loving crinkle fries, because they remind me of elementary school, these were rather dry and flavorless: not that great.

The chili came with a slice of American cheese draped over the top and, as you can tell from the picture, we had dug in pretty deep before I remembered to take a picture. This wasn't chili that would blow your mind; it was restaurant chili--safe and good enough.

My Warsaw Pact omelet also came with a slice of American cheese over it. This was odd, since Swiss cheese was inside. I was really pleased with the omelet. I didn't expect much, but my expectations were surpassed. The cheese flowed out like lava when I cut into it, carrying the slices of polish sausage out like the ill-fated residents of
Pompeii. The hash browns were soggy, and I had the feeling that they had been frozen but not really thawed before hitting the griddle.
So it seems that Twain's can't do potatoes.

While sitting there, two regulars sauntered in and sat at the counter. The gentleman of the pair commented that he couldn't NOT get a slice of pie, and that he, in fact, had come in this evening specifically to get the pie. So although I was full of egg and sausage, I had to get a slice. The ringing endorsement of this stranger sold me.

I ordered a slice of apple to go. It lasted until the next morning when I devoured it for breakfast. By then the crust was a bit soggy, but the filling was decent. The apples still had a bit of "apple" to them that hadn't completely been taken over by the cinnamon.

Twain's was a fun experience. It has a good neighborhood vibe with a strong sense of history, where often the valley seems to have none.

It's not great food, but it's good comforting food, and in that aim, it succeeds.

Food: Good.
Service: Friendly and attentive.
Price: A smidge much: $7-$12 for most dishes
Pie: Several.

Twain's Restaurant
12905 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA

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