Tony, whom you first met in the Pann's review, came up to me and said "There's this place off the 5 freeway. It's really hard to see but it's right off the exit. I can't remember the name but you have to go."
"Is it south, like around Bell Gardens?" I asked.
Ozzie's Diner. Already on my list.
We made plans to meet last Sunday morning for breakfast. I was running behind and got there about ten minutes late. As I walked in the front door, I took in the delightful cuteness of the diner; overstuffed turquoise booths, long counter and formica table tops. There was a kitchy 5o's theme going on with the standard Presley-Monroe-Dean (lots of Dead) triumvirate in effect. I scanned the restaurant for Tony. No Tony was to be found.
I was greeted warmly by a waitress as I craned my neck around looking for my friend. For some reason, as I was answering her question about the number of people in my party, I realized I had left my wallet at home.
"Twoooo? Umm yeah." I said, realizing that I had no money on me that didn't jingle.
She looked at me strangely and said, "It will just be a minute."
I sat quietly, hoping Tony would arrive sometime soon, and before a table opened up. I could be innocuous and perhaps just slip out the door if need be if he wasn't going to show. No such luck. The waitress called me over to a freshly cleaned table.
"You want anything to drink? Coffee? Juice?"
I couldn't even float a coffee with the change in my messenger bag. I sipped water and spent my time perusing the trucker advertisements on the menu. I was seated in between the counter and the main dining room. This meant all the waitresses had to pass by my table. I had to deflect several inquiries as to my need for anything else.
This limbo allowed me to take a lot of time deciding what I would theoretically eat if the opportunity arrived--and all of this examination just made me hungrier. They have a large selection of what they call "Trucker Omelets" which are made with "four fresh eggs and served with a side of either Ozzie's Potatoes or hash browns, toast and jelly OR biscuits and gravy and a GOOD MORNING!" Each is named after some highway or trucking terms: "The Peterbilt," "The Interstate 80," etc etc.
Something to mention--There's an old saying that if you are on the road, you should eat where the truckers eat because they know the best places. Yeah, nothing could be further from the truth. Trucker's eat where they can park and at whatever is close to the freeway. If a place has garbage for food but it has a big parking lot and it won't take more than a minute to get there after you exit the freeway, THAT's where they are going to eat. If you find a place that caters to truckers and the food is good, consider yourself lucky. Ozzie's is in an industrial area and has a large parking lot, but inside I saw it crowded with families and regular folks. I felt pretty safe that this was going to be at least decent.
I liked that they had blue plate specials that were actually specials and not just what they wanted to push that day. Bread pudding with every special was also a nice touch.
Looking through the different sections of the menu, I was also tempted by the "Armenian Sandwich." It included turkey or roast beef or ham served on Armenian bread with Swiss cheese, green chiles and a homemade au jus. That sounded very intriguing and a definite "must get" next time I go.
Luckily my bearded messiah arrived before the sights and smells of the delicious breakfasts and burgers and menudo parading by my table made my stomach fold in on itself. He was stuck in traffic, of course. When I sheepishly revealed my lack of funds without missing a beat he offered to cover me. He's a stand up guy that Tony. A stand up guy with a massive beard.
We both went with the trucker omelets for breakfast. I ordered the "Interstate 80" and Tony ordered the ominous sounding "Run-A-Way." I got the biscuits and gravy and he sprung the extra dollar to upgrade to a side of pancakes for his bread. We both questioned whether or not we'd be able to pack away that much food.
After a decent amount of time, our food arrived.
Whoa...the omelet was small. I expected some massive loaf of egg just exploding with meat. It was a TRUCKER'S omelet. This was downright REASONABLY sized. Maybe the idea is that truckers take a lot of amphetamines and don't really eat that much. The omelet was sort of a mixed bag. It very nicely made; layers of egg neatly folded over a thin layers of pastrami. Unfortunately, it was topped with what I believe was processed singles of Swiss cheese. It almost ruined the whole thing. The Ozzie's Potatoes were amazing. They were spicy home fries mixed with extra crispy shredded hash browns.
The biscuit and gravy was also great. The gravy was very smooth and peppery and delicious. I generally prefer a denser biscuit, but this was good.
Tony's Run-A-Way omelet was also reasonably sized. He had ordered egg-whites only but that didn't happen. Like mine, his was very well put together with a good mix of avocado, sour cream and green chiles. His cottage cheese tasted a little odd to him but he couldn't place what was wrong with it.
Tony's pancakes were soft, chewy, and fluffy. He said he could have eaten them plain without any syrup. Ozzie's does something with their syrup that I can't even remember the last time I had; they serve it warm. Warm syrup is a little touch that can make a big difference.
I should mention that there were two separate tables that got up and walked to the counter in order to request drink refills. I guess good service was the perk of being seated on the main route the waitresses take; we never waited for refills.
The odd flavored cottage cheese and questionable use of processed cheese were the only negatives that we could find at Ozzie's. I would go back any time. They had some fresh looking pies in a case above the counter that I'd like to try, and I'd love to take a shot at that Armenian sandwich.
Do note that they only serve breakfast until 2pm on weekends and only until 11am on weekdays.
Food: Good. UPDATED: Uneven.
Service: Friendly. UPDATED: Friendly, but not all that good.
7780 E. Slauson Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90040
Maybe the new owner will spring for real cheese.
UPDATE - 11/23
Antoinette and I ate there this past weekend with my sister and her family. Remember what I said about drink refills? Well THAT and the rest of our service was pretty terrible. I can't blame our waitress alone though, since a big part of it was that our food came out in shifts with a long time inbetween. One of my nieces was done eating by the time Antoinette got her food. It wasn't that the waitress didn't deliver the food promptly, the kitchen just hadn't prepared it all yet.
The food was also really uneven. My brother-in-law had the chicken fried steak and he liked it. I had pancakes that were very good while my eggs were not cooked to order and were pretty bad.