Counter Attack: Apple Panned

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After being blown away by “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” yesterday afternoon, my wife and I decided to venture across Pico Boulevard to the venerable Apple Pan, where we grabbed a couple stools with no wait but then were not similarly enthralled with either the service, the food, or especially the bill. The landmark celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, and while Susan was sure she’d never been, I have a vague recollection of visiting waaaaay back when the place would have been somewhere in its early 30s. If in fact that’s true then there are good reasons why I hadn’t returned since: the service left a lot to be desired and the food is as overrated as it is overpriced.

No doubt loyals to the place will bark and stamp and huff that I’m wrongwrongwrong and the entrenched westies in that bunch will urge me to get my heathen Tommy’s-loving tastebuds back over on the dark side of La Brea where they belong. But seriously: two burgers, two sodas, one fries, two pies: $34? In fairness, the cost might not differ much from, say, Pasadena’s Pie-N-Burger, but the grumped-up service you’re paying for at Apple Pan certainly lacks any of the no-extra-charge charm I’ve always found at P-N-B. Sure, some might champion the treatment as “no-nonsense” and that might be understandable when the place is standing room only during a weekday lunch, but off-peak on a relaxed Saturday afternoon it’s nothing but impersonal and to me it clashes with the down-home quaintness of the place.

Beyond that, the burgers themselves were small and rather bland, and to add fuss to the flavorlessness the gruff server reached in and yanked Susan’s burger wrapper from the countertop and disposed of it while she was in mid-bite, leaving her no place to put the tiny sammich down that she’d just started eating. And the pie? Susan enjoyed her boysenberry wedge, but my slice of their signature apple was tasteless and watery with a parched crust made only slightly more palatable by the ample $2 dollop of whipped cream I added to it.

Bottom line: When the high point of a restaurant is that you don’t have to wait to be seated, that’s low.

A small photoset testifying to the quaintness of the place is here on Flickr.

38 Replies to “Counter Attack: Apple Panned”

  1. Never been impressed. Try The Counter, or brave sitting with the North-of-Wilshire crowd at Father’s Office.

  2. I’ve never bought into the Apple Pan hype either, but if I’m in the area, and it’s not crowded, I’ll stop in.

    My wife and I have had friendly service from some of the older men who work there though. I definitely agree that it is not in the league of Pie N Burger, which is a league by itself.

    Anyone else know who serves a hand shaped patty of very fresh meat like Pie N Burger? Every ingredient at Pie N Burger is just perfect, but it’s the meat that puts it over the top.

  3. I need to weigh in and say when I’m hankering for an Apple Pan hickory burger nothing else will do. I’ve never had bad and bland food there, but then I’ve never been physically capable of eating a hickory burger, fries and a piece of pie (that’s a lot of food!) so maybe I just come from a different gustatory tribe.

  4. Did Travis just nicely call me a pig? Is that worse than being an acolyte? Or would that make me an acoheavy?

    Either way, comparitively and gustatorally speaking AP’s portions don’t really equate to my idea of a lot of food… especially for the lot of money it cost. But whether my perceptions and opinions are more tribal than individually subjective, they is what they is.

    And just to be clear, I didn’t mean to imply that the food there was bad, just disappointingly without note. Perhaps if I’d gone hickoryburger instead of steakburger I would’ve gotten more of a flavorful kick.

  5. Any Angeleno knows you gotta do the hickory burger (vs. the regular burger – that’s like going to Scoops and just ordering vanilla!)

    Plus, you go to the Westside, you pays the Westside prices. I bet those Bladerunner tickets weren’t cheap neither. Anyway, this’ll teach you to betray In’N’Out…

  6. Thanks Trix, this angeleno obviously did not know the hickoryburger was the go-to item. Next you’ll tell me there’s a whole off-menu supersecret code that “any angeleno” knows about.

    But just to clarify, the westside ain’t got no lock on price gouging. As I pointed out, Pasadena’s pride in joy, Pie-N-Burger ain’t much cheaper than Apple Pan. It’s just that the hospitality is included in the price way over there.

    And those tix to the flick? Gotcha on that one. They were $3 less than the Arclight and dare I open up a can of worms by saying a better experience was had there than the Arclight?

  7. Not everything is for everyone.

    I LOVE the service at the Apple Pan, if you don’t, then you’re just not meant to be there and are looking for something that’s not there. They try to keep your area neat and will respond to any request within seconds, without making an issue out of it. They take extra good care of children. Those guys really work hard and take care of your counter area like no other countermen in town.

    I do agree it’s overpriced, but what isn’t?

    I consider myself a burger hound and while the Apple Pan is not the “very best” in town, it’s pretty darn close in my humble opinion. Opt for the Hickory Burger and if you’re like me, tell them to go easy on the lettuce.

    Next time you’re in that part of town, try the SF Saloon. Great burger, bartender/friendly service (not counterman service)and really tasty burgers. It’s about 12 blocks west of the Apple Pan on Pico.

  8. sorry “not meant to be there” doesn’t sound as I intended it. What I meant was, it’s an efficient lunch counter, if you’re looking for service with a (non gruff) smile, AP isn’t the place.

  9. It seems that eventually places with a good reputation, maybe even local institutions, there comes a time when they can no longer keep up with the positive buzz around them. That happened to me with Ciros some time ago, there came a day when I just didn’t understand why I kept going.

    Trixkidz,
    I for one will come to the defense of plain old vanilla; sometimes the simplest of flavors is more than enough!

  10. I hear ya Ted. Certainly on the efficiency meter Apple Pan’s countermen are on top of their games (perhaps a bit too much concerning the removal of the wrapper my wife’s burger came in). And definitely I’ll concede I went in expecting one thing and getting something else entirely. On the whole I still don’t quite see why the folks serving up $7 cheeseburgers can’t be efficient AND friendly,

    As to what’s not overpriced, for the $10.50 AP’s burger and fries and soda cost me, I could come away with more than double that from one of the most efficient burger shacks around: Tommy’s.

  11. I hate this place. It’s about time that someone called them out on this. I’ve had better pie at Marie Callenders. All the way around the food at this places just lacks flavor (anyone can put hickory sauce on a burger and cook it! I can do this at home).

    But I get why some people love it and some people hate it. Just difference is taste and flavor… some people are Tabasco lovers, some people like somehing with a bit more depth like Chalula. I’m a Chalula lover myself, Tabasco is just heat in a bottle I need flavor & heat. This doesn’t mean that Tabasco lovers are wrong in their preference.

    All in all I ‘d rather the burgers at Father’s Office (oh and the rumor is there’s a new location coming to Culver City at Helms), not a Tommy’s fan, LOVE the Counter. Hell I’d rather the burgers at those Fat Burger chains!

  12. I’m huffing! I love the Apple Pan. I don’t love it for the burgers, though. I love Apple Pan for the service, the fries and most of all, the Comination – the best ham and cheese on rye in Southern California.

    I’ve been eating at Apple Pan long enough that the waiters just bring me my order when I sit down and I love that – there’s really only a few restaurants in LA where you can find that attention to detail these days. When I sit down at the counter – those guys take care of my every need as if I’m the center of the universe.

  13. I vaguely remember being there once sometime in the late 80’s. It was better than average but as a valley dweller at the time I didn’t have much reason to go back.

    Everytime I go to into Hollywood, going down Vermont I pass “house of pie”. It intriques me and I want to try it. Anyone been? Worth a stop in sometime and drop a note here?

  14. Fraz, I think you’re refering to the place often called “House of Flies” on Vermont at Franklin in Los Feliz Village. I’ve been there once. It’s OK.

  15. the price of apple pan is a huge turn-off for me.
    the banana cream pie is really good, though. but i only truly enjoy the experience if someone else is paying.

  16. I concur that the Apple Pan food and pie is not A #1, but what does make them A #1 in my book: They are open late! Miracle of miracles in this city, you can sit down and eat something after 11pm.

    I enjoy watching the counter guys work. The tall haole guy has been there for something like 40 years and if it is slow, you can chat him up and he is fascinating. I’m not saying he warms up like your favorite grandad, but he is interesting.

    Being a west-sider, I have yet to eat at P’n’B…

  17. As a kid, I remember my mom and I having to stand along the wall waiting to get a seat. Back then the burgers were divine especially the hickory burger and the apple pie was killer.
    I don’t know what happened but somewhere in the mid 1990’s, I went in and the pie was dry the burgers tasted less than fabulous.
    I rarely if ever see a line any more, the prices are much higher, the service more gruff and though still reasonably good, the burgers are not what they used to be.

  18. I’ve never been a Pie ‘n’ Burger fan. I ate there once and found the burger sad and lacking.

    I’ll say this, though – I’ve spent $15 on a single burger with no sides at The Counter and gone back for more – the only better burgers in Los Angeles are the ones I make myself.

  19. I’ll agree with much of the above….Apple Pan’s service is “unique”, their signature pie is jut OK and the burger can be beat. I saw mention of the Counter and Father’s Office, both of which have a killer burger. They are opening a new Father’s Office location at Helms in Culver City and it’s right across from my work. I can’t wait!!

    One more addition to the burger list…Johhnie’s Pastrami (in Culver). Despite their namesake they also make a great (and giant) burger. Get it rare as they usually overdo it.

  20. Three words. Banana cream pie. It’s the only worthy pie at the A.P., and by worthy I mean orgasm-inducing.

    Speaking of alternatives to the much lambasted Apple Pan, try Cassell’s at 6th and Catalina, one block west of Vermont. Their signature double-broiler is a wonder machine, ensuring the freshly-ground chuck is always juicy and tasty. I wouldn’t count on Cassell’s being open much longer — they are perennially empty — so visit while you still can.

  21. Amazing bar burgers at the San Francisco Saloon, pico 5 blocks west of the 405, about 5 minutes from where you were. . .

    no desserts but maybe that’s ok after a delicious belly bomb

  22. Panning the Pan?
    Get thee behind me…
    There are other great burgers/places within a 10-mile radius, but the Pan is a place unto itself.
    I’m a NorCal resident these days, but whenever I’m in the area, I stop in at the Pan. Mmmmm, hickory burger…
    Let me guess, you’re a Yankees fan, too…?

  23. Those who love a good burger joint but don’t eat meat will appreciate knowing that Pie’n’Burger has a sloppy but delicious veggie burger.

  24. Perfect! Less wait time for those of us who’ve been eating at the Apple Pan since we were in 8th grade.

  25. Not concerning the burgers, which I think are great — but truly I prefer the perfect tuna sandwich on white bread with the wonderful sweet pickles on the side — this reminds me of a story:

    One day my sister Rita and I were sitting at Apple Pan’s counter munching away and looking vaguely across the room at the cash register, where some guy was picking up a big to-go order. Rita stares at the man and says, “That guy looks like Warren Beatty in 10 years.”

    I followed her gaze.

    “It is Warren Beatty,” I said.

  26. Does anyone know what happened to the people who cooked at Mo’ Better Meaty Meat Burgers that disappeared from Fairfax and Pico about 8 years ago? Now those were burgers and fries to fight about. Hand shaped and seasoned, both the burgers and the fries. I’d drive to Long Beach for those meaty-meat burgers!

  27. I’ve got a few words of advice:

    RUSSELL’s FAMOUS HAMBURGERS in Pasadena.

    You’ll thank your lucky stars that you found this place… RUN! Don’t walk!

  28. I’ve got a few words of advice:

    RUSSELL’s FAMOUS HAMBURGERS in Pasadena.

    You’ll thank your lucky stars that you found this place… RUN! Don’t walk!

  29. You think $34.00 for two burgers, two sodas, fries and two pies is a lot? IHop’s basic burger is $8.00, more for cheese or chili — $10 bucks is about the norm for that at a sit-down westside joint. You’re upto $16.00, plus about $6 for 2 sodas, $4 for fries, and upto $10 for two pies. That’s now $36 for basic burgers, so sounds like you got off easy.

    I haven’t been to Apple Pan in years, due to parking problems, but I loved the hickory burger and apple pie. The cooks worked quickly and surely with their limited menu, that’s the secret. A friend there recently loved the fat tuna sandwiches, with just the right amount of onions and seasonings.

  30. Travis, I know neither you nor I could eat that much, but have you SEEN Will? He’s, like, eight-foot-three and all bicyclist’s muscle.

  31. I too miss Mo’ Better Meatty Meat. Now my fave burgers are at Barney’s. Charcoal-broiled is just better. And yes to the P&B…anytime.

  32. I too miss Mo’ Better Meatty Meat. Now my fave burgers are at Barney’s. Charcoal-broiled is just better. And yes to the P&B…anytime.

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