These Charming Retro Diners Will Make You Fall in Love with L.A. Again

What’s the restaurant equivalent of comfort food? The retro-styled diner. And SoCal’s a veritable treasure trove of these unpretentious spots. So walk into a joint with exuberant ’50s Googie architecture and take a gander at the glass cases laden with baked-on-premises pies before you ease into a naugahyde-upholstered booth. It’s practically a history lesson—that comes with fries.

12 L.A. Desserts to Eat Before You Die

Alyssa F./Yelp

Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop

Leave a little early for your LAX flight and stop at this nearby Inglewood institution. The rock walls, swooping Googie roof and bright colors all recall the coffee shop from Pulp Fiction (which, sadly, has been demolished). Fortunately, this place is going gangbusters, with bottomless cups of coffee being poured and chicken and waffles flying (!) across the counter from morning ’til 3 p.m. daily.

6710 La Tijera Blvd.; 323-776-3770 or

swingers hollywood

Swingers Hollywood

The hijinks amid these plastic-covered plaid stools inspired the Vince Vaughn movie of the same name, in which aspiring actors cruised Hollywood looking for a sweet baby while calling each other money. Swingers is still a nightcrawlers favorite, since it doesnt close until 4 a.m. And though the styling is Old School, the menu items are nouveau Cali—think vegan multigrain banana pancakes and tofu pancakes.

8020 Beverly Blvd.; 323-653-5858 or

brite spot

Brite Spot

A collection of fresh-baked pies baked right on premises and a constellation of starburst pendant lights set the vibe at this homey little box that’s kept Echo Park caffeinated way before the ’hood became hipster central. Skip Sunday brunch—the line’s just too long—and stop in midday before the 3 p.m. closing time, because Meyer Lemon pancakes are delish at any hour.

1918 W. Sunset Blvd.; 213-484-9800 or

mels santa monica

Mel's Drive-in

This just-opened location of the Mel’s chain started life as the Penguin Coffee Shop in 1959. Now it’s re-opened to serve Mel’s signature rich milkshakes, crispy fries and sunrise breakfast special (that’s burger patties topped with eggs, you protein lovers). Googie architecture buffs can admire the terrazzo floors and huge windows (as well as the penguin on the stylized pylon sign), all restored intact.

1670 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-392-0139 or

the pantry
Kevin Stanchfield/Yelp

The Original Pantry

In a town where restaurants and bars close on the early side, a 24-hour eatery is something to be treasured. Thats the story with the Pantry, where the vibe is gumshoe noir and the steak and eggs are ideal for soaking up all the alcohol from DTLAs craft cocktail scene. But your debit cards no good here—its cash only.

877 S. Figueroa St.; 213-972-9279 or

canters fairfax

Canter's Deli

Its a deli! Its a 24-hour diner! And not least, its the mythic off-duty rockers hangout that was the clubhouse of 80s musicians Guns n Roses. Today, the original owners son runs the place, which dates back to 1931. Formerly an old Yiddish Theater, the expansive layout includes the Kibbitz Room bar which closes at 2 a.m. At any hour, the waffles and decidedly nonkosher Monte Cristo sandwich are musts.

419 N. Fairfax Ave.; 323-651-2030 or

Rene R./Yelp

Rae's Restaurant

Santa Monica’s cash-only greasy spoon opened in 1958, and today it’s notable for three claims to fame. One, the corned beef hash is beyond beefy and satisfying. Two, plates are served with a slice of pineapple (it helps to counter the fried everything, or so we tell ourselves). And three, this is where Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater got together in 1993’s Tarantino-scripted True Romance

2901 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-828-7937

apple pan
Sam Benabides/Google Maps

The Apple Pan

This unassuming little wood structure houses a family-owned restaurant that’s been operating since 1947. Devotees can recite the abbreviated menu by heart, including favorites like the Hickoryburger, the Steakburger and a classic apple pie served with vanilla ice cream. You can’t argue with those Midwestern family recipes, or the patrons crowding into the cash-only business 11 a.m. to midnight every day but Monday.

10801 W. Pico Blvd.; 310-475-3585



Today there are 18 locations of this iconic SoCal chain that started in the post-WWII boom years. Low prices, quality food and a distinctive mod architecture have been the hallmarks ever since, with the original fluffy buttermilk pancake recipe still a crowd favorite. (And yay, architecture buffs—the La Cienega location shown here is being protected against demolition.)

470 N. La Cienega Blvd.; 310-657-8333 or

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...