The Apple Pan restaurant in West LA opened in 1947 and barely anything has changed since, except the prices. Seemingly frozen in time like some back-lot period set, The Apple Pan looks like a cute little ranch-style cottage on the outside and the old-fashioned horseshoe-shaped countertop on the inside still only seats about twenty. The owners have resisted any overture to change — it’s still owned by the same family and they’ve never expanded, never added a fancy Micros POS system, never put a kobe beef burger on the menu, never even nodded in the direction of modernity. The menu is slight but timeless, offering only a couple of signature burgers (the Steak burger and the Hickory), a tuna salad sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, fries, and a slew of pies including, natch, apple.
I hadn’t eaten at the Apple Pan in probably ten years, but on a whim I went a couple of weeks ago, the day after I returned from Costa Rica in fact. I was craving simple food, American food. And as I was cruising by, hungry as all hell, the Apple Pan caught my eye and I squealed into the nearest parking spot on Pico Boulevard. I hustled up to the counter and stopped short; the counter was totally full. But luckily the moment I entered the server (energetic older dude with a serious but friendly demeanor) slapped down a check in front of a departing, burger-filled customer and I had but a couple of minutes of wait-time before I slid into the swivel stool at the burger trough.
I ordered a Hickory burger, some fries, and a Coke. The soda came in a can, which my server plopped down next to a paper cone set into a stainless steel pedestal — my drinking glass. A cardboard plate piled high with piping hot French fries hit the counter seconds later and my guy flipped a bottle of Heinz in his hand and asked, “ketchup?” I assented and with a hipster-bartender flourish he banged out a puddle of ketchup onto another, smaller cardboard plate.
The fries were excellent and addicting. They were unseasoned and I definitely needed a generous sprinkle of salt, but they tasted fresh and richly “potatoey”. The fries were crisp, crunchy, and delicious. Perfect fries are hard to find, but these were delightful. I scarfed in about 37 seconds. By which time my burger arrived, wrapped in paper, hot and savory.The old-fashioned counter burger was thin and coarsely-ground. It was beefy and flavorful, although perhaps not as tender as I would have liked and a bit under-seasoned, like the fries. The Tillamook cheddar cheese was tasty, the pickles added some nice sour crunch, and the mound of fresh iceberg lettuce was crisp and inviting. The hickory sauce was pretty much just tomato puree with a touch of brown sugar and smoke, the most rudimentary of barbecue sauces, but it worked beautifully and made up for the absent tomato slice. The sauce was slightly tangy, slightly sweet, slightly smokey. The burger was delicious, maybe a little on the small side. I could have used a few more bites! My only caveat was that the bun was squishy and crumbly. It didn’t hold up well to the moistness of the sauce or the lettuce. Halfway through eating the burger it started falling apart into gooey, cheesy, tomatoey chunks. Delicious chunks to be sure, but chunks nonetheless. I ate every last chunk. I’ll make another visit soon. I have yet to try any of the pies, and I’ve heard the egg salad sandwich has a magic all its own, so that’s on the list. Certainly I will visit again before another decade passes me by. But I suspect that even a decade from now, The Apple Pan will be unchanged. 10801 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Neighborhood: West Los Angeles