The Pacific Dining Car, plain and simple, is your daddy’s steakhouse. Plush furnishings, dim lighting and waiters donning snappy uniforms are the norm at this long running L.A. eatery. Aside from the classic decor and your standard high-end menu, the one standout and downright mindboggling fact is that it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
It is realistic for a place like D.K.’s Donuts to do the 24/7 thing, but to pull it off at an upscale restaurant does not seem sustainable. To get to the bottom of what seems like the most impractical of business models was to visit Pacific Dining Car in Santa Monica at the time I would least want to be at a steakhouse, from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.; too late for the bar crowd and too early for most breakfast goers. But who would ever go to Pacific Dining Car for breakfast in the first place? It turns out 6 a.m. is when their breakfast menu begins and late night menu ends; a late night menu that consisted of some of the breakfast options as well as some burgers, sandwiches, and steaks. Now you know.
The breakfast menu is rich in a couple of ways. There are many poached egg and hollandaise options. Crab, salmon and steak are ingredients that are commonly found around the menu as well. Nothing comes on the cheap. Most of the offerings are around $20. To put things into perspective, an egg a la carte is $3.95. That’s a dozen eggs at Ralphs! And we’re not even talking the AA Jumbo, we’re talking Eggland’s Best.
So many deluxe selections to choose from, but Joe’s Special (named after a previous partner’s creation) was the ultimate call — an amalgamation of Dining Car sausage, onions, spinach and eggs served with wheat toast and sliced tomato. The meaty concoction was zesty, savory, and just fine, the tomato was pale and spongy, and the toast was, well, toast. The $19.95 price tag seemed a bit steep, but when served up on granny’s fine china it is a reminder that prices are contingent on more that just the food.
Not many people go to Pacific Dining Car expecting a Denny’s Grand Slam. Actually, not many people go to the restaurant period. At least at 6 a.m. There were two other tables occupied. At one there was a man in his 70s wearing sunglasses drinking coffee, and then hastily paying the waiter and saying that the person joining him canceled. Stood up at the crack of dawn! At the other table were two business people talking about a commercial real estate deal, which seemed like a peculiar meeting considering the hour. The funny thing was, both tables were rather far from me, but it was so quiet that their conversations sounded as if they were joining me for breakfast. When everyone in the room was quiet, you could actually hear the air.
Perhaps it is unmannered of me to lament over prices, especially at a place with such elevated crust as the Pacific Dining Car. It is, however, the only game in town if Norms or Izzy’s Deli will not suffice at the not-so-early morning hours. Pacific Dining Car may not be the most practical option, but the fact that it is open 24/7 means that it always is an option.
If you go
Pacific Dining Car
2700 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.