There’s a time and place for a pricey brunch, but for classic American breakfasts you can’t top LA’s diners. The menus may be sticky with syrup, the vinyl banquettes ratty, but the food is great, the prices fair, and the air has the whiff of nostalgia. Here in alphabetical order are 10 places Chowhounds in the Los Angeles area like to go to start the day.
1. HARBOR HOUSE
16341 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach
This seaside diner with a spin-off in Dana Point never closes, and since 1939, surfers, South Bay locals, and travelers on the PCH have been showing up at all hours to order from the huge menu. Save room for a slice of pie or a piece of cake.
2. HUGE TREE PASTRY
423 N. Atlantic Boulevard, Suite 106, Monterey Park
Neither as old or as well known as LA’s iconic diners, Huge Tree is the place to go for Taiwanese breakfast staples like you tiao (fried donuts), sweet peanut rice milk, and baked sesame buns. A few dim sum items are available too, including fried turnip cake and xiao long bao.
3. MANUEL’S ORIGINAL EL TEPEYAC CAFÉ
812 N. Evergreen Avenue, Los Angeles
This East LA legend serves burritos large enough to feed an entire family. If a truckload of chili verde in a tortilla sounds too heavy first thing in the morning, opt for huevos rancheros or chilaquiles. There’s a second location in City of Industry.
4. NAT’S EARLY BITE COFFEE SHOP
14115 Burbank Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
Some ‘hounds claim that nothing here disappoints, but the pastries baked on-site are the way to go. Strawberry rhubarb, apple, and cherry pies are winners, but ask for the day’s offerings (if you’re lucky, coconut and chocolate muffins will be among them). There’s a second location in Canoga Park.
5. NICK’S COFFEE SHOP
8536 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles
Family owned and operated—say hi to Nick at the cash register, and he’ll probably tell you the story behind this place. The menu is encyclopedic, but don’t miss the gargantuan pancakes, hot chocolate with a steep mountain of whipped cream, or the golden hash browns.
6. THE ORIGINAL PANTRY CAFÉ
877 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles
Open 24/7, this downtown institution about to turn 90 has no front-door locks. A basic egg breakfast comes with sourdough toast fried on the griddle.
7. PEPY’S GALLEY
12155 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles
The pirate tchotchkes in this bowling alley diner are corny, but there’s nothing gimmicky about the chilaquiles or machaca with eggs. Ask for some of the incredible chunky salsa.
8. RAE’S RESTAURANT
2901 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
Classic diner dishes at a Santa Monica mainstay with hard-core followers impervious to the grease and the dated interior. Have a plain ol’ hamburger (it comes with thick-cut fries), biscuits and gravy, or corned beef hash with grilled pineapple.
9. RONNIE’S DINER
12740 Culver Boulevard, Los Angeles
The specialty of this Culver City spot is the Chorizo Bowl: two eggs, spuds, sour cream, avocado, and a mound of chorizo heaped onto tortillas. Don’t forget the salsa.
10. SNUG HARBOR
2323 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
Snag a swivel stool at the counter at this cozy Santa Monica spot and watch the short-order cooks make your Hungry Man (scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, and Polish sausage) or egg scramble (pictured).