Coffee and Everything Else

At a classic LA coffee shop, the waitresses are friendly and the omelettes are served all day.

Penny De Los Santos

Beyond the easy parking and comfortable booths, the best thing about old-school LA coffee shops is that you're never late for breakfast or dinner, because both meals are served all day. They have space-age architecture, friendly waitresses, and kitchens that make everything from liver and onions to omelettes and hash browns 24 hours a day. Some of the legendary '50s- and '60s-era coffee shops, like Ships, are gone, but a few, like the 17 locations of Norms, are still thriving. My husband and I used to eat at the Norms in Van Nuys a couple of times a month in the early 1990s. We'd just had our first child, and we were living paycheck to paycheck. Norms was inexpensive and baby-friendly, and the food was good and plentiful. My favorite thing about the place was that the meals were served in courses, as though we were at some fine restaurant. First, the waitress would bring the vegetable soup, then the tossed salad with ranch dressing, then the pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy. For dessert, there was pudding topped with a dab of whipped cream. Things were simply done a certain way there. One day, I asked the waitress to skip the soup, but she returned with a bowl of it anyhow. I reminded her that I hadn't ordered soup and gently pushed the bowl toward her. She just pushed it back with a smile and said, "You can have it!" —Julie Kornack, a Los Angeles-based writer