It’s hard to rave about a diner. If you’ve been to one, you’ve been to a dozen, and they’re all pretty much a Denny’s in indie disguise. All diner waitresses, from whatever era they are, whether they’re balancing 1966 beehives on their heads, or sporting 2006 pixie cuts and forearm tattooes, or sporting beehives in 2006 because they’ve been there for 40 years, are apathetic; and yes, they’re not servers, they’re waitresses. Everything, from the formica tabletops to the laminated menus to the over-Dep’d, doubly hair-netted boys flipping pancakes in the back, is covered in protective plastic. They have the same heavy, thick brown glazed earthenware mugs that could give someone a concussion from the right angle. The coffee tastes like caffeinated Sanka. Strangely, the orange juice tastes a little bit like Sanka, too.
101 Coffee Shop is the same, but it’s also different. Sure, the waitresses are apathetic; maybe they’re stoned. The tabletops are covered with semi-glossy faux-wood veneer that matches the wood graphic on the menu cover. Not only does 101 Coffee Shop have The Brown Mugs, but they have the matching speckled earthen dishware with Brady Brunch (not a typo) brown and orange on the rims.
But 101 Coffee Shop is, like, all authentic. It’s authentically diner, and authentically 1960s/’70s. Okay, I’m not quite sure how authentically 1960s it is, but sitting down in a beige pleather booth with the early morning sun filtering through a slightly dirty window, with a view of stone wall blocked only intermittently by potted houseplants and globe ceiling lights, the décor sure did make me feel like Marcia, Cindy, Greg, Peter and Bobby were going to come around the bar decked out in avocado green bell-bottoms, doing their whacked out version of the hustle in a conga line. Jan, of course, is not included because she hates everybody and will be holed in the stock room pouting. Either that, or she’s escaped with one of the busboys to a room in the Best Western motel in which 101 Coffee Shop is located.
The menu has all the typical diner fare. Because we were there unusually early, displaced from some early morning revelry at another venue, we opted for breakfast. My spinach and mushroom omelet was disappointingly sparse of spinach and mushrooms, and yet its thickness had a strange similarity in appearance to a crescent-shaped throw pillow stuffed with cheap foam. It was slightly overcooked, but 101 Coffee Shop is cryo-chronized in the 1960s, when everything was cooked to the point of no possibility of bacteria. Or taste. I didn’t mind. I don’t know when Tabasco was invented, but 101 Coffee Shop had some, so I used it.
The omelet was forgivable, but the hash browns were just wrong. They were undercooked, but burnt. The inner portion had a grainy, mealy, mushy taste that felt like they had been put on the griddle before they had completely defrosted from frozen (not saying they had been frozen, but they tasted like they might have been), and the outer crust that had been exposed to the heat surface had been been burnt, not to dark brown crispy, but to bitter black hard. Clearly, Alice was nowhere near the kitchen.
I probably would have been better off with some of 101 Coffee Shop's more "modern" menu items like a tofu scramble with fresh sliced tomatoes. It seems out of place on a retro diner menu, but not really. 101 Coffee Shop is in Hollywood. I might have seen a hipster or two in there.
The Belgian waffle was as beautiful as anyone would be at 8 am on a Saturday morning after partying like a rockstar the night before. The waffle itself was crisp on the outside, a little rough around the edges as usual, slightly sweet and tender on the inside, and had a disheveled mess of blueberries and somewhat pale strawberries piled on top.
Breakfast at 101 Coffee Shop wasn't the best meal I've ever had, but it also wasn't the worst. The decor is cute, and if I lived in the area, I'd probably visit it just to remember what it felt like in the basement rec room of my childhood house. But as you know, I barely make the driving effort for sensational food, and if the hash browns are burnt? Well. I've got Dolores on the Westside.
101 Coffee Shop
6145 Franklin Avenue (@ Carmen)
Los Angeles, CA
Who Else Ate at 101 Coffee Shop?
Third and Fairfax: Breaskfast at the 101 Coffee Shop (Nov 2004)
Daily Gluttony: Too Hip to be Square (Feb 2006)
Los Anjealous: Culinary Musings: 101 Coffee Shop (Feb 2006)
Colleen Cuisine: 101 Coffee Shop (Jun 2006)
Best of LA: Throwback for Swingers (Sep 2006)
** a year ago today, little miss muffet sat on a tuffet, eating turkey eggs benedict **