Originally appeared in Vanity Fair, April 2002
There are glitzy Los Angeles restaurants – Mortons, Ago, Mr. Chow – where Hollywood’s top stars and reigning moguls go to be seen. Then there are no-nonsense spots where the same A-list crowd goes to simply eat in peace: the Apple Pan in Westwood, Nate ‘n Al’s Deli in Beverly Hills, O’Brien’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Santa Monica, and Pink’s in the heart of Hollywood.
Brad Pitt has been known to stand in line at Pink’s, the hot-dog shack that’s been putting wieners in buns for 62 years (and where Orson Welles used to regularly down 10 chili dogs in one sitting).
‘Who’s the guy, Opie? He comes in,’ says Martha Gamble, the owner-manager of the 26-seat Apple Pan, which has served the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Warren Beatty, and, yes, Ron Howard from the same menu for 55 years.
‘My grandfather taught me, ‘Don’t make it too schmaltzy. I don’t want a red carpet out front,’’ says David Mendelson, a vice president of the family-run company that has made Nate ‘n Al’s the place for matzo brei since 1945. Al, David’s grandpa, made discretion one of the restaurant’s signatures, which is why on any given day you cant still see Dick Van Dyke stopping by Larry King’s table to say hi.
William O’Sullivan, who owns O’Briens, prides himself on welcoming his twice-a-week regulars from suburban Diamond Bar (they’re hooked on his $10 Irish Breakfast) just as warmly as he does Russell Crowe or Benicio del Toro.
‘This is not really a celebrity hangout,’ he says. ‘It’s their place to hide and blend in. Nicole was in here just after she broke up with Tom. I get a thrill out of it myself, but the people around them are usually oblivious.’