Old School Eats: The Fountain Coffee Room (LA)
I drove up the well hidden path framed by carefully manicured greenery and pulled into valet (only to ask, “is there street parking close by?”), and a rush of old Hollywood imagery washed over me. Frames from The Way We Were and Shampoo fluttered about as I fell into a movie star k-hole. After some light tennis, I shared a languorous lunch with Katherine Hepburn. Later Douglas Fairbanks walked by and tipped his hat to me and Babs Streisand as we sipped on spiked lemonade cocktails, which were sent over to us by Warren Beatty.
Oh Warren, you old dog you….
About five minutes into this obsessive daydream I snapped out of it and walked into the lobby of this impressively seductive hotel.
This hotel not only served as historical touchstone in old Hollywood, but also as a lynch pin to one of the biggest controversies in American history. This is the same hotel where G. Gordon Liddy sank Nixon’s second term by calling a top aide staying at The Beverly Hills Hotel, firmly establishing the Nixon office’s involvement in the Watergate scandal.
After I basked a bit in this initial awesomeness, I walked past the ubiquitously swank Polo Club, and followed the spiral staircase downstairs to meet the other patrons lined up for a counter seat at The Fountain Coffee Room.
The Fountain Coffee Room takes you back to 1959; salmon pink wallpaper, wrought iron, bar chairs and a cast of regulars perusing the Sunday paper. After waiting 20 minutes for a seat, we took three sturdy ones at the counter. Behind the counter, there was a manager, a bus boy, two short order cooks and a waitress, who the locals called Ruth (I’m pretty sure that was her real name).
The menu presented a clean and pink variety of classic breakfast items.
We ordered coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.
I was starving and intensely conflicted about what I should order (everything, duhhh). I settled on silver dollar pancakes, a side of corned beef hash and a side of avocado. My fellow diners ordered an omelette with spinach and Swiss cheese served with a side of hash browns, “fresh croissants” and a side of bacon. In true diner fashion, “fresh” just meant that the croissant were once frozen and reheated in house.
The pancakes arrived warm and fluffy, served with a conservative amount of butter (oh, California, whatever are we to do with you?) and a small personal bottle of maple syrup. The mini-flapjacks were good, but I’m sad to say they looked better than they tasted. (I have a theory about why this is, but I’ll save my LA specific, culinary conspiracy theories for another day).
Next arrived my side of corned beef hash, and in retrospect, I should have ordered it well done, as it was an underwhelming and undercooked pile of mush.
I feel like I’m picking on an old person here, they’re set in their ways right?
In all fairness, the more that I think about it, I want diner food to make me feel like I’m hungover, regardless if I really am and this just wasn’t that. Despite, how pretty it looked, the food at The Fountain Coffee Shop was just too clean and bland; muted, overpriced versions of American favorites. It’s not like it was particularly bad, but like so many movies we see today, the food was sadly forgettable.
I can’t be disappointed, I just have to accept that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
*Photo assistance by Kiki Allgeier (thanks!)