Giant, oven-baked pancakes, lip smacking-good fried chicken, homemade chicken pot pie, old folks, young folks, black folks, white folks. Dinah’s Family Restaurant is one big L.A. melting pot of food and friendliness. You’ll delight in Dinah’s if you’re looking for comfort food in a low-key, retro coffee shop setting.
Stepping into Dinah’s is like taking a step back into a kinder, gentler time. Opened in 1959 and still family owned, the restaurant’s décor probably hasn’t been updated much since. Big, comfortable red leather booths and a counter lined with matching red leather stools decorate the main room and the adjacent alcove. These are the best areas in which to enjoy Dinah’s in all its glory. A back room has plenty of space if the front room is full, but it’s a plain-looking, impersonal addition to the restaurant.
The Dinah’s crowd is an interesting mix of cute little old couples, families, lunchtime business diners and crazy ladies eating alone and playing the bingo games aired on dining room monitors. The attentive wait staff has been there forever and knows how to get your food to your table in a jiffy. Kitschy, homemade holiday decorations add to the one-of-a-kind atmosphere, hanging from the ceilings and walls no matter the holiday.
Dinah’s biggest draw is probably breakfast. The first time I came to Dinah’s was for breakfast with my college roommates at nearby Loyola Marymount University. Students from LMU still come to try one of the items for which Dinah’s is best known: the oven-baked pancakes. Baked to order with a 20-minute cooking time, choices include the large apple pancake with fresh apple and cinnamon glaze, the German pancake served with powdered sugar and lemon wedges, or the oven-baked banana walnut pancake. Unless you plan to share, you might want to order the smaller version, since when Dinah’s says large, they mean it. You can also order every variety of regular flat pancake, chicken and waffles, egg dishes and sausage and biscuits.
Dinah’s fried chicken is just as famous as its baked pancakes. Angelenos recognize the giant “tub of chicken”-shaped sign that sits over the take-out department. The sign, a Los Angeles landmark, was the first tub-shaped sign every seen in the city, according to the restaurant’s owners. Dinah’s original chicken recipe is a secret that has been perfected over the years with a blending of flours, herbs and spices. In addition to the original recipe, you can choose from chipotle, honey and cinammon varieties. All are made without cooking oils. The original recipe chicken is a family take out favorite at my house with mashed potatoes and rolls for sides. You can also pick up a fresh-baked pie in just about every flavor if you still have room for dessert.
Whatever you order at Dinah’s will probably satisfy your appetite. But it’s the feeling of comfort and an appreciation for the fellow diners who come to Dinah’s, yearning for comfort and a feeling of home, that will stick with you until it’s time to visit again. Dinah’s is located at 6521 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. www.dinahsrestaurant.com