Chief among food options for night owls in Downtown, the Pacific Dining Car is L.A.’s most iconic culinary institution. Open 24 hours, seven days a week, the dining car remains famous not only for its food, but also for its roles in several classic L.A. films like ‘Chinatown’, ‘L.A. Confidential’, and ‘Training Day’. In fact, when you order the baseball steak, your server will say one Alonzo Harris line of your choosing. Not really, but being here does make one feel as powerful, or at least as important as the famous on and off-screen villains that dined here. Betty White is a noted regular and has proclaimed her love for the Southern California time capsule on multiple occasions. And who could blame her?
It’s hard not to get swept up in the magic of the place, which currently sits just four years shy of its hundredth birthday. Hard not to look at the old photos on the walls, the painstakingly re-created booth seating, and numerous other train car nuances littered throughout the restaurant and not get transported to a place where the words service and quality mean everything.
The dining car has remained mostly unchanged in appearance as a rapidly developing Downtown L.A. towers higher over it seemingly, more and more each day. But 96 years have come and gone. Change is inevitable. PDC recognizes that and adheres appropriately by featuring an entire late night menu that caters to not just folks who crave a perfect steak at 3am, but those who are looking for something more price-approachable.
The Late Night Menu
The special late night menu can be delivered 24 hours a day, even serving breakfast staples like blueberry pancakes, bacon, and eggs Benedict; they’ve even got an entire vegan menu that has been garnering strong reviews within the community. The late night menu is available for dine-in from 11pm to 6am and 24 hours for delivery.
We sat down with Wes Idol, one-half of the brother-sister team, Wes Idol, that currently manage and own L.A.’s only 4th generation fine dining establishment over dinner before an immaculate table setting, inside an original Pacific Electric Railway car that once enabled the American Industrial Revolution over 100 years ago.
“We were the first 24 hour restaurants in Los Angeles, first to age our steaks, and first to serve wine by the glass. These are things we’re very proud of. These are some of the things that go hand in hand with being around for almost 100 years.”
Idol’s great grandfather was an opera singer. He was actually an apprentice to Caruso. But before he could really take off, his voice broke, and he had to find another career path. So, he and his good friend “Shorty” built the dining car after a restaurant that an Irish family had already started in New York. The Dining Car originally had an underground cellar, but was renovated and now has the one they use to host hundreds of wines today on the main floor.
Getting the meat just right
Because of how long they age their steaks, the process has become extremely refined with PDC having long mastered the process of getting the time, temperature, and humidity perfected.
The Late Night Menu is something that’s been extremely popular with people leaving Downtown and not wanting to have to go somewhere to eat something mass produced and maybe even microwaved. PDC offers something to look forward to and something to reminisce about.
Loving This Job
Wes credits the strong bond with his sister, Conlee Idol for keeping the place running so well.
“She has been my best friend as long as I can remember. Also, the thing I love most about being here in the dining car is the fact that I feel connected to – I feel part of the city, and one of the most diverse cities I might add. This was one of the main reasons for introducing our new late menu and vegan options so that we could make the unique experience of dining here something that could be accessed by all.”
Enter Mark Kalenderian, Executive Chef
Mark Kalenderian, arrived on the scene roughly a year and a half ago and has been burning the “midnight oil”, ever since.
Mark carries the torch, so to speak when it comes to keeping the restaurant’s traditional dishes presented correctly for PDC’s oldest fans. He is also big on steak prep and oversees the aging process that’s important to getting those natural flavors to come out in cooking.
The Pacific Dining Car isn’t just famous for its attention to fine detail and nostalgia. It is also well known for its exclusive intimacy, and up until recently denied the presence of background music in the venue, required all to whisper only to add to the dimly lit hideaway’s charisma. Today, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett may set the mood; calmly, however, as not to disturb the delicately placed white roses, antique furniture, original oil paintings, and other vintage lavishes that earn the respect of both the hopeless romantic and the dining car perfectionist. Here is a place that creates not only the perfect atmosphere for brunch but also remains one of Downtown’s most confidential night owl refuge which dynamically awaits you whilst the rest of Downtown has long fallen into a deep slumber.
Pacific DIning Car is located at 1310 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017. www.pacificdiningcar.com