At The Old Place, Talking Invaluable Old Values over Pre-Prohibition Beer
By Amelia Rynkowska
I am constantly drawn to old wood cabin eateries. It could be the Nordic in me or just the rarity of being able to appreciate a wilder, gritty and more distinctive composition in comparison to the plethora of soulless concrete structures, with only their names differentiating them from next-door fast food joints, to carouse through.
The Old Place is one of these personality fertile wooden formations, with malleable twisted beams and weathered planks, revealing stories like the scars on the back of an aging hand or a frantic handwritten declaration. It is a characterful ‘historic’ post office turned restaurant offering cowboy style dining, where contented staff serve up hearty staples such as beef stew and chicken pot pie (there are vegetarian and fish options), all either locally grown or sourced and always seasonal. Dishes are served in iron skillets with mottled silverware to adorn the broke back mountain set dressed tables.
It is a place deeply rooted in the community and has nurtured relations with the mighty rocks of the Santa Monica Mountains since the 1870s. The original family still own it, locals work in it and people like me frequent it to feel like Ali McGraw circa Steve McQueen and to expand my stomach in a place, which has not been sterilized by greedy pockets, nor serves thawed food for a fast flutter. Its popularity is testament to a community that cares and appreciates its resistance to expand and sell out by cashing in on a popular tourist destination. They do not kowtow to hungry diners and in doing so have solidified the loyalty of returning regulars even if the dish they have requested on occasion is, “˜sold out’.
Almost always booked up and with a capacity of only 69, the main dining hub is similar to a frontier saloon, made up of dark wooden booths, mirroring the bar, which is first come first serve and lined with merry diners and Stetson-wearing locals. Paintings, memorabilia and homely dining room trinkets adorn the walls. A local youth house band could spontaneously show up at any time, Thursday through to Sunday, and will serenade you as you sip on your pre-prohibition larger and tuck into your fully loaded baked potato. Yes, they do play a rendition of The Band’s, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. For larger groups, the Mail Room is an atmospheric back room where nostalgic inked personal notes and old letters litter the shelves on the wall. Lit by gothic style candles dripping to form wax turrets, it is more congruous to pirate cabin quarters and I am sure treasure maps of secret hikes have been penciled on scraps of old ordering pad paper. On the way to the restroom, look out for the wondering albino peacocks, who cozy up to the warm motorcycle engines parked outside.
Whilst digesting the home skillet baked cookie dessert one night last week, I realised how invaluable old values are, how old places, engaging spiel and visceral recognition experienced on a full stomach nurtures the human spirit and in the technology centric age we live in, a hark back to the Wild West, conversing merrily over simple, unadulterated food is cerebral medicine and an emotional tonic.
Amelia Rynkowska is a London born writer who obtained her degree in International Relations before pursing a career in fashion journalism. Her spontaneity saw her migrate to Los Angeles where she is now based and focuses on writing about sustainability, travel and lifestyle. Her interests include health conscious culinary experimentation, poetry and film photography. Follow her on instagram: AmeliaRynkowska for more ethereal Californian imagery orwww.spottedbylocals.com/losangeles for bite sized reviews of local gems.
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