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The Original Pantry Celebrates 85 Years of No Major Changes

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2009, at 09:32AM
ExitPantry Ed Fuentes

"Never been closed . ." is the proud declaration made at the entrance of The Pantry. It first opened in 1924, just one block west of its current location. It has been at 9th and Fig since 1950.

The Original Pantry celebrated its 85th year on Wednesday in simple Pantry style; some balloons marked the day, a small birthday cake sat in the corner, and a low-priced short stack of pancakes specials were served. It made for a no-nonsense celebration that reflected the 9th and Figueroa eatery that is never closed and never without a customer.

The main doors do not have working locks, and if you wander in at 2:30am you may glimpse the place empty of customers, but just briefly.

It's more typical to see long lines of workers, regulars, and newcomers wrapping outside the building, waiting to dig into the popular breakfasts. As it happens, breakfast outsells dinner and for two years now The Pantry has carried a modified morning menu for the whole day.

That has been just about the biggest change for The Pantry in quite a while.

While the place is a bit rough around the edges, and waiters are not afraid to speak briskly, Manager David Wall's standing orders are simple. Don't fancy up anything. That's at the behest of owner Richard Riordan, the former Los Angeles Mayor who saved the Pantry from development 20 years ago.

“It’s authentic and kept that way," says Wall. “Menu items are surveyed and they have to add to the ambiance. They have to be Pantry-esque in its reality.”

The regulars can also be regarded as Pantry-esque. On Fall weekends, gruff solo diners mix with USC alum in town for a game. The night has clubbers wearing black next to Laker fans wearing Purple and Gold. Not only do lawyers sit next to construction workers, they know each other.

The Pantry's way is not for all. Many feel the food is too heavy, that the service is brusk, or that the lines simply aren't worth the wait. People keep waiting, though, so apparently they're doing something right.

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