A Paean to The Pan
Nicole Rucker on the magic of venerable burger & pies oasis Apple Pan
Something a lot of people don’t suspect about me is that I am a rule follower. I fucking love rules and a good established sense of order. I love the post office. I aim to be the one person in line that respects the process, even when it’s outdated and infuriating. I will be the person who smiles and says thank you with shoes in hand and my personal items in the bin.
My husband – at that time my boyfriend – first brought me to the Apple Pan for burgers and pie before a movie. It was early on in our relationship. He was showing me a place where he grew up eating and has always loved.
That first meal had me excited: Finally, a place in Los Angeles where there is zero hierarchy. At the Apple Pan, everyone is the same. Same service (brisk/assertive/efficient). Same quality product (its motto, after all, being “quality forever”).
I felt understood. The service from a local legend named Gordon was helpful but slightly shaming in a way that made me want to be better so that I could feel proud of my ordering skills and impress him.
The second time I dined at the famous horseshoe counter, I sat and rattled off my order with confidence. “Hickory Burger with cheese, no lettuce, well done fries, and a Coke.” Gordon actually nodded his approval and, maybe, he smiled a little at me? But I fucked up by not having good change in the end. An all-cash business respects you more when you have good change.
No need to look at the menu, although we always do. We know what we want. If I am lucky and I’ve staked my spot well, I get to sit directly next to the pie window. During the day when the baker is meticulously cleaning his station and the oven is hot, I smile so big and want to run back there and high-five this guy and yell, “YOU ARE AMAZING I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” and bow to him. The baker at the Apple Pan makes the same pies, over and over, with consistent results, day in and day out. It’s basically Zen art, almost Japanese in its artisanship and dedication. I own a bakery. I have highly skilled bakers, and please take my word for it that the consistent quality of pie found at the Apple Pan is a Herculean task.
I make a lot of pie. I will eat any pie – except pecan, which is total trash – but the banana cream pie they have been serving at the Apple Pan since basically the beginning of time is and will always be THE pie. I mean, until I get there on the random day they serve the boysenberry cream pie, and then for that day that is THE pie.
I don’t even like apple pie that much. Their apple pie, however – served with a fucking styrofoam cup full of apple pie sauce and a huge mountain of French vanilla ice cream – is 100% the most crucial version of apple pie on the west coast. I’ve tried a lot of apple pie. Please do not argue. Also, please don’t talk to me about the coffee, which I will drink several cups of, served boiling hot from a percolator with heavy cream. It is nectar of the gods. It is also garbage. I love it so much.
Once I saw Gordon on his bike, near the apple pan. I hadn’t seen him in a while and I was worried he was dead. I mean, he’s an older gentleman so that’s not a weird assumption. Turns out he fell and broke his hip and had decided to retire. He had recovered and was biking for his health.
“Please don’t talk to me about the coffee, which I will drink several cups of, served boiling hot from a percolator with heavy cream. It is nectar of the gods. It is also garbage. I love it so much.”
In a dining culture where the customer is always right and a little greasing of the palm and status gets you a nice table and a free appetizer, it gives me great joy that this place exists. Its egalitarian service model bruises many egos. It knocks many men down from lofty positions. Everyone loves this strange truth the most about their visit to the Apple Pan, as if it’s a humbling reprieve from status. You are just like everyone else. You are not really that important. Sorry, not sorry.
It also helps that it’s the best burger and pie and people watching in the city. Please don’t even fucking start with the Pie and Burger argument. I’ve done the research.
All Hail the Apple Pan. Quality Forever.