I'm typing this sitting under the umbrellas at Irv's Burgers, a Fifties era hamburger stand in West Hollywood. It's a notoriously friendly neighborhood place and it reminds me of something that first struck me when I moved to LA from Atlanta: for all its trendiness, LA has a distinctly old fashioned attitude toward dining. In most of the country, if you drive down the street looking for a quick bite to eat, you will see the same places serving the same food.
It's true that national chains are eating away at local dining, but the independents and local chains like Tommy's and Zankou's still dominate much of the town. Part of the reason is certainly the loyalty these spots inspire. Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold once refused to say whether he preferred Apple Pan or Pie N' Burger because he didn't want to deal with the letters from the patrons of the spot he didn't pick.
I was having a cheeseburger at Apple Pan last week and I got into a conversation with the man sitting next to me. He had been coming there weekly for over fifty years, only slightly longer than the counterman had been there.
There are plenty of regulars here at Irv's, walking in and picking up old conversations through the pick-up window with the family that owns the place. There's a comfortable, small town vibe here that you can find in most of LA. That's not something most of the world associates with LA, but the locals know.