I’ve long had a goal to dine at every remaining historic restaurant in Los Angeles as I believe any dining establishment that’s managed to stay in business for decades is something special. I do eat at several regularly like Tam O’Shanter, The Apple Pan and Miceli’s but others, like Pacific Dining Car, have eluded me. In business since 1921 it’s a downtown staple but its expensive menu has kept me away. Recently, I happened upon a coupon and decided it was a sign to finally book a reservation.
Pacific Dining Car has two locations, downtown and Santa Monica. The downtown location is the original so I knew that’s just where I wanted to go. Located on Wilshire near MacArtnur Park it’s nestled in a neighborhood that’s seen better times. Despite this the restaurant remains a beautiful, high end establishment that’s open 24 hours a day.
Though a late night meal was tempting I opted to book a reservation for two (I took my sister, Shannon, another landmark restaurant enthusiast) for 6pm on a recent Saturday night. It was an early enough hour that allowed us to beat the dinner rush and have one of their posh dining rooms all to ourselves.
The service hearkens back to a more formal time and the tuxedo clad waiters were consistently attentive and we were treated like royalty.
My coupon entitled me to a free baseball steak, one of Pacific Dining Cars signature items, and Shannon thought it sounded so good she ordered one as well. The steak is served à la carte so we opted for citrus asparagus, potatoes au gratin and truffle macaroni and cheese as our side dishes. It’s also offered with a choice of toppings so Shannon requested truffle butter and I opted for grilled mushrooms and onions.
Our steaks arrived swiftly and they looked absolutely delicious. We eagerly dug in and…wow, they tasted incredible. They were perfectly cooked and were so tender each bite melted in our mouths. And the flavor! Perfectly seasoned they would have been delicious to eat without any toppings. Our waiter told us they were dry aged in house for 3 days and the effort certainly paid off!
When placing our order most of the sides were listed for one so I assumed they’d be added to our plates. Umm…
They were huge! The à la carte steak would have been plenty but I made an effort to try my sides. The asparagus was fresh and wonderfully charred but I didn’t quite care for the citrus flavor and the au gratin potatoes were rich and flavorful. I managed a few bites and took the rest home to enjoy the next day.
Despite filling up on our entrees we couldn’t leave without dessert so we ordered the Brown Butter Apple Cornmeal Cake.
Our waiter informed us that every dessert item (except ice cream) was made in house and I believe it. The cake, served with apple butter, whipped cream and apple cinnamon ice cream, was out of this world good and we ate up every bite.
After years of anticipation Pacific Dining Car did not disappoint. Its beautiful interior, impeccable service and, above all, delicious food made for a wonderful meal. Even with the coupon it was quite expensive but, honestly, was worth every penny. There’s a reason the restaurant has endure for so many decades and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to enjoy it.