Bill Friday and a special guest taste for themselves the specialty of the house at the legendary Redondo Beach eatery The Original Pancake House.
"A restaurant review in three-and-a-half acts."
I stood waiting in the parking lot, the heat rising in waves from the black asphalt. My guest had two minutes before I tossed my melting flip-flops into the trash and headed to the nearest Peet’s Coffee for a sourdough hockey puck and an iced coffee to go.
It was two minutes to ten and already so hot my lungs were starting to sweat.
I turned to head for my car.
“Bill Friday, ye dead sexy man!”
The voice thundered through the gray, humid air. I thought I felt the first drop of rain.
“Hey Friday! Ye promised me a BABY and I’m here to…
Behind me in the parking lot, I heard a small child scream. I turned to see her mother scoop her up and hold her tight. Mom looked like she didn’t know to run or ask my guest for an autograph.
“I want my baby-back-baby-back-baby-back, I want my baby-back-baby-back-baby-back…”
He wore a kimono, and his hair was swept up on top of his head, held there by a leather thong. He wore wooden slippers on his stocking feet.
“Oooh, what a beautiful BABY! Hey Mommy! Bring me that BABY! Hey BABY! Get in my BELLLEEE!”
Well at least he was on time.
Inside The Original Pancake House, a Redondo Beach legend since the 1960’s, my guest and I seated ourselves at a table in the center of the restaurant. The place was packed. It’s always packed. I slipped the manager a five-spot and he showed us to a table.
I took the chair. He took the bench… and the bench at the next table, too. The air conditioning began to take effect. My lungs felt drier and my guest’s skin looked a little less waxy.
Our waitress came to us, pad in hand. She was young and thin and looked like Carrie Ann Inaba. She looked unsure, like a schoolgirl trapped in a locker room full of varsity wrestlers late on a Friday afternoon. From three-arms-length she asked us if we knew what we wanted.
“No! Fook Yu you Fat Bastard!” she shouted back.
A lot like Carrie Ann Inaba.
“I came for The BABY!”
She didn’t bat an eye.
“And coffee… black. I’m watchin’ me girlish figure.”
She giggled like a school girl too. She looked at me and smiled.
“Make it two.”
She started to leave.
“Oh, and a side of ham… and another side of ham… and… let’s just make it two babies, three sides of ham, and… well if I need something else I know where to find ye, eh?”
He looked at me, at the waitress, and back at me. Loud enough for the whole place to hear he said,
“I love it when a woman will still talk dirty to ya’ over breakfast!”
Still giggling, she left our table. As she went, my guest leaned in close, as if to whisper something to me.
“I wonder if she has a sister.”
My guest and I made small talk while we waited. I asked him if he still kept in touch with any of the old gang. He said little Scott e-mails him from prison now and again. I told him I still see Foxy when she’s in town. And that news woman keeps calling… what was her name…? Oh yeah, Leyna Nguyen.
Our waitress was back, trays of food on each arm. None of it for me. She off-loaded the two babies.
My guest looked confused. It was the look of a starving man when you hand him a fishing pole instead of a fish.
“What in the name of all that’s EVIL is this?”
“It’s your order you Fat Bastard!”
“But I ordered BABIES! I’m here to eat BABIES!” The waitress giggled. She set the “Babies” down gently in front of my guest.
“ These BABIES you order! No other BABIES on menu!” She looked at me and giggled.
“You that writer guy… Friday?”
Tentatively, I nodded.
“I like writers. Sister like writers too.”
She leaned in, close.
“I give you baby soon.” She smiled. “Maybe sister give you baby too.”
Giggling again, she hurried to the kitchen.
“This is some full-service joint! And I LOVE these BABIES too!”
And who wouldn’t? The “Dutch Baby”, an Original Pancake House creation, is like a cross between a soufflé, an omlette, and a stack of pancakes, all in a one-foot-in-diameter-sized pastry. A special, tropical syrup is optional, but recommended. Combined with any of the available sides, just one baby is enough to make anybody full for the rest of the morning.
Anybody except the Fat Bastard sitting across the table from me.
“Now if I could just get the number of that waitress and her sister…”
My guest finished his sides of sausage using only his plate as a utensil. He knocked off the last of the babies, then delicately sipped his black coffee.
He looked sad, like the experience of eating two Dutch Babies somehow wasn’t enough.
“Friday, d’ya know why I eat?”
I shook my head.
“I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle. I once lost a lot of weight on the Subway diet but now… I’ve got more chins than a Chinese phonebook!”
His whole body seemed to shake with the effort truth. One of his chins smacked into the cup in his hand, spilling the coffee onto the enormous plate. Looking down at once was two babies, he spoke softly.
“I do still seem to have a bit of excess skin though, don’t I?”
He looked me in the eyes.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I need to get in touch with and forgive… ME-SELF!”
His cell phone rang. He looked to see who it was.
“I have to take this… It’s Goldmember. HALLOO? Johan, y’dead sexy man ye, how’s…”
After what seemed like nine months, the waitress finally delivered my baby. I told her I didn’t want it anymore. This seemed to bother her, but I had no idea why.
“After all I do for you, now you no want BABY! All writers alike… BASTARD!”
“I’m not The Bastard, HE’S The Bastard!” I struggled for words. “Maybe he wants the baby!”
“Not his baby!”
“Are you sure about that?”
She burst into tears, held the baby to her chest, and ran for the kitchen.
“Come back! Fook Me!...”
“No Fook Me! Fook Yu!”
And she was gone.
Back in the parking lot, my guest was still on the phone.
“Absolutely Johan! I’ll be right there!”
He closed the phone and tucked it somewhere inside his kimono. God only knows where.
“Friday, I’m off to meet an old friend for coffee. He says there’s this great place on Avenue G… looks like a colostomy bag exploded in the bathroom, but the House blend is to die for…LITTERALLY! AHH, HA-HA-HA!”
I asked him if he needed a ride. He told me no, that the walk might do him good.
“Y’know Friday, life’s short. Too short to hold a grudge. And it’s a long road ahead and… ahh, who am I kidding, I’m gonna kill him anyway!”
Sweating again, he turned to go up PCH. I thought about going with him for coffee, but I burned that bridge a long time ago. My phone rang. I answered.
“Friday organization... Number Two...? No , more like forever!... Starbucks in the Village...? Oh, and give my love to Leyna!”
I hung up and started walking toward Riviera Village.
The Original Pancake House is locataed at 1756 S. Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. You can call them at 310-543-9875 for hours, directions and other questions about the "Dutch Baby". They will, however, deny all knowledge of the writer known as Bill Friday.
Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday