From one end of the country to the other, there are a lot of little gems out there. However, before visiting Los Angeles, I never envisioned that a down-home restaurant could be found in the city of freeways and subdivisions. Nevertheless, Vickman's Restaurant and Bakery, located in the hub of the wholesale produce and flower markets, is just such an oddity.
When Mordecai Vickman opened the restaurant in 1930, it was known as Vickman's Feed Bag. In the half-century since, the name has become more elegant, but the food is just as plentiful. Mordecai's son, Harry, runs the place now, and its cafeteria line still is the place where truckers and early morning revelers line up for breakfast at 3 a.m.
It is known for an odd assortment of good food -- its kosher dill pickles, Italian rum cake and pecan-studded fruitcake. Needless to say, its location means it always has dishes of the most luscious fruit available on the market at rock-bottom prices.
Like any good restaurant with a past, Vickman's has endearing traditions. One of them takes place the day before Thanksgiving, when two-thirds of the dining room is closed and 3,000 apple, pumpkin, mince and blueberry pies are stacked on tables. All sell in one day, a testament to head baker Bob Pena and his expert crew.
Vickman's is the kind of place tourists rarely find. Even some natives are unaware of it. I took my former roommate, a Los Angeles lawyer who was born and raised in the city, to Vickman's for her first visit only last year. She now is one of its Saturday morning faithful.
Like all fans of out-of-the-way restaurants, the customers are not attracted by advertising, ambiance, prestige or the ability to use a credit card. The President's plan to drop tax deductions for meals costing more than $25 will make no dent on these American food halls.