If there's one place like home, it's the hangout.
Where pork chops come with crackling and fries were potatoes only 10 minutes ago. Home. That's the Pantry on Figueroa.
A thorough, devoted, morning-after-the-night-before hangout comes with ale, honest laughs, old friends and no lonely hearts. That's front parlor. That's the King's Head pub in Santa Monica.
Waiters who fuss like grandparents and booths that haven't budged since 1936. Familiarity breeds contentment. Family. That's Musso and Frank's in Hollywood.
Then there's Patrick's Roadhouse. It's just inside the Pacific Palisades line and has been called Spago's in sweats. It's certainly Cafe de la Paix de la Toots Shor's de la all the real Harry's Bars and Grills.
"I'm here seven days a week and so this is my home, the secret of any such establishment," said established, deferential, preferential owner-maven Bill Fischler. He would have called his place Bill's Roadhouse but one thing stronger than Fischler's ego is the love for his son Patrick. "You are invited to my home for breakfast and I become your friend. You become mine. Nice people generate nice people. That's Patrick's."
That's also a skinny diner in mal de mer green that stares across PCH at Entrada Drive and the Chevron station.
It used to be a Red Car stop before it became Roy's Hot Dogs before it merged with the Entrada Motel and became Patrick's 18 years ago. Up the street stands a building that was the Golden Butterfly with a business devoted to the world's oldest flutterings. Down the street are homes of the rich and the ravenous--the McEnroes, the Schwarzeneggers, the Stallones before they filed for singularity--who can hang out in peace at Patrick's because nobody goes looking for stars at a place that could have been a pilot for Pee Wee's Playhouse.
"I like to shock, I like to amuse," Fischler explained. So his cafe is mismatched chairs and tables and he is mismatched shorts (blue Madras) and shirts (a puce tartan) with Belfast orange knee-highs.
"I like to kibitz," he added. So when a three-piece businessman starts talking stock exchange, "Toooo young," booms Fischler's stage moan, "and soooo rich."
Regulars still wince for the moment when Fischler feigned a punch at one customer. But Sean Penn smiled.
Patrick's Roadhouse is all Fischler, 65, his background (New York, a good address on the Upper East Side, UCLA and a dozen years in South African coffee), his interests (antiques, people, the old days, their courtesies) and his little passions (good coffee, serious breakfasts, loyal friendships).
And he does not hang stars' pictures nor frame his public mentions because that's braying. Quality, he insists, must speak for itself.
Fischler designed Patrick's interior, although it may appear that he threw things at walls. There are framed souvenirs of his life ("The Governor and Lady William-Powlett invite . . . to a reception at Government House, Bulawayo") jamming a mux of nautical kitsch, dreadful portraits of Victorian unknowns, brewers' signs and other European relics laundered through the Antique Guild.
Fischler prepared the menu of standard breakfasts and burgers ("everything fresh, everything made from scratch") and some international nonsense. Such as a Bauerfruhstuck (farmer's breakfast) based on a recipe supplied by Schwarzenegger's mother. It changes breakfast into an excavation of a 17-egg omelette of bell peppers, red peppers, sausage, mushroom, ham, potato, tomatoes, bacon plus whatever else Bauer Fischler has left over.
Fischler has quietly established an "A" seating section. Its center is table 1 and a small throne reserved for Schwarzenegger.
Wednesday morning, early, the chair was occupied by another. Fischler mentioned the chair and that Thursday would be Schwarzenegger's 40th birthday.
"My God," snorted the customer. "A national holiday."
Some men can talk like that about Schwarzenegger.
If they're Ned Tanen, president of Paramount Pictures.
Patrick's Roadhouse, Pacific Coast Highway and Entrada Drive, Pacific Palisades. Seven days, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.