The Papal Visit : Papal Digest : Cafe Comes Close to Losing Last Customer

Compiled by Nikki Finke from staff reports

The papal visit created a moment of suspense at the 24-hour Original Pantry Cafe, the downtown restaurant that claims never to have been without a customer since its 1924 opening. But at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, just as the papal parade was set to start, there was no one in the Pantry's dining room and just one person at the counter.

"This could be a first," waiter Jose Estrada said. Just then, Tom Corliss, 23, a part-time student living in Eagle Rock, rode up on his bike. "You open?" Corliss asked. "Always," a relieved Estrada replied.

Corliss decided he could watch the pontiff just as well over bacon and eggs from a window seat at the counter as he could from the street. Estrada even helped him out by standing watch over his bicycle. The suspense subsided when another couple entered the restaurant just after the Popemobile had passed. From then on, people began to trickle in. Pantry supervisor Mario Frisan later said he wouldn't have allowed the cafe to go customer-less and ruin its record. "If need be," he noted, "I'd take off my tie and order myself."

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