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A Meal Deal That May Be Hard to Swallow

The Original Pantry Cafe earns a mention in the “America’s Best Meal Deals” section of the 1998-99 Zagat Survey. But its owner--Mayor Richard Riordan--may have trouble swallowing some of the guidebook’s wisecracks.

While the 74-year-old Figueroa Street eatery is described as a “classic,” the survey includes such descriptions of its food as “the true definition of cholesterol” (breakfasts) and “cardiac coleslaw” (accompanying the “massive steaks”).

As for the mayor’s ownership, Zagat says: “True mayoral grease.”

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THE POWER OF CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES? Ted Rogers of West L.A. came upon two signs at a Mrs. Fields store that offered “funeral arrangements” as well as a “wedding special.” No, the store doesn’t sell cookie wreaths. Actually, this Fields outlet had just been replaced by a flower shop, which had posted its specialties but not its name (see photo).

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THE IRS--OUT OF CONTROL AS USUAL: Rob and Leslie Hiestand of L.A. noticed on their tax return that the IRS was asking them to perform the impossible--"return” and “keep” the same “portion” (see accompanying). Like I’ve said before, if the IRS can fine taxpayers for mistakes, why can’t taxpayers do the same with the IRS?

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BARBIE, WE NEVER KNEW . . . : “Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour,” Susan Stern’s PBS special the other night, showed the perky blond as you’ve never seen her--and as El Segundo-based Mattel would never want you to see her. Stern found such non-Mattel sanctioned scenes as:

* An art show that displayed Tonya Harding Barbie, Hooker Barbie and Homeless Barbie (with syringe.)

* “Barbie players” identified only as Carolina and Barbara, who conduct sadomasochistic games with the dolls--Whips and Chains Barbie!--and Ken.

* A Nativity scene in the Philippines consisting solely of Barbie dolls (the bearded Barbie was Joseph).

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* News clips of strange occurrences such as the person in Philadelphia who complained that her co-workers were deep-frying a Barbie doll in a “voodoo ritual.”

Luckily, Barbie dolls are very low in cholesterol.

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STRIP TEST: The question in Wednesday’s column, you may recall, was: What do you call the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street? The answer varies from region to region.

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Mel Stein and several other readers said that it’s generally called a “parkway” in Southern California.

But it’s a “tree lawn” in the Midwest and parts of the East and South, said Renee and Bernie Hershey, Marc Herman and Sally Donohue.

Explained Donohue: “In many cases this area was maintained by the city and normally had trees planted, often the same species. For instance in Atlanta, many tree lawns have dogwood trees.”

Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, however, Tricia Lowe heard another term. “My mom always said, ‘Go out and mow the ‘boulevard.’ ”

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Thanks for mentioning Anchorage, Tricia. I feel cooler now.

MiscelLAny:

Several readers invented their own terms for the grassy strip, including one who phoned to suggest “street walk strip.” Then she phoned back to say, “Make ‘streetwalk’ all one word.” Then she phoned a third time to say, “Please forget what I said! I never thought of the association. . . .” Guess she realized what you would have to call residents who traversed “streetwalks.”


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