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A Friday morning at a SoCal institution, Norms

A customer peers into Norms Restaurant in West Hollywood on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.
A customer peers into Norms Restaurant in West Hollywood on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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It’s Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, two days after Christmas. It’s hovering in the mid-60s outside. We’re in West Hollywood, Calif., where a modern-day, Southern California sun-tinted version of a Norman Rockwell painting plays out every morning at 470 N. La Cienega Blvd.

We’re at Norms, and the people are hungry.

Eric Epperson, left, and Tony Jones enjoy breakfast at Norms in West Hollywood.
Eric Epperson, left, and Tony Jones enjoy breakfast at Norms in West Hollywood.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Waitress Maria Mundo serves breakfast to a hungry family at Norms in West Hollywood.
Waitress Maria Mundo serves breakfast to a hungry family at Norms in West Hollywood.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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The dining room at Norms is packed on this Friday morning as waitress Anita Area takes down an order.
The dining room at Norms is packed on this Friday morning as waitress Anita Area jots down an order.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

What’s on the menu? Pretty much everything. We’re at Norms, buddy. There are around 150 different menu items.

The Clubhouse is a classic: a triple-decker sandwich constructed of white bread and strata of turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato. A T-bone steak and fried shrimp for dinner? Of course. How do you want that cooked? If you want a classic meatloaf lathered in gravy, you can have that too (or just make it at home).

But if you’re like most, you’re here for breakfast. Two eggs, ham, two strips of bacon, two links of sausage, hash browns and hotcakes will set you back ... $8.99.

The Bigger Better Breakfast is one of the bestselling items at Norms.
The Bigger Better Breakfast is one of the bestselling items at Norms.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Breakfast at a diner is comforting. The meal, the setting, the people and the experience are all reliable. It’s why actor Peter Stormare has been coming here for 22 years. His weekly breakfast at Norms includes three eggs, home fries and four strips of bacon.

“It’s pretty much always the same here and I think that’s what people like about Norms,” Stormare said.

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Actor Peter Stormare with his favorite waitress at Norms, Ruthie Krocker. Krocker’s smile has been welcoming diners for 44 years.
Actor Peter Stormare with his favorite waitress at Norms, Ruthie Krocker. Krocker’s smile has been welcoming diners for 44 years.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Smiling beside Stormare is Ruthie Krocker. She’s been a waitress at Norms for 44 years. Her name tag reads “Mama Ruthie.” As Jenn Harris writes, “This is the face you want to see first thing in the morning.”

Ruthie Krocker has been setting plates of pancakes, topping off cups of coffee and warmly welcoming guests at Norms for 44 years.
Ruthie Krocker has been setting plates of pancakes, topping off cups of coffee and warmly welcoming guests at Norms for 44 years.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The company that bought Norms restaurants six years ago is expanding the brand. How the 70-year-old chain plans to stay the same to get ahead.

Krocker has come to love the rhythm and tempo of the diner, from the frenetic ballet in the kitchen ...

Cooks hurriedly prepare orders at Norms on a busy Friday morning.
Cooks hurriedly prepare orders at Norms on a busy Friday morning.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

... to the clatter of plates and silverware, punctuating the perpetual hum of the dining room.

Waitress Sonia Bernal clears plates from a table at Norms in West Hollywood.
Waitress Sonia Bernal clears plates from a table.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

As one wave of satisfied diners leaves, another group of hungry hopefuls is ushered in.

Hostess Hope Voedisch moves swiftly to greet customers.
Hostess Hope Voedisch moves swiftly to greet customers.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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All the while, smiles served by all.

Amid the chaos of a post-Christmas December morning at Norms, customer Paul Welch and waitress Lynda Sato find a moment to share a smile for the camera.
Amid the chaos of a post-Christmas December morning at Norms, customer Paul Welch and waitress Lynda Sato find a moment to share a smile for the camera.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Life is indeed happening at Norms.

Norms’ distinctive sawtooth pennant sign.
Norms’ distinctive sawtooth pennant sign.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


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Jenn Harris is a senior writer for the Food section and is also the fried chicken queen of L.A. She has a BA in literary journalism from UCI and an MA in journalism from USC. Follow her @Jenn_Harris_.
Genaro Molina is an award-winning staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times.
Brian Park is a digital editor for the Los Angeles Times.