Intersections: No-frills diner is a paean to kitsch

Last week, on my way home from seeing friends Friday night, hunger pains set in as I drove along Los Feliz Boulevard. It was 2 a.m., rain was softly grating down my windshield and I hadn't had dinner. There was only one solution in sight: Conrad's.

It was late, but the parking lot was full and the atmosphere buzzing on the corner of Central Avenue. As I slid into an empty booth with a laminated forest green menu it felt like I was home.

For many years, I have kept my love affair with Glendale's only 24-hour diner hidden, but I think it's time to finally come clean.

I love Conrad's.

If you're a food snob whose culinary experiences are only worthwhile when they consist of some heightened gastronomic state of nirvana, you should stop reading and head on over to the west side for some overpriced coffee with clever foam art and a meal from the latest food truck before you have a nervous breakdown.

If you, like me, have an obsession with kitsch and know how to appreciate no-frills food in a low-key setting, humor me by reading on.

Here's what makes this 30-year-old Glendale staple so great: It isn't pretending to be something it's not. It's a place where you come to satisfy late-night cravings, a place where you can get a simple baked potato with your favorite toppings or a single poached egg if you really feel like one — no questions asked.

No fancy combo meals, no plates with sauce dripped in elaborate geometric shapes, no insistent, pretentious waiters who look like they've emerged from the set of “True Blood” — just our own personal, Glendalian version of “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name, and if they don't, they will sooner or later.

It's a place where what you're eating isn't as important as the memories you're making, where there's never a lull in conversation or grilled cheese sandwiches and tortilla soup. I love Conrad's for the same reason I love Eurovision, that monstrous explosion of glitter and bad songs that gave us the likes of Abba, and the ‘90s sitcom “The Nanny.”

I love Conrad's for the same reasons I love Canter’s Deli or my new favorite, the White Horse Inn Cocktail Lounge, a dive bar on Western Avenue in East Hollywood run by two Hungarian sisters who hand out popcorn and hot dogs to patrons sitting on plaid couches while the stylings of the Gypsy Kings emerge from the juke box: It feels like you're among family or friends, even if you don't know everyone.

We're lucky to live in a city where we can enjoy all the culinary delights and flavors from various parts of the world prepared by fabulous award-winning chefs, but once in a while, it's nice to come home to Conrad's, where they serve to serve again.

LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic.

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