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Foodies in the Field: All-night L.A. eateries

By David Rust, CNN
Photojournalist David Rust has worked for CNN for 30 years.
Photojournalist David Rust has worked for CNN for 30 years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Rust covered stories around the clock while working in Los Angeles
  • These spots offer classic American food at odd hours of the day and night
  • Philippe the Original features community tables and sawdust-covered concrete floors

With Foodies in the Field, CNN staffers share restaurant tips for their home bases or places they've visited on assignment.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- I've been a photojournalist for CNN since before it went on the air in 1980. My work has taken me to war zones around the world, where I've sampled mystery meats I can't identify to this day.

In the field: David Rust

I've eaten while submerged in a fast attack nuclear submarine traveling under the Arctic ice pack, had dinner with Fidel Castro and eaten barbecue with Ronald Reagan.

On assignment: Los Angeles, California

I worked in the Los Angeles bureau covering stories around the clock. These three L.A. spots offer classic American food at odd hours of the day and night:

Pacific Dining Car

Hours: Open 24 hours

The Pacific Dining Car's banana-pecan pancakes are popular with customers.
The Pacific Dining Car's banana-pecan pancakes are popular with customers.

Cuisine: Steakhouse

Price: Breakfast usually costs about $30 per person and dinner is about $70 per person.

I discovered this downtown restaurant, open since 1921, after covering a massive office building fire. When I finished the shoot at 3 a.m., Pacific Dining Car was the only full-service restaurant open in the area.

It is upscale in both food and prices and has the feel of an old-time steakhouse complete with white linen tablecloths. It is well known for prime beef aged and cut on site.

My favorite meal here is the more affordable breakfast. The banana-pecan pancakes are popular, with Dining Car sausage or applewood smoked bacon. Coffee is made fresh every 15 minutes.

The Original Pantry Café

Hours: Open 24 hours, even holidays

The Original Pantry Cafe was Rust's preferred destination when he was covering the courts.
The Original Pantry Cafe was Rust's preferred destination when he was covering the courts.

Cuisine: Coffee shop/diner

Price: Breakfast usually costs about $10 and dinner costs about $13.

Located in the heart of downtown, the Original Pantry was my preferred breakfast destination when covering the courts, either trials at the Federal Court or the Los Angeles Lakers basketball court nearby.

During peak hours people lined up in the street for this landmark eatery that never closes. The same wait staff has been serving huge portions to Pantry patrons for years.

Breakfast is probably the most popular meal. For $5.95, you can get a huge ham steak, eggs, toast and potatoes. Dinner is usually less crowded but offers standards and daily specials such as short ribs at bargain prices.

Philippe the Original

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Philippe the Origianl is a two-story restaurant between Chinatown and Union Station.
Philippe the Origianl is a two-story restaurant between Chinatown and Union Station.

Cuisine: Deli

Price: Average meal is $9.

The two-story restaurant between Chinatown and Union Station features community tables and sawdust-covered concrete floors. The walls are covered with historical newspapers and local memorabilia.

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Food is ordered cafeteria-style at the counter and served on paper plates. Opened in 1908, Philippe's still serves a cup of hot coffee for 9 cents! The owners claim to have originated the French dip sandwich, which is made with beef, pork, ham or turkey. It is also known for its own brand of hot mustard and sweet-and-sour coleslaw.