The Dugout looks
like just another neighborhood bar and grill—dark and boozy, with a gas fire
flickering on the hearth and a middlebrow jukebox. But the food can be
surprisingly good, with excellent man-size sirloins for $6.50 and lean, meaty
spareribs for $4.50, enough to stagger the average glutton. But on the ribs:
ignore the sweet smoky sauce.
$2.75 for ground sirloin to $6.95 for lobster tails, come with a big baked
potato, sour cream (25¢ extra), garlic-soused sourdough and a huge crisp salad.
All this is served by Dodgerettes, peppy cheerleader debbies in white vinyl
cling boots and with prewar ice-cream-cone bosoms.
The coffee cup is
bottomless, but the plastic-packaged, ice-crystal-riddled parfaits are a
disaster. The plat du jour at lunch changes daily—the summer special seems to
be Polish (Ron Perranoski) ham on onion roll for 85¢. Shrimp salad a la Maury
Wills is $1.25, and very Drysdale martinis are 85¢; very dry Drysdale himself
lopes through the dining room, signing autographs as the mood strikes.
I give it 2½
BARREL, 3724 SOUTH FIGUEROA STREET, LOS ANGELES.
California is the
junk-food capital of the nation and the Trojan Barrel wins junk-food honors in
both the sublime and slightly lethal divisions. The bacon and avocado sandwich
is a gastronomic high at $1.25. Basically a BLT on toast with mayo, plus
slippery avocado chunks, it is served with a fine potato salad of remarkable
character. Chili Size, $1.10, turns out to be a thick, spicy potage topped with
a gristly chopped-meat patty and that glutinous, orange insult to the nation's
name, American cheese. Even a junk-food addict might find this a bit of an
overdose. But it was sheer inspiration to deliver the steak sandwich, $1.60, on
hunks of garlic bread. Alas, the meat is strictly summer-camp genre, flat and
furiously tenderized. There are more conventional sandwiches, too, such as a
top sirloin for $2.90, and chef's salad. Coffee tastes boiled. But there is
beer on draught, by the pitcher or glass. No desserts. "After our food no
one ever wants any," the waiter confided.
The Barrel is a
dim, primitive, slightly shabby campus hangout near USC, with tufted banquettes
(not unlike Hollywood's status beanery, Chasen's) and a pool table. There is a
monster barbecue pit in the patio to cut the chill and cheer the crowd on big
football weekends. Hosts Bill and Marvin McKeever also run a bar-bus to Tijuana
for the bullfights.
I give it three
COUNTRY COOKIN', IRVING, TEXAS.
I have eaten
Indian, Moroccan, Armenian, Balinese, Korean, Ukrainian and soul. But
"country" is utterly foreign to me. Old-fashioned chicken-fried steak
for $1.95 proved to be breaded beef frosted in cream sauce, "a real truck
driver's dish," my country-bred companion assured me. "You've got to
eat it fast before the gravy congeals." But even his native palate faltered
before Cousin Elviry Mantle's Country Chicken and Dumplin's, $1.25.