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RESTAURANT NOTEBOOK

A Guide To Diverse Dives In Los Angeles

June 21, 1987|COLMAN ANDREWS

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines dive as, among other things, "a disreputable entertainment establishment." The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, on the other hand, notes that the word, in its American sense of "a low resort for drinking" (a low resort? Is that like Death Valley Scotty's?) derives from the sense of the verb to dive , which means "to dart out of sight." To David (Cat) Cohen, founder of the Diver's Club of Los Angeles, though, a dive is a "great, cheap hole-in-the-wall eatery," an "obscure and often overlooked community cafe," and even a veritable "cultural treasure."

Cohen's group is on a bit of a crusade: He wants, he says, to help neighborhood restaurants survive, to give aid to places "that lack the money, time or skills to promote themselves." To this end, he offers his members a book of coupons good for 20% discounts at more than 20 "dive"-like establishments in the L.A. area (including Antojito's in El Monte, Habash Cafe in Hermosa Beach, Mary's Place in Silver Lake and Pieman's Soul Kitchen in Pacoima), a quarterly "dive gossip sheet" (including an "endangered dive list"), and discounts on the group's parties, publications and "diversphernalia."

For further information, contact the club at 6030 Wilshire Blvd. (penthouse), Los Angeles 90036, or call (213) 935-6194. ( Penthouse ? So much for darting out of sight.)

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR IRONY: Going through my files the other day, I came upon a column I wrote for another section of this paper Nov. 11, 1983. The subject was the smoking of cigars in restaurants and I reported at the time, in that context, that the Los Angeles City Council was considering an ordinance that would ban smoking (of any kind) in most public places--restaurants included. I also quoted an anonymous fellow cigar-lover (his identity escapes me now) who seemed relatively unconcerned about the possible L.A. ban. "That's just Los Angeles," he said at the time. "There are always plenty of restaurants in Beverly Hills."

NAMES IN THE NEWS: Tall-standing French restaurant legend Paul Bocuse has issued a cry for help: In a document also signed by 34 other top restaurateurs of the Lyon region (including his fellow three-starrers Alain Chapel and Pierre Troisgros), Bocuse complains that cars left in the parking lots of his and other pricey establishments are being routinely burglarized and even stolen. "Foreign tourists will avoid France even more if this keeps up," he adds. . . . Another noted (though certainly less celebrated and shorter French chef, Jacques Maniere, whose Au Pactole and Dodin-Bouffant were among the top Parisian restaurants of their respective eras, has signed on as culinary consultant to create special low-calorie menus for the Air France-owned Meridien hotel chain. Southern Californians may sample the results at the Bistrot Terrasse at the Meridien in Newport Beach. . . . And Bruno Vietina, one of the original proprietors of Il Giardino in Beverly Hills and subsequently involved as well with Pane Caldo and Madeo in West Hollywood, is now concerned exclusively with the last-named--where he is specializing in real Tuscan trattoria fare (and using his wood-burning ovens to great effect, for meats and fish as well as for pizza).

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