It's best to stand back while waiting for a booth at Rae's, the Santa Monica diner that's an ode to naugahyde and chrome. Getting in the way of the waitresses hurrying back and forth with steaming pots of coffee and platefuls of the club breakfast (two eggs, any style, with ham, bacon or sausage, tomato juice or potatoes, toast or biscuits, $2.89, gravy 10 cents extra) could be dangerous to your health.
But according to 20-year patron Paul Black, no one interested in good health would go to Rae's in the first place. "Everybody's into non-fat food these days, but here the food is cooked in real grease," Black said, awaiting his eggs and home fries with obvious anticipation.
Rae's other specialties, like chipped beef (served Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 5:30 a.m.) and biscuits with gravy, also have their avid fans, and they come in droves--be it breakfast, lunchtime or in between. "Sometimes I drive by in the middle of the day and see a line out the door," said Black, whose business is in the neighborhood. "Doesn't anybody work around here?"
Rich Masi, who was sitting with two friends at one of the orange naugahyde booths on a recent morning, made it obvious that he would wait on line for Rae's biscuits anytime. As the plate arrived at the table, he described the biscuits lovingly: "They're very heavy, have no nutritional value, and not a lot of taste. They're like liquid cement, but sometimes you've just got to have them. Then you take the rest of the day to work them off."