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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Ample Servings of Fond '50s Memories

October 27, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

Manny Chavez will never forget the day his father drove home in a shiny new red-and-white 1956 Ford Crown Victoria. The 8-year-old was blown away.

"Something about that car did it for me then, and it still makes me think fond memories of that era," Chavez says. Today, three '56 Fords of his own later, he is the owner of Margo and Manny's, a Fifties-style diner that is something of a neighborhood landmark in Wilmington.

The restaurant opened way back in 1939, when it was known as Parson's. In the Fifties, as Norm and Irene's, it was a hangout for students at Banning High School, then located across the street. Manny and his wife--she's the Margo, of course--took it over in 1981.

It's a cute little place with a 16-seat horseshoe counter. Fifties memorabilia, such as a rare restored model 1015 Wurlitzer jukebox and an old Coke machine dispensing 6 1/2-ouncers, are scattered about.

The restaurant's regulars, which Manny estimates are 97% of his business, usually bypass the menu in favor of the chalkboard specials. One of the biggest sellers is Thursday's meat loaf ($5.40), with brown gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans. Monday is the day for roasted turkey with corn- and wheat-bread dressing ($5.80). Braised short ribs hit the board on Friday.

The regular menu is full of diner classics, such as chicken-fried steak ($5.70): sirloin dipped in milk, coated with flour and seasoned salt, then fried. It comes drenched in a white gravy that also covers the mashed potatoes. The roast top round of beef ($6) and liver with onions and bacon ($5.20) are other popular choices. All selections come with soup, salad or coleslaw, potatoes and vegetables.

A case behind the counter holds meringue pies--lemon, chocolate, coconut-custard and banana ($1.60 a tall slice).

Margo and Manny's is at 126 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Wilmington. (310) 830-4224. Open for breakfast and lunch only, daily 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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