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The Last Suppers | SCENE

June 13, 1996|ART FEIN

Sometimes I get this sinking feeling that my past is disappearing.

Just the week before last I was reeling from the closure of El Chiquito restaurant across from the Burbank Studios. It was my home base Mexican place, where I always got a beef taco and a cheese enchilada, a la carte. (I know, maybe it's "big spenders" like me who drove them out of business.)

It was a comforting, dark place (people tell me I'll have to switch to Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks to achieve the same darkness) that lacked panache. While the "suits" went to El Torito and Acapulco, this place was frequented by grips and teamsters. (In triple-reverse logic, I liked it despite the fact that I, an anti-trendy, would be expected to like it.)

I'd been eating there for 20 years--the same amount of time I've had my phone number--till on my penultimate visit I noticed the sign, which usually listed the Early Bird specials, announcing "We're Closing May 31st after 21 years." Dizzy, I ate without enjoyment, envisioning my remaining lifetime without El Chiquito.

I made my final visit on Friday, to miss the heartbreaking final night and its attendant crowding. My wife looked at me cautiously, sensing my emotional state, and as I watched each successive customer greet the owner with tears of regret, she could detect a little moisture in my eyes, too.

I told her it was the hot sauce.

Still reeling, one week later, Thursday last, my friend Todd called me and said "Did you see the paper? C.C. Brown's is closing Saturday. Let's get down there."

I fell back in my chair. I've been going to C.C. Brown's for 25 years, since I moved here as a pup. Its hot-fudge sundae was simply perfect. What did they put in that sauce? I'd watched the host family grow from tow-headed tykes to adults.

We got there at 3:30 and like always easily took a table. (Could that "ease" be a clue to their closing?) We ordered hot fudges and savored them. It was another sad day.

The next day I got calls from two non-Hollywood friends saying "We have to go to C.C. Brown's. It's closing." I agreed to meet them there at 4:30 Friday afternoon.

At 4:15 I got a call from my friend Doug the rock star on his cellular (stellular?) phone. "I'm in line at C.C. Brown's. Get down here fast. There are a hundred people here."

I scooted over, and indeed the line stretched to the corner.

"What happened?" I pondered aloud. "Yesterday the place was empty. How'd everyone find out?" In a trice I answered my own question. "I'll bet it was on television."

A woman in front of me nodded. "That's where I heard about it."

We waited 40 minutes and were seated. My friend Karen and I ordered triple-scoop sundaes with three fudge pitchers (one to split), and Doug said, "I think I'll have chocolate ice cream with mocha sauce."

I stared at him insensibly.

"This is the final day of the best hot fudge place in the world, and you're ordering mocha sauce?"

Doug, who's often very intransigent, said, "Their mocha sauce is excellent."

"Yeah," I said. "And maybe the grilled cheese sandwich is good too."

In time we got our stuff. I wallowed into the three-scoop trough like a pig sniffing truffles. I dripped out the contents of one pitcher and most of the other (Karen wasn't quick enough), and then scraped the bottom with the handle of the spoon, an old trick I perfected there years ago.

And in the end there was a twist. I was finished but not sated and wide-eyed with a chocolate rush when Doug tethered a dollop of mocha sauce my way. "Try it," he said with what I thought was a misguided grin.

I devoured it like a frog snaps a fly--and it was delicious.

No, incredible.

No, incomparable.

Now I'm gonna miss that place twice as much.

So what's the next place to tumble? I don't care about "real" landmarks--let the Capitol building burn, Mann's Chinese crumble--I mean what about my personal favorites? The Good Neighbor restaurant by Universal, Alex's Donuts on Franklin, Dr. Hoggly Woggly's West Texas Barbecue on Sepulveda, Two Guys From Italy on Hollywood and Las Palmas?

If I were you, if you see me coming into your establishment you'd better bar the door.

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