Monday, July 20, 2009
Dave's Chillin' & Grillin' in Eagle Rock
There's only one scene I can remember from Atom Egoyan's film FELICIA'S JOURNEY: in the scene, Bob Hoskins' creepy character, who works for some kind of food company, is explaining to a salesperson from an automated catering company why fully automated food dispensers will never replace human food service: "Food must be served by caring hands, not machines," he says. It's one of his character's only touching moments.
This is what Dave's Chillin' & Grillin' is all about. If Dave's had a tap, it would be the local bar. People would hang around all day, watching basketball on TV, sharing their troubles with Dave, whiling away the hours.
Unfortunately, you can't really nurse a sandwich for hours, and most people don't finish a turkey sub and say "Another round." Still, Dave's succeeds in some ways in becoming Eagle Rock's one true hang-out joint. Less college and mommy-circuit than Swork next door, a little more informal and welcoming than The Coffee Table a block or so away, it's a place you would want to spend the day at, if you could.
Dave's is decorated like a common room in a shared off-campus apartment, with random bookshelves, out-of-place office swivel chairs, old overstuffed easy chairs, a random high chair, a bongo drum, a battered upright piano, ancient video games, assorted knickknacks, random potted cacti, etc. The work of local artists adorn the walls. Some wooden baby toys are a recent addition. You get the sense Dave wants everyone to settle in and hang out.
There's something stridently Luddite about Dave's. There are two old TV's (projection, color) that are usually fuzzily tuned to whatever channels they can pick up with their jerry-rigged antennae. There are cassette tapes, a boom box, and VHS tapes lying around: presumably, Dave puts on REPO MAN or BULL DURHAM when there's nothing better on to watch.
I haven't talked about the food yet. The sandwiches at Dave's are locally famous, for the great care with which Dave makes them. And Dave Evans -- the Dave -- will more often than not be the one making your sandwich. He's usually there at all hours of the day. My favorite is the veggie-hummus. I don't (usually) eat beef, but am advised that the meatball sub is out of control. The ingredients are unfailingly fresh. The bread is chewy, fresh, perfect. I can't think of a better place in L.A. to get a sandwich.
Amazingly enough, the food is almost secondary here: the most important factor is Dave himself, and the other people he's got working with him. Dave seems to genuinely care about the food, and to really want his customers to be happy. After you order, he'll often say, in his thick Boston accent "We'll take care of ya. I'll make you a great sandwich." And he will. I often suspect that he gives me the 10" sub when I order a 6" because, why not? I've often been there alone; as he brings my sandwich out to my table, where I'm sitting and reading alone, Dave will often say something nice like "Bon Appetit" or something, to make the experience of eating alone a little more pleasant. And when you're done, Dave will almost always ask "How'd that treat ya?" And you will invariably tell him that it was fantastic.
Perhaps this is the point of Dave's defiantly Luddite motif: no matter how amazing the future gets, technology will never replace the joy of eating at a place like Dave's, where you're made to feel a little less alone, and where a sandwich can be a reminder that the world can be a very good place.