Dinah’s Evokes Yesteryear Nostalgia

By Bob Vickrey
Special to the Palisades News

Entering Dinah’s brought back youthful memories of my hometown diner where I hung out with friends and routinely argued about how much each of us owed after the bill arrived.

Back in the day, my evening hangout was Angel’s Grill in Pasadena, Texas (yes, we also had a Pasadena). The place had red-pleated vinyl booths and a mini juke box on every table—to which we repeatedly fed nickels and dimes to hear Marty Robbins’“El Paso” and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”

The seasoned blue-haired waitresses patiently tolerated our excessive behavior while we stared at the cute girl with a ponytail in the corner booth who looked like Sandra Dee. (But on second glance, we realized all the girls in that booth had ponytails and looked like Sandra Dee.)

The regular crew of (left to right) Arnie Wishnick, Bob Vickrey, Josh Greenfeld and Barry Stein (far right) were joined by Don Galias (second from right). Photo: Sylvie Waring
The regular crew of (left to right) Arnie Wishnick, Bob Vickrey, Josh Greenfeld and Barry Stein (far right) were joined by Don Galias (second from right). Photo: Sylvie Waring

Our monthly lunch club group thought a trip to Dinah’s Family Restaurant on Sepulveda Boulevard might rekindle some of the “diner” nostalgia of our past—hopefully, without the ensuing traditional battle over the bill. 

Dinah’s is a family-owned eatery that opened its doors in 1959. The staff takes pride in its oven-baked pancakes and its “original recipe” fried chicken, which is prepared with herbs and spices and other secret ingredients. But those are about all the details I’m allowed to share or my dining privileges could be permanently revoked.

Joining us as our featured monthly guest was our favorite engaging contrarian, Don “Troy” Galias, who has been a prominent figure in the Palisades village for more than 40 years. Don’s nickname emanated from his hometown of Troy, New York, where he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was captain of the tennis team there and later played on the amateur tennis circuit.

Don’s family had migrated west and landed in Pacific Palisades, where he became an entrepreneur in fields as diverse as real estate, private mailbox services, and book advertising and marketing. He once wrote a weekly college football “top ten” column for the local newspaper, which featured his distinctly different take on the sport than what the national polls often reflected. In fact, his many friends know him as someone who traditionally enjoys going against the grain regarding almost any subject.

We arrived to find a full house at Dinah’s and quickly remembered that the crowds start arriving in the early morning and keep streaming in throughout the day. Arnie informed our waitress, Milagros, that he was ordering the large-sized oven-baked “Gourmet Apple Pancake” with a cinnamon glaze, which takes twenty minutes to prepare—and two weightlifters to deliver to the table.

That gave the rest of us time to peruse the extensive menu and make our choices before she returned. Barry also roamed the room and took photos of Dinah’s memorabilia and several employees and customers. Several of the latter have been coming there so long, they practically blended in with the memorabilia.

Barry ordered the grilled-cheese sandwich on rye with a side dish of coleslaw, which he later added to the contents of his sandwich—a little trick he learned years earlier. Our guest star Don chose the Dinah’s club sandwich and I opted for Pigs in a Blanket because it had a catchy name. I couldn’t remember exactly who or what was under the blanket, and after I finished eating it, I still wasn’t sure.

Our server brought Arnie his oven-baked apple pancake, which was approximately the size of the last steel-belted radial I bought at Firestone Tires. His plate covered about half the table, but Milagros managed to find room for the rest of our plates. We were pleased that we were not forced to move to a separate table and leave Arnie alone with his cinnamon-covered Goodyear blimp.

When our check arrived, Arnie threw in more than his fair share since his meal was more expensive than ours. After enduring the Angel’s Grill antics of years past, I appreciated how Arnie had added a refreshing new twist on settling the age-old question about how to split a lunch tab.

Bob Vickrey, a longtime Palisadian, is a regular contributor to the News as well as the Houston Chronicle, the Waco Tribune-Herald and the Boryana Books website.

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