Midnight Snack: Du-par's with Galloway Allbright

Think there aren't any restaurants open late in L.A.? Residents who work late beg to differ. Galloway Allbright is a comedian with a hole in his soul that can only be filled with pancakes.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Some things never change. Take the original Du-par's, for example. Opened in 1938, smack dab in the middle of the Los Angeles Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax, Du-Par's has been slinging hash to stars and starry-eyed dreamers since the Golden Age of Hollywood.

So why does its interior look like a Denny's?

Comedian Galloway Allbright tackles this question and more in an in-depth analysis of Du-Par's enduring appeal, and why, for a comedian, it offers shelter from the two-drink-minimum storm.

Galloway: The interior is totally synthetic, and I feel like I'm in Disneyland. Do you know what I mean?
Henry: No.
Galloway: You don't? You don't look around and feel like this feels completely concocted and synthetic, like dialed in to a paint-by-numbers, Americana nostalgia? It's designed to make me feel a certain way, and I come here, and I am thrilled to feel that way. Eager and willing and grateful to feel that way.

The waitress comes. Galloway knows what he wants straight away.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Galloway: I strongly recommend we order our own thing and then get a communal plate of pancakes. They are a delight. Nobody wants to put down a whole order of pancakes by themselves, though. It's like ordering your own cake. You don't go anywhere and go, "I'll have a cake for my meal." Unless it's ice cream cake, but they don't have ice cream pancakes here.
Henry: I also want a meat thing.
Galloway: Have something with meat in it!

After we order, we settle into the quiet mood of the room, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the newly opened Short Order next door.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Henry: So why is this your place?
Galloway: If I'm out and performing, and I get to eat by myself at the end of everything, I don't want to be around people.

Henry: Why don't you want to be around people?
Galloway: I've been around them all day and all night, and it's fun to come here. It's generally quiet. Any people you talk to, you have an opportunity to have a legitimate conversation with. The people who work here are a strange mixture of family members mixed with the craziest immigrant stories you can imagine.

Henry: What's the most memorable encounter you've had with a patron or waitress?
Galloway: There was a waitress at the Studio City Du-Par's, who I swear to God it felt like she had escaped, like she was no less than one degree removed from a human trafficking situation. It seemed like she'd broken a number of "Eastern Promises" and was paying off the debt working at Du-Par's for a while.

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Henry: She talked to you about it?
Galloway: God no. I mean we talked, like three-ish times, usually about where she was from, some -zania or -vakia of some kind, and it was clear she didn't want to be back there, but I won't pretend to actually know the woman. All of this is hyperbolic speculation, but yeah, she seemed to be working at this coffee shop a hundred percent against her will.

Henry: But why? What about her made you think that?
Galloway: The sadness and anger in her eyes. The jumpiness, do you know what I mean? She was super jumpy.

Henry: Like a spooked rescue dog?
Galloway: Yeah, like she had PTSD. I half-expected her to like, when I got my tab--

Henry: That there'd be a little note?
Galloway: Yeah! There'd be a note, like "Help Me, I don't want to be here." In broken, scribbly English. "Take me with you. I'm afraid." Like, "In the kitchen there's a camera and a tripod and a tarp, and I'm scared." Do you know what I mean? Like, "That's not a Reuben you're eating."

Henry: Is she still working there?
Galloway: She's in Guantanamo. I was wrong. She was a double agent. She's been handled. And I can now enjoy my hash and eggs without thinking about geopolitics. Thank God.

Henry: Do you ever write material in here? Maybe come up with ideas based on your interactions with the wait staff?
Galloway: If I've had a good night or a bad night, I've definitely come here and pulled out my notes and decompressed. Say something happened in my set that was funny, but I'm not sure what it was. I try to pinpoint what clicked with the audience. Or I can come here feeling bad about a set--

Henry: Like you failed?
Galloway: Like I'm not good. Like I can't do this.

Henry: Feeling like "Give me some pancakes."
Galloway: I want to feel something real!

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Henry: Let's say you have a bad set. Is there a food you want immediately? And is there a good set food?
Galloway: No, I'm not a big medicator with food. I definitely can chase away pain and give myself pleasure by stuffing my face. But - and I think this is true for a lot of comics - I feel like I deserve it when I have a bad set.

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Henry: I saw you do that to yourself after a set, where you were really hard on yourself.
Galloway: Sometimes you swing and you miss. It's frustrating, but you can deal with it. Have a candy bar, take a walk, look at the moon. Oh, I feel better. But then there are other times--

Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian

Henry: I'm dipping my cheeseburger in ketchup, is that weird?
Galloway: That's cool! That's been a very known thing for fifty or sixty years. But there are other times, there are other sets, where you're like, That was bad because I'm a fraud. That's what it is. I'm a fraud. The reason this wasn't good, the reason these people didn't enjoy themselves or get what they paid for, is because I am an undisciplined sloth who didn't do the work to make sure these people could have a good time. And there aren't enough hashbrowns in the hemisphere to hash over pain and shame of that.

It's the end of our meal, and we realize we never got our short stack of pancakes. I'm already far past full, but Galloway insists. A mere minute later, a steaming short stack arrives.

Galloway: Look at that, they melted the butter. Let's take a second to appreciate that. They liquefied the butter.

Watching him meticulously prepare the pancakes for consumption - first bathing each cake in butter, then drizzling the syrup with what can only be called precise abandon - I'm suddenly hungry again. We devour the pancakes in minutes flat. I did not need that, and neither did he. We sit back and take in the carnage before us.

Galloway: A critical stage of this kind of meal is The Defeat - when the food beats you. You arrived with a full head of steam thinking "It's late night, it's ladies night, and I'm gonna eat a bunch a food, and I don't give a fu** and I'll have a great time," and your eyes get big, and you order a bunch of things and you start plowing through food, and you're like "I'm a big boy, I eat a lot of food, I'm cool," but eventually you can't fight it anymore, and you're just staring it down. That's kind of where you wanted to be, whether you had a good set or a bad set, particularly a bad set, you come, and you're like, I'm gonna fight this fu**ing food, and I'm gonna beat it. And you may not beat it. But you feel good because you're punched out. You know what that feeling is? You're punched out. And then you don't care. You're full. And you're not as strong as the food. You just feel worn out and good and at peace with your inferiority. You know you're gonna sleep real solid. That's a great feeling.

[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]

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