by Dan Johnson
Dining at the Panorama Café high atop the Stanley Mosk Courthouse is an absolute joy.
I should qualify that: dining at the Panorama Café high atop the Stanley Mosk Courthouse is an absolute joy ***if you’re just there to dine and not because you’re involved with the Los Angeles Municipal Court System, in which case you are likely fucked***.
Popping in for a quick $5.95 burrito in a civic cafeteria privileged with some of the finest views in Downtown is a treasure. Finding yourself a plaintiff, defendant or possible juror in any case going up at Stanley Mosk is one of life’s hot turds.
Some of you may be personally acquainted with this Cleveland Steamer of a feeling. You get the notice in the mail that says, “hey, come on down and take part in the healthy function of your society’s guarantee for due process.” It should say, “hey, fucko, hows abouts we fuck up a week of your life by cramming you into chamber with some of the dumbest assholes you didn’t know were stealing air in this city?”
Sad as it is, I feel duty-bound to revisit the Panorama Café because it has likely escaped the attention of the multitude of people who have been there under adverse situations. Indeed, the linoleum feels like it’s coated by a karmic stain.
In walking around the Panorama Café mid-morning on a Monday, I’m struck by how few people are sitting outside or, much less, even looking out the windows. The Café has prime lines of sight looking down Grand Ave toward the southern limit of Bunker Hill or northwards to hazy hills and that clunker of a stadium where the boys in blue will bilk the pockets of hardworking Angelenos for the next six months before an aborted (and not unforeseen) early departure from playoff contention.
Most everyone in the Café is hunched around paperwork, talking in hushed tones while someone who is billing by the hour walks them through the procedural nuance of getting arbitrarily fucked.
You’ve really got to admire the effervescent personality of someone like Erick, the fellow taking orders at the hot food counter. This bubbly son of a bitch has got to be on mood-enhancers or maybe he’s one of the lucky ones whose disposition naturally puts him in a position to just sit back, relax and enjoy that splendid view.
Erick runs a small crowd through the distinct merits of the various and sundry breakfast burritos available. Do you want home fries or hash browns or rice and beans as stuffing? Erick’s got his preference, but he’s also a master accommodator keen to the subjectivity of diverse palates.
After much hemming and hawing, the eponymous Panorama Burrito is selected as the order of the day. It comes with one free salsa (green or red). INSIDER TIP: chat it up with Erick and he may just score you an extra for free! With service like this, it’s hard to be in a bad mood unless your unsecured pit bull mauled the living shit out of a beauty queen toddler down the street. In that case, no burrito, no matter how jovially served, can alter the fact that this is the worst day of your adult life.
Blessedly, that sad shit appears to be the exclusive purview of the inside dining tables. Outside on the patio, the sun is shining, the brown wax paper wrapped burrito is fragrant in a delightful savory way and the chaos of Downtown election/online trash talking is but a distant abstraction.
Not since the CIA colluded with drug dealers to push crack on the ghettos (and if you don’t believe Gary Webb on this one, I recommend you dig into Charles Bowden’s Pariah via Esquire Magazine and then dutifully shut the fuck up) has the government gotten Angelenos this high.
Brave the escalators and pant suits and jury duty badge wearing skeeves carefully rehearsing their “I hate Cops” schtick and apathetic deputies and aggrieved victims and insurance fraud hucksters and 800-number barristers and all the other long-suffering souls that make the courts such a trial (see what I did there?) and enjoy what might be Downtown’s best view for the price.
I award Panorama Café a coveted “1” on the binary and would like to encourage our dear friends at Salt N Peppa Grill to stop by and see what an affordable breakfast burrito looks like.