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The Beach Gourmet: Rae’s Restaurant: Surfin’ USA:

I recently visited this Santa Monica culinary landmark with a friend visiting from across the pond and upon entering was immediately struck by its subliminal familiarity. Hmmm, I thought, is this a past life experience? A gastronomic déjà vu if you will? No sir, there is no mystical element here, simply the fact that this diner is just so laced with classic authenticity that it has become the chosen location for many a movie mogul to use as a backdrop for themed scenes, including Bowfinger, a 1999 film about a producer going to great lengths to get a major star for his low budget production, featuring Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy and Heather Graham (a Samohi grad).

Located at the corner of Yorkshire Ave. and Pico Blvd, in the eastern sector of the recently evolved Santa Monica “arts” district, Rae’s offers a standard but comprehensive West Coast diner menu, including an all-day breakfast (we have all needed bacon and eggs in the evening at one time or another, I am sure!) of cereals, omelettes and other “All-American Favorites.”

The dinner specials come replete with a choice of mixed green salad, cup of soup du Jour or chilled tomato juice, and range in price from $6.95—$8.95.

Whilst my Trans-Atlantic companion opted for the Breaded Veal Steak ($6.95), I chose the Grilled Catfish daily special with all the trimmings ($7.55).

We chose mixed green salads with Thousand Island dressing and fries (baked spuds are available in the evenings). Each dinner comes with a portion of peas.

The salad is basic, crisp and chilled and was the perfect palate prep for what turned out to be a wholly satisfying Grilled Catfish that was nicely prepared, tender, browned and slightly crisp on the outside. Combined with the fries, peas and side of tartar sauce, it made a suitable dinner plate a cut above most others of this ilk.

My friend commented that her dish was good and the country-style creamy gravy was worthy of a special mention. She was also happy that she had the opportunity to enjoy a sample of classic Americana, well preserved in its original form.

With its retro turquoise façade, cozy booths with seasoned orange benches, quick and efficient service and a classic inexpensive menu, Rae’s is a good bet.

I could almost hear the Beach Boys humming one of their three-part harmonies (“Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin U.S.A.”) as I gazed upon the framed period photographs hanging upon the wall – ah, those were the days!

Ray’s Restaurant, 2901 Pico Blvd., 310.828.7937. Open Daily, 5:30am-10:30pm

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