Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Third Place

The urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg greatly influenced city planning by releasing and defining his theory of Third Place. In short, Oldenburg believes that Third Places are the anchor of our communities. A place separate from home and work where people gather to discuss ideas. The hallmarks of a Third Place include the fact that entrance is free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are availablet; the place is highly accessible: the location is proximate for many (walking distance); the spot attracts involves regulars – those who habitually congregate there; it is welcoming and comfortable; and both new friends and old should be found there. (Credit Wikipedia.)

No restaurant better defines this notion of Third Place than the Peach Pit. Owner Nat Bussichio (below, at right) spent years working in every type of restaurant imaginable before purchasing the Peach Pit from former owners Craig and Lucinda White in 1987. "Ohh yeah, you name it, I worked there. Biker joints, stripper haunts, hamburger dumps, hot dog meccas, Spago, diners...I spent the better part of 4 years French dipping anything I could get my hands on," Bussichio explains.

But it was the charm of the Peach Pit which kept Bussichio dreaming for years. "I'd drive past the Pit almost every evening on the way home from Sunset Strip. And just slow down and stare. I told myself, 'One day, Nat. One day.'"

According to property records obtained from the Beverly Hills conveyance office, Craig and Lucinda White purchased what was once Changs Chinese Laundry [sic] in 1936 and opened the Peach Pit shortly thereafter. For years, it was the see and be seen diner, noted both for its proximity to the wealth of Beverly Hills but also for the pictures of stars that lined the wall.

One of those stars, Marilyn Monroe, even helped design the restaurant's famous burger. "The Megaburger was just a double patty, American cheese job before Ms. Monroe added Swiss," Bussichio recalls.

"At least that is what they say," Bussichio says while winking "Of course, this was long before she got mixed up with those Kennedy boys and the Mob."

The Peach Pit Megaburger has inspired everything from song to TV shows. But it is at its purest form a delicious burger using two all-beef patties ("hand-formed," Bussichio adds), one slice of Swiss, one slice of American, tomatoes, lettuce, and Bermuda onions. The Bermuda onions are optional but as Bussichio says, "You'd have to be a fool not to add them."

Besides that Megaburger, the Peach Pit offers an impressive array of classic diner foods. The cheese fries are more than enough for the table, with jalapeno poppers and a few milkshakes rounding out a great meal. But the real star of the Peach Pit is Bussichio. You will find him on most days equally ready to dispense advice or just listen. Be it to 45 year old executives or 45 year old actors playing teenagers in a television drama.

A few years ago, the Pit got into some financial trouble. But just when it seemed the joint would close, a long time customer, Dylan McKay (above, center), loaned the place $50,000 to keep it grilling. "My dad blew up in a car. Left me some money. I figure what the hell? Can't take it with me, right? The Old Man sure couldn't." McKay says. (Editor's Note: An investigation into the cause of Jack McKay's death is still pending. As of press time, no body has ever been found.)

In the last few years, the Peach Pit branched out to include an after hours music club and a juice bar. It will enter the New Orleans market for a limited engagement tomorrow night, 9/02/10, taking over the upstairs at Lucy's on Tchoupitoulas. The occasion is to kickoff Hogs for the Cause 2011. There is no cost to enter and the party runs from 5 p.m. til 10. You are encouraged to attend in your best 90's gear and drink, as a portion of beer and drinks sold will benefit Hogs for the Cause.

See you there. You wouldn't want to piss off Oldenburg, would you?

1 comment:

Snakebite said...

Sounds delicious. Are they going to have Third Place food also? i.e. not Lucy's, not that Lucy's is bad, just that I'm sort of craving a Megaburger right now.