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The perfect Saturday-afternoon pour at Chez Jay

May 15, 2012 | 10:36 am

ChezJay
This is going to be hard to believe, but before Saturday afternoon I had never been to Chez Jay, the famous little sea-side steakhouse with a 53-year history of serving the stars.

I had heard about it, of course, but I don't think I'd ever noticed it in all the years I rolled around the Westside. That changed Saturday when my friend Emily and I went to pick up an out-of-town friend at the Viceroy in Santa Monica.

We were looking for a place to stop for a cocktail when we drove by it. It's a little shack of a building with a vintage cocktail sign. As soon as I saw it I made an elaborate U-turn to enter its lot. I'm a sucker for classic bars -- I love the Prince, Musso & Frank, the H.M.S. Bounty and Dan Tana's --  so when we entered Chez Jay and saw its tiny, well-worn interior with old-school checked tablecloths, scratched bar and cast of colorful regulars, I fell in love.

It was mid-afternoon and a relaxed vibe prevailed. People ordered the omelet special and read the paper, sipping on bloody marys and beer. The top of the front door was open and warm sunlight filtered in. As Malcolm Lowry (a notorious drunk) once noted in his book "Under the Volcano," there is something sad and lovely about watching specks of dust drift through the sunlight under the crack of a bar door when you're day drinking.

And so it was at Chez Jay as Emily and I drank a tequila gimlet and enjoyed the sense of discovery that came with stumbling across this priceless piece of L.A. history.

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-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Chez Jay. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

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