Window Dressing: Walk-Ups are the New Drive-Thrus

Because it’s your right as an Angeleno to enjoy world-class food while sitting on a curb

Southern California’s drive-thru culture is legendary.

The state’s first drive-thru restaurant (In-N-Out Burger, Baldwin Park, 1948) was followed by photo kiosks, banks, and dry cleaners, all of which allowed customers to never leave the comfort of their bucket seat. Plugging into a glacially paced (but nonetheless real) shift away from the almighty automobile, Los Angeles’s dining scene is now witnessing a revival of the walk-up window. No longer reserved for Foster’s Freeze and taco stands, tonier operations such as Gjelina Take Away, Clover, and Twins Sliders have begun dispensing chia pudding, cold-pressed juice, and petite chicken sandwiches, respectively, to pedestrians who mosey on over.

Daniel and Leah Pringle flutter about Red Window Coffee, their 60-square-foot brick-clad stand on Ventura Boulevard. The Aussie musicians cum café owners keep an eye on their kids while chatting with customers eating Cake Monkey pastries and sipping flat whites. “Window culture creates a relationship between the barista and the customer,” says Daniel. “It’s more personal.”

“Why can’t I get good soup or pizza or salad without having to go through the ceremony of it all?” asks Gareth Kantner, the restaurateur behind spots like Silver Lake’s Cafe Stella. He answered his own question with Dinette, an Echo Park breakfast joint that has a street-facing window for delivering avocado toast and syrup-soaked waffles to those fortunate enough to live within stumbling distance.

In Playa Vista, Harold Karsenty has installed what he calls “pass-thru windows” at Cabbage Patch and MRKT, the restaurants he operates with chef Samir Mohajer. “You’re working with so many variables,” he says of the quick-serve format. “There’s something old school about it.” Our good weather doesn’t hurt, either.

Red Window Coffee, 12953 Ventura Blvd., Studio City,

 Dinette, 1608½ W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, 213-278-0301

 Cabbage Patch 12531 Beatrice St., Playa Vista,