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Downtown Los Angeles has the Pacific Dining Car, Beverly Hills has the Polo Lounge and Leimert Park, in the historically Black section of Los Angeles has Papa West, offering a wide array of complete breakfast dishes that are familiar to the Black experience in a well-appointed and intimate atmosphere that is conducive to business discussions, romantic morning meals or for individuals who crave some of the best breakfast food in Los Angeles.
Harold West, entrepreneur and creator of Papa West, named the restaurant which has been in operation in the center of Leimert Park Village since April in honor of his father, a chef on the Southern Pacific Railroad for 17 years.
“Everyone referred to him as Papa West.” West explained. “When the opportunity presented itself to establish a restaurant in this historical part of Los Angeles, it did not take long for me to establish its name in his honor.”
West was reared in the Los Angeles area and attended Compton High School. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran who served as an ordnance specialist in Europe and completed one tour of duty in Vietnam.
Following his discharge from military service in 1970 he experienced some difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life, as did many Vietnam Veterans, and experienced numerous personal challenges related to regular employment and substance abuse.
After finally confronting his substance abuse and completing a 12-Step Program, he developed a new zest for life and made a commitment to himself and his family to change his life.
In 1978 West created two new businesses. Oasis Music was involved in providing a full range of products related to the music business from tapes and albums to musical instruments and equipment.
At the same time he also established a food-catering business that continues in operation up to the present time.
“The catering business, with emphasis on soul food and barbecue, is mostly directed to private parties for individuals and businesses and we are able to comfortably accommodate small groups as well as groups as large as 200.” West described. “The music business was a good experience but that enterprise lasted only two years.”
While West’s father was ‘cooking-it-up’ on the railroad, his mother was a cook for a wealthy family in Benedict Canyon.
With three sisters and one brother, as well as one who has passed-away, West and his family always ate well and he developed an appreciation for well prepared food. He also learned how it should be served and presented.
“One of the earliest books I remember reading was a gourmet cook book my mother wrote in 1960.” West recalled. “Regrettably I do not have a copy of the book and frankly do not know if any copies still exist.”
Those memories however, established a cooking foundation for West that has lasted a lifetime.
West’s business partner and the individual who serves as the Executive Chef, Darwin Holman, has also had a progressive set of food preparation and restaurant experience.
“Holman has a broad restaurant background.” West explained. “He has worked with Wolfgang Puck, among other recognized chefs, and in several of the finest hotels in Las Vegas.”
West and Holman determined that in addition to an enticing menu, quality service and courteous and attentive waiters would differentiate them from other restaurants.
“I am very particular about training.” West explained. “The staff must be familiar with the menu, able to explain any specials that are being offered, and able to answer any questions that the patrons may have including making recommendations from the menu.”
My business breakfast with a City of Inglewood Commissioner, who recommended Papa West, reminded me of what one expects to have at ‘Grandmother’s house.’ I had scrambled eggs with grilled onions, served with old-fashioned hash-brown potatoes, turkey sausage, wheat toast, fresh orange juice and coffee.
My guest had her favorite Papa West meal of ‘Mama Ruth’s” salmon croquettes served with scrambled eggs, hash-browns, toast, orange juice and coffee.
We both agreed that the food and service was terrific and that Papa West is one of the best kept secrets in Leimert Park.
If you have a ‘power-breakfast’ coming up, want to treat yourself and your mate to an exceptional Sunday brunch—with live jazz in the background, or just plain want a delectable breakfast during the week, stop by Papa West between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday or until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday.
They are located at 4336 Degnan Boulevard and even though reservations are not required, you may call in advance to secure a table at (323) 290-9375.