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A Real Value Meal: Classic Eats at Rae's Restaurant in Santa Monica

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By Lindsay Armstrong/Special to LAist

If you feel a wave of nostalgia when you pass Rae’s Restaurant on Pico, you’re not alone. The iconic sweep of 1950’s neon, the rows of lunch counter seating, the overstuffed booths, and Rae’s signature mid-century drop lights are the same today as they were five decades ago. Rae’s owners, Teodoro “Teddy” Delgado and his wife Maria, work hard to keep it that way.

“We try not to change very much. We’ve repainted many times, but always the same color,” Delgado explains, referring to the diner’s signature teal blue ceilings. “It’s an effort to keep the same spirit alive.”

Keeping with the décor, the Rae’s menu has barely changed since 1958, when the restaurant first opened in Santa Monica. Prices have also stayed relatively retro - with the “2 Plus 2 Plus 2” breakfast at under $6 (two eggs, two pieces of sausage or bacon, and two hot cakes) and their biscuits and gravy at under $2. For $10, you can feast. The Rae Burger is my personal favorite (served with perfectly crisp thick cut French fries and tangy fry sauce on the side), finished with a generous slice of cherry pie á la mode.

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According to waitress Wendy Soto, almost everything is homemade, from dressings to desserts. The most-requested breakfasts include the corned beef hash, salami and eggs, the Denver omelet, and biscuits and gravy (which you can get on the side, or pair with sides for a full meal). For lunch, the stacked club sandwich and the Rae burger are longtime favorites.

Delgado admits the same dishes have remained their most popular menu items 1968, when he first began working at Rae’s for the original owner. Delgado stayed at Rae’s until 1988, when he left to open Teddy’s Café, another family-style restaurant on Pico. His love of Rae’s prompted him to purchase it in 1995. Since then, he stops in early each morning with fresh ingredients to restock before customers start lining up.

The key to Rae’s longevity? “It’s the quality of the food - the best that we can offer - and good service,” says Delgado. Friendly service, low prices and large portions rank Rae’s as of the best values in Santa Monica for classic diner fare… but be sure to save room for the pie.

Cash only. Mon-Sun 6:30 am - 9 pm.