In his 1956 novel "A Walk on the Wild Side," Nelson Algren lays out his "three rules of life":
"Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."
I'm not much of a card player. And if I look back over my life, I'm grateful to the male acquaintances who were kind enough, when it came to me, to ignore the third rule. But I've been pretty steadfast about never eating at a place called Mom's.
That doesn't mean you can't DRINK at a place called Mom's.
Mom's Bar is on a undistinguished stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA. It's in the same block as a huge Smart n Final that turns its back on the street, and its other neighbors are a Persian grocery, a Thai massage joint, a little pharmacy and a nail salon.
On a lazy Saturday afternoon the place is almost empty, just a couple of guys at the end of the bar, a single bartender lazily polishing glasses, a football game on the TV. I sat down and ordered a rum and coke.
Mom's is just a neighborhood bar; it's nothing fancy, and it doesn't even serve food. But it's got a following, especially at happy hour.
When you sit at a bar, you probably don't pay much attention to the bar itself. But when a bar is built with comfort in mind, people want to settle in, and maybe order another one. One key component of a good bar is the bar rail, something sturdy, smooth and comfortable to lean up against. Some bars have a padded vinyl cushion running the length of the bar, but Mom's bar has the traditional bar rail, also known as the Chicago bar rail. This is a length of smooth solid oak, shaped with a curved lip at the top to keep spilled drinks from the patrons' laps, and has a nice contoured inner curve to rest your forearms against.
I sat there comfortably, sipping my (truth be told, somewhat weak) rum and coke. Oh, well, it was only five dollars. "Another?" asked the bartender.
I was so comfortable it was tempting. But, "No, thank you," I said. "I'll be back."