Everyone needs a Snug Harbor in their life. Most weekend mornings in the 7 o’clock hour I take my kids to this 1940s time machine in Santa Monica. The waitresses there would probably be surprised to learn I’m not a divorced dad with weekend custody. I like to leave my wife at home to relax while we roll over there most weekends for pancakes, syrup and sometimes chocolate milk. Afterwards we head to a local park to burn it all off on the playground. It’s become a tradition of ours and it’s a rare outing that we all —kids and dad alike— enjoy equally.
Snug Harbor’s appearance is well preserved. It feels old, but not too perfectly vintage like Ralph Lauren got ahold of it. It feels a few versions from what it maybe could have been originally. It’s obvious that the owner is not trying too hard to be nostalgic or overly precious. The place is just what you think it is: a classic American breakfast joint. Of course there’s also brunch with club sandwiches or burgers. Somehow the place has survived without a dinner service. The pancakes are good. The huevos rancheros (it is California after all) are decent. It’s all just good enough and that’s what makes it really sing for me.
Snug Harbor isn’t trying to be the best thing in the world or catch the algo to trend on TikTok. This is just a decent place that’s been around for a long time and it feels old without being coated in a layer of hipster nostalgia. Snug Harbor is exactly the type of place I need in my life. A simple place that’s special, but also subtle. Everyone isn’t going to get what makes it great — so there’s not some fear of it being overrun. When I go I see a few regulars, but there also seems to be room for more.
If you go early it’s quiet and you can capture a wonderful moment while you drink your coffee out of one of those perfect diner mugs and listen to oldies. Every time I’m there I catch a tiny moment that becomes a perfect little movie scene for me. I’ve had similar little obviously special flourishes at fancy private clubs or exclusive resorts on the Amalfi Coast. Those are the places you expect those special moments, but when you can find them every weekend at your local run-of-the-mill breakfast place you know you are on to something unique.
What really makes Snug Harbor truly great is the fact that it’s not trying to be anything other than itself. In a world where everything is trying to be famous, Snug Harbor is content to just be. Coffee and pancakes with a side of spiritual enlightenment.
Big thanks to Matt Morris for the photos. These shots encouraged me to bring Snug Harbor beyond just posts on social media and into the newsletter.
There’s an IG account that looks at old style places like this all over the UK called ‘Caffs not Cafe’s”https://instagram.com/caffs_not_cafes?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
Very good follow for the same type of place
I have this place in my life. It is called Susan’s. I’m sitting in Susan’s now. My kids are off in college. But I still come on Saturday mornings for my coffee and eggs. And the memories of fatherhood. And sometimes for Susan’s coconut cream pie.