Nestled in Elysian Park, an unassuming diner seems miles away from the bustling highways of Los Angeles, when in fact it is right in the center. The recently renovated interior still sports retro flourishes—a throwback to the café’s founding decades ago. It’s a charming and subdued spot.

And then the sound of gunshots cuts through the quiet.

“You hear lots of bangs and booms all day long here. It adds to the ambiance,” says Tom Beres with a laugh. Beres is a chef with Aramark who serves as the foodservice director at the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club Café.

Housed in a hacienda-style building on the campus of the Los Angeles Police Academy, the diner is adjacent to the firing range. In 1932, the space hosted shooting competitions during the Olympics; that was before the police club took it over. All the proceeds benefit the club.

Since then the café has become a favorite of police officers, firefighters, and academy recruits, as well as a number of regular diners with no affiliation to law enforcement. It closed in 2014 for a major overhaul—both physical and culinary—and reopened in January. Although updates like a new Peet’s Coffee kiosk have modernized the diner, the renovations preserved key details.

“It’s a place where the police officers don’t want anything to change. We redid the counters and the booths, but they had to be replicas of exactly how it was,” Beres says, right down to the little latch on chair backs where officers could clip their hats while they eat.

The menu is still rooted in diner fare, but with some more modern flavors and healthier techniques. Staples like burgers and pizza have been upgraded: Patties are now hand-packed, and dough is made in-house. The menu has also added entrées like horseradish-crusted salmon. Breakfast is served all day, with options ranging from a posh orange challah French toast to “The Force” breakfast, a filling combination of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns. Other hearty items including beef brisket (smoked on premises) and turkey meatloaf remain favorites. 

“It’s a whole new menu, and we’re just trying to keep them happy with enough stuff that’s familiar, but better,” Beres says. He adds that the variety of dishes accommodates sporadic schedules: One officer may crave a Caesar salad at 7 a.m. after a night shift, while another will load up on breakfast burritos at noon.

The L.A. Police Revolver and Athletic Club Café also has a robust catering operation and hosts a number of events on the grounds of the academy, which includes a scenic rock garden and waterfall.

Beyond the food and revamped design, the café’s main draw will continue to be its role in a tightknit community. It’s a popular venue for retirement parties.

“People started their career here and want to end their career here—and everybody knows where it is,” Beres says.

Feature, NextGen Casual