You may have caught a glimpse of Clark Street Diner — formerly known as 101 Coffee Shop — in the movies. This Hollywood icon was the place Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau hung out in Swingers, a breakfast spot for the boys from Entourage, and where Daisy Jones picks up waitressing work before she becomes a singing sensation in the Amazon Prime series Daisy Jones and the Six. The mid-century modern design is eye-catching and colloquially Californian, and very much something new owner Zack Hall, who took over the space in 2021, wanted to preserve.
But while the decor remains untouched, Hall did want to reevaluate the food itself. As the owner of the many Clark Street Breads scattered across Los Angeles, Hall brings his relationships with local farms to the menu, as well as a killer pastry case next to the host stand that greets diners. Like many great diners, breakfast is a source of pride: plush challah French toast, nutty waffles, and omelets galore. But Hall wants to dominate the daytime, too, with newly expanded hours — including a dinner menu.
We caught up with Hall to discuss the lore surrounding Clark Street Diner’s space, why he decided to debut dinner, and what he’s looking forward to most on the new menu.
Resy: What motivated you to take over 101 Coffee Shop?
Zack Hall: When I first saw the space, I was really excited. Our cafe menus are sort of like a mini diner menu — we’re doing a lot of eggs and bacon and breakfast, so it didn’t feel too scary to jump from that to this. From there, you know, I just kind of got my bearings and was like, ‘Okay, what is diner food?’ We’ve all been to a diner, we kind of know what it is, but I just did a little bit more research to gain some more knowledge about it.
Then I worked with my chef from the Brentwood [location of Clark Street Bread]. He came over here, this guy Juan, who’s really, really talented. We worked together to fill in the blanks. We’re not all the way there yet. We still have some diner classics that need to make their appearance. So far, breakfast and lunch have been pretty crazy here — line out the door, busy all the time. We definitely are looking forward to growing dinner. And I think we can do that by adding some of those dishes — stuff like meatloaf, things that have been in Americana culture for 100 years.
Did you feel pressure after being handed the keys? It’s a lot of responsibility to maintain a space that’s so beloved.
100% percent. I had never done something like this before. With Clark Street Bakery, I started it from nothing. I felt very comfortable in that space because I built it. With this one, it’s a beloved diner. A lot of people have been going here for 20 years. People are protective and guarded about things they love. We all are, you know what I mean? It’s part of the fun of liking something.
I didn’t want to touch the space because the space looks really nice. I like to say I’m in the preservation business. God forbid somebody demoed it or put in something really different. I always loved the vibe. I’m a huge fan of what we do here in Southern California — that whole mid-century modern Palm Springs deal, you know? But I also needed to stay true to myself in terms of the ingredients.
When I started Clark Street, it was 100% organic and, you know, certain things still are — like the flour, the seeds, everything that goes in the breads. But then as you grow, you can’t be 100% organic. There’s too many moving parts. But with a diner, it was comfort food, greasy spoon, you can go anytime. All that stuff is good, but what you’re actually eating is just average commodity stuff. I’ve never really had an interest in that sort of product.
I wanted to do diner food, but I didn’t want to make it too highbrow or go over people’s heads. I just used the relationships I have with the vendors I’ve been buying from over the years. Our pancake mix is made with flour I buy from Tehachapi grain, from Weiser Farms. I love the waffle because we’re working with this single farmer, George Yemetz, who grows organic almonds an hour away and those almonds are in the waffle. It’s super tasty, really good, and different. There’s little things like that that for me just make it more fun or more interesting. It’s not the whole menu, but there are little touches here and there. The bacon is high quality, the eggs are good quality. The stuff that we go through a lot of is just a cut above what you might see in a regular diner.
Do you have any favorite lore or fun stories you’ve heard about the place? Or anything that’s happened since you took over?
Basically any day you walk in there you’ll see stars. The other day, Scarlett Johansson came in with her family and she was in a baseball hat, hoodie, sunglasses, everything. So that’s fun. I heard a lot of stuff from before about how people would bring in their screenplays and write here. And obviously some of the films that have been there, like Swingers. Honestly I’m just hoping that Tarantino calls and is like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna film here.’
Honestly I’m just hoping that Tarantino calls and is like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna film here.’— Zack Hall, Clark Street Diner
The bakery came first and that’s your area of expertise. Where at Clark Street Diner does that filter into the menu?
When you walk into our bakery locations, you always see the pastry case first. We’re really comfortable with that, so we did the same thing at the diner. Right when you walk in at the host stand, there’s a big pastry display case. It doesn’t have everything that we have at the bakeries, but it has all the popular stuff. And then of course, all of our bread gets filtered into the menu, whether it’s on the breakfast sandwich, the BLT, the Reuben, patty melt, or the burgers.
Can you talk about the decision to expand to dinner? Was this customer demand?
The place used to be open for 21 hours. I’m still fearful of that — that just sounds very different than what I’m used to. We’re open for eight hours a day max at most of the spots. So yeah, there was this expectation to not just do breakfast and lunch. If you look around to diners, I mean, a lot of them are 24 hours. We wanted to get established first and then once we felt good then we could move into dinner. Currently, we’re only open til 9 p.m. There’s something about that late-night crowd — that club crowd — that I’m still not totally comfortable with [laughs].
What are you most excited about on the dinner menu? What can guests expect?
Honestly, my go-to is the Asian chicken salad. It’s awesome and really, really cravable. Other popular things have been the chicken marsala and we’re doing some pastas now, too — there’s a pasta primavera on there that’s great.
You’re planning on expanding the dinner menu more soon, correct? Can you tell us what else will be on there?
It’s going to be stuff you’d expect from a diner. We don’t have a meatloaf right now and that’s at the top of our list. I also really want to add either a fried fish sandwich or a fish and chips. I find myself craving that so much and there’s not really that many places around town that do it. I need tartar sauce in my life.
When dreaming up the new menu, it sounds like a lot of it is stuff you crave. Is that true or are you collaborating with the chef to develop new items?
There’s two ways. I’ve always been the kind of person where it’s like, be true to yourself and the others will follow. So when I’m into something, I’m gonna try that. It might not always work, but that’s where a lot of the development has come from in the past.
But as we’ve grown, we’ve hired very talented people. Part of being a head chef is coming up with dishes. It’s exciting. I just get to try things that I wouldn’t have come up with myself or are coming from a different perspective or bringing a different history. Either way, I’m definitely going to make suggestions.
Kat Thompson is a Bangkok-born, Los Angeles-raised writer. She was previously a senior staff writer of food & beverage at Thrillist and has written for Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Eater, and more.