What’s the quickest way to a studio executive’s heart? Well, the wallet, but the stomach isn’t far behind. Which is why the commissary is a major nerve center on a studio’s lot, the place to spot celeb players noshing on salads between meetings or spy on honcho wannabes angling for power seats. Mind you, these places are off-limits to most of the public. But for those lucky enough to gain access, here’s a run-down of what to expect.
5555 Melrose Ave., L.A.
Ambiance: With its white latticework and leafy palms, the commissary and dining room is as sedate as a tearoom at Nordstrom. Which is why, says a studio insider, many younger employees lunch at the hipper Raleigh Studios cantina across the street, with its bougainvillea-covered patio and tasty enchiladas.
Menu: Standard department-store lunch fare. The chicken breast sandwiches are too dry; the shrimp risotto tastes like Campbell’s soup over rice. Then again, the fresh-squeezed OJ is good.
Faces in the crowd: Viacom Entertainment Group chairman Jonathan Dolgen, LeVar Burton
Power seats: The tables at the back wall with a view of the room (Dolgen’s spot)
Catch of the day: Salmon filet, $13.95
Food and atmosphere: C
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Ambiance: Casual Californian. An architectural quirk of the airy, high-ceilinged room causes every word to ricochet around. Accentuating the bright tone are lots of blond wood, crisp white tablecloths, and happy, campy early movie posters.
Menu: Simple, generally well-executed fare that leans toward grill foods: burgers, venison, fresh seafood fillets. The flavorful pepperoni pizza was a favorite of former studio chief Lew Wasserman. Reflecting its corporate ownership, all alcoholic beverages are Seagram’s brands.
Faces in the crowd: Shaun Cassidy, studio president Ron Meyer
Power seats: The plush, upholstered banquettes along the wall favored by execs
Catch of the day: Seared swordfish, $16
Food: B+ Atmosphere: B
500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank
Ambiance: Tucked discreetly above its corporate offices, far from any soundstages, this is clearly an executive dining hall – it looks more like a spacious conference room than a restaurant. Micromanagement abounds.(Mickey Mouse salt and pepper shakers!)
Menu: California cuisine. The gourmet lunch items – like baby frisee in a roasted-pepper-and-goat-cheese dressing with smoked chicken, asparagus, and blood oranges – are exquisite. Don’t skip the crisp caramelized apple tart.
Faces in the crowd: Sally Field, Tim Allen
Power seats: None. In this small round room, everyone can see everyone else.
Catch of the day: Curry blackened ahi, $19.95
Food: A Atmosphere: A-