August 15, 2007

A Journey back in time....

There are few franchised eating establishments that dot the southern California landscape worth mentioning in a food blog. As you might guess the majority of these would be fast food. In-n-out and Tommy’s are two that come to mind, that might be considered institutions, perhaps maybe even iconic.

Lately, after not really enjoying the sandwich known as a burger most of my life, I have come to a term of endearment with the in-n-out cheese burger and indulge myself on rare occasions, and even more recently I have started to crave a burger that I once had in college. A little place over on Beverly and Rampart that we would drive to after the UCLA football games at the Coliseum, (I know I am dating myself once again).

Tommy’s. I would stand in line and order mine, no onion no mustard and watch the big Samoan guy scowl at me for the special request, but dutifully make it for me non-the- less; the greasy cheesy chili mess all over my hands which later had to be washed with soap to remove the orange stains (from the grease and chili), a super thick slice of tomato, crisp pickles slices, and no mustard.

Today I indulged myself once again. Not living near, or wanting to drive to the “Original” Tommy’s. I decided to try one that was on my way home from the office. I assume they would all be as good, as conscientious about your burger, even with a scowl, the Samoan made mine right every time.

I drove through, Cheeseburger grilled onion, NO mustard. The cashier repeated my order to me and handed me a bag that was already beginning to turn a faint orange color on the bottom.

By the time I got home to eat the thing, I had worked myself into a Tommy burger froth. I found my camera do document the blessed event, carefully unwrapping and photographing the mess. Next I decided to cut the burger, since you really couldn’t see the inside from the frontal shot.

I cut the burger in two and separated the halves, licking the knife in anticipation of my first bite.

What did I taste?
No, it couldn’t be!

I removed the bun and yes, it was there, bright yellow, I took off the tomato, the pickle, and scraped off the onion until no yellow was to be seen. What was left? Chili, burger and cheese; I had a pink pit bull begging at my feet. I considered giving her what was left, half a bun, burger and chili, but I was hungry, so I knife and forked most of the remainder. I had heartburn by the time I was halfway through, probably more from the disappointment than from the food. The pretty pink pit bull shared the second half with me, I wonder if she got heartburn too.

Such an anti-climactic journey back in time, maybe one day I will journey back to Rampart and Beverly. I am sure the big Samoan who made sure there was no mustard on my burger 20 years ago is long gone, but hopefully replaced with someone just as conscientious, who maybe doesn’t scowl.


Anonymous said...

When you order a Tommy take it the way you get. No special orders! What is the matter with you?

Then instead of enjoying it you decide to dissect it like a high school science experiment? As long as they display an "A" from the health department it comes down to why the heck you would to drive to the corner of Rampart and Beverly.

Either you have some un-fullfilled need to experience what gang cross-fire is like in person or get a hamburger.

Aaron Proctor said...

I apologize I didn't even know about your blog.

Blog rolling you now under "LA Area Blogs"

And yes, please review Frank & Dean's. Let me know when it's up and I'll link you!

Aaron Proctor said...

- AP

Anonymous said...

Tommy's was -- and still is -- the fantasy chili burger/chili dog to the hundreds of thousands of folks who grew up on them in the 60's and 70's. As a teenager, the standing joke was, "You didn't have to ingest a Tommy's burger to break out from the fat content because as it, (the chili), dripped down your face, instant pimples were created."

You are not alone. And, as a student in the 70's near Beverly and Rampart, Tommy's was the place to go for quick, cheap and lip-smackin' chili burgers. I don't know which one you went to last year, but I do know that many of them are the same now as they were then.

When I absolutely need a Tommy's "fix," I go to the one just north of Victory on Topanga Canyon in Canoga Park. I especially like this location because it has a drive-through -- which is not only convenient, but there is a far less chance of anyone seeing you order. Then again, if you do bump into someone you know, remember that they are there for the same thing!

This is the kind of "haute cuisine" that one either loves or hates. If you think you're alone in craving such a delicacy, just check out the Chowhound LA Board and search for reviews for Tommys, Pinks, and Carney's -- where you can find similar gastrointestinal delights --all or some of which folks either worship or detest. For every "gourmand" that drools at the thought of biting into one of these sloppy, drippy, fatty, nostalgic comfort foods, there is an equal but opposite reaction (per Einstein) from a chowhound who is scratching his/her head, bewildered, and repeatedly mumbling, "I just don't get it."

Have you ever had the chili-cheese fries? Or the dogs? Next time you get a'hankerin' for a taste of Tommy's yesteryear, get the fries -- but be sure to order the fries extra well done. The fries are absolutely unremarkable (frozen?), but it's the combination of the whole that"s inspiring. BTW, I've heard that you can order the chili biy the quart and take it home. Now, THERE'S a fantasy gone wild!

After all, fatty beef, too much flour, a big hunka hunka pale tomato and enough salt to make five elephants in heat retain water . . . . what's not to love?

James Harris said...

I feel your pain. I hate mustard. Probably the only food ingredient that I really can't eat. Ruined many a bought sandwich!

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