As we last left the burger bureau, we were discussing the competing old school counters, Apple Pan and Pie n' Burger and the way more modern yet rather subdued Jay's Jayburger. This report covers the rest of my hot dog and hamburger eating.
Tommy's - 15 years ago I went to law school with a guy from LA. He talked endlessly of Tommy's, and I have been meaning to try ever since. And according to Wiv, I have still not tried Tommy's because I went to the location off of the Hollywood freeway with drive-thru and not the original on Beverly. It sure tasted very Tommy's to me. Nuts to eat this in the car, well I wrapped myself in various prophalatic and pressed on--not stopping kept the kids at bay. I found Tommy's opposite of Jay's. Thin, somewhat tough burger with nary a beef presence, but with a much more lucious chili. To be frank, this was the only chili that meant something. One big gooey mess that tasted as good as promised.
Woody's, home of the Smorgursburgers - I am a sucker for branding. Name your output a Jayburger, I'm zooming down Santa Monica. When I passed Woody's on Sepvulda, just south of our hotel, I HAD to get there, and I did once as a late breakfast. Woody's does their burgers on a gas grill. It tastes about as good as Burger King once did. The shtick, a toppings bar, i.e., the smorgursburg in the smorgursburger. I know Cassell's (horribly absent still from my survey) features a bar with outstanding items like potato salad and pineapples, and I dreamed about something nearly as over-the-top and nearly as well done. Not quite. I am guessing that health code issues and economics have limited a bit the formerly mythical smorgursburg because the crushed ice contained plenty of empty space where I imagined various bowls once stood tempting the diner to pile it on. Also, some of the condiments like mayo came in tiny packages. The only whiff of exotic came from sauerkraut and sliced jalepenos. Woody's like many places in LA also has the tiny yellow-green pepper bombs I've never seen before. Pickle guy that I am, I also liked that they had both dill, "hamburger slices", and sweet bread and butter. I put the more sour on the burger and ate the other on the side. After your trip to the fixin's bar, you can take your tray to a conversation pit around a ceramic logged, gas fire, perhaps to remind you of how the burgers are cooked. I'm not complaining one bit with the results, only wishing it could have been a bit more.
Fatburger - If a law school buddy first introduced me to Tommy's, then the Beastie Boys got me dreaming around the same time of Fatburger. Not nearly as overflowing with people as In'n Out, but in my memory right now, better. This should be the burger taking over the coming. A burger that follows the fast food structure (and price, some of the places like Pie n' Burger especially are not quite as inexpensive as one would expect), but also rises above the genre. Fatburger rises above the fast food formula by actually wallowing in the gutter. The burger is so greasily good, it is a throwback to what McDonald's tried to clean-up. Sweet relish distracted, just not as much as Apple Pan. Waiting not too patiently for one to open in Chicago.
Pink's - It takes a long time to get to the front of the line here. Both enough time to work through the various choices and permutations--which sausage, which size, which toppings--and to ask yourself, is it worth it. For my family, unfortunately, the extended wait, in a weirdly chilly LA, was not worth it. As we snaked around the line, we settled on the Johnny Grant, a slaw dog, a Pink's classic chili dog, and two plain dogs, dressed as close to Chicago as possible for the kids. Reactions ranged from horror to mild pleasure. While the kids just could not stomach a dog that tasted that different from home, I found it meaty, with maybe a bit too much liquid smokey, and having a nice snap. I just thought the chili plain and of little value (and tasting nearly the same as Jay's chili). The cole slaw, an extremely commercial version, added even less. Interesting selection of old fashioned pops, including Fanta's and Dr. Brown's in bottles. I'm glad I tried it, but one of the few places in LA (perhaps the only) I have no need to try again.