Burger Reviews and other stuff

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Tam’s/Tom’s conundrum.

If you’ve ever driven in South Central or some the East side small municipalities of South Gate Huntington Park, or Lynwood you’ve probably noticed a burger joint named Tam’s or Tom’s. If you’ve ever eaten at either of them, you’ve probably noticed that the burgers taste the same. Is it the same restaurant? Do they all have the same operators? How the heck should I know, I just eat there. Heck if they are owned by aliens who are out to control us and stuff our bodies with fat so that we can be delicious, or if they are some corporate giant that wants to fatten us up to turn us into soylent green, who cares? This is a Burger Review…and although we may touch on politics and other issues in here, I frankly don’t have the time to research all of this…if any of you want to do this go ahead, be my guest.


Anyway, all of these places taste like they got their burger supplies from Smart & Final, the smaller faster wharehouse store, and hey if I wanted to make a burger like them all I would have to do is go to Smart & Final, purchase supplies and BOOYAH instant Tam’s/Tom’s burger, as far as I’m concerned it’s the same place, they all look like they might be run by Greeks and have your mandatory staff of Mexican cooks. They all have variations on the same burger, from hamburger, to cheeseburger, to double cheeseburger, to chili cheeseburger, to double chili cheeseburger, to bacon cheeseburger, to colossal burger with all kinds of grease and fattening yummy stuff on them. I’ve pretty much had them all. They’re all pretty decent. Some of them will have vegetarian patty available, but don’t hold your breath, almost all of them will have one or two broken down arcade machines, and the gumball machines where you can get Homies (if you don’t know what Homies are, go here: http://www.homies.tv/home.htm) part of the fun of going to these places is waiting for your order and spending your left over change buying some Homies.

I digress.

These places are all your typical diner type set ups, they have booths to sit at and some of them have a drive through, the have a full menu with other crap like fried chicken, carne asada, burritos and tacos and will most likely also serve breakfast, all of which are usually pretty tasty as well.

These places are gritty and down to earth, they give you that sense of real inner city urban comfort if, you grew up in the hood you know what I’m talking about. It’s the closest thing to down home those of us with urban upbringings can think of. There’s always a film of filth somewhere, somehow, and it’s not disconcerting, did I just say disconcerting? Alright, there goes my 75 cent college word for the day, that English degree is finally paying off! Back to the point, it’s that small underlying grit that lies at the soul of those of us in the Inner city, these places aren’t the burger joints of southern California car culture, or of a post World War II boom town, or pop culture. No, these are the burger joints of bulletproof glass and disenfranchised communities with no access to the services and goods in other areas. Many times you’ll find these burger joints are the only store around for blocks, you’ll find them in areas of South LA where the larger fast food chains are still trying to make headway, if you can call that headway. Other times you’ll find Tams’/Toms’ in strip malls lumped together with video stores and Laundromats, many times you’ll find the clientele of these burger joints are the cops that are patrolling those particular areas. Such is the case with the Tom’s in Lynwood on Imperial, which is frequented by the LA County Sheriffs.

All socioeconomic exploration aside, the burgers at Toms’ and Tams’ aren’t anything to really shake a stick at, they are better than most of the signature burgers of the big fast food chains, but not quite up to par on some of the newer specialty burgers that the fast food chains like Carl’s Jr. or Burger King are coming out with. Most of the time you’ll find people ordering out at these places, they’ll have really good deals for the family, such as: 4 burgers and 4 fries and 4 drinks for some ridiculous price like $12.95. If you’re the coach of a little league or junior soccer team, this is where you take your team for dinner after the game if they’re craving burgers.

Whaddaya gonna do?

Ups and downs of getting a burger at Tam’s or Tom’s. On the plus side, they usually give you a really large amount of fries, most of the time they are seasoned with Lawry’s seasoned salt, which may sound generic, but is really good. (A personal tip, if you get your fries in a separate bag you can drip a generous amount of ketchup in the bag and then shake it up the result is, mushy seasoned fully ketchuped fries, so very delicious!) Also on the upside, the burgers are usually pretty meaty, not some really thick piece of meat like some of the big specialty burgers, but about a ¼ pound. One thing that could go either way is the condiments of the burger, some people like really wet burgers with lots of mayo or dressing and ketchup, others like a dry bun, if you’re in the dry bun category, then this may not be the place for you, Tam’s/Tom’s love to make burgers that are really wet. I don’t so much know if they love doing that, so much as every time I go there, that’s what they do. Seriously on the downside, the fountain drinks, they usually give you an exorbitant amount of shaved ice, (oh crap there goes another college word) which sometimes ends up looking like a soda flavored slushy.

Tam’s and Tom’s are located in various areas of South LA and or Southeast cities in LA County. You can look them up in the Yahoo Local search and you’ll find some.

Final thoughts: comfort food of my inner city childhood.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My First Burger Review

So after many lunchtime discussions with my friend I have decided to start a Humburger Review...this will mainly deal with burger joints in the Southern California area, mainly focusing on mom and pop joints, although I will scamper through to restaurant and fast food joints occasionally. Los Angeles is a wonderful place for burgers there is a long beautiful history of some of the greatest burger fast food places getting their start here in LA...and hey who doesn't love burger? probably communists...that's who.

HAMBURGER HABIT this little dive located in a strip mall off of Sepulveda and National in West LA is really a great little place in a stirp mall. Tha ambience is almsot 1950's...there's plenty of old Coke ads and they come from all over the world. The menu is very 50's diner, but of course doesn't make you forget that you're in a stirp mall which takes away form it a bit, you have your choice of basically the same burger with different topings such as bacon and swiss cheese or the works, the works has chilli, and unlike most chilli burgers comes with letuce tomatos and all that other typical "regular" hamburger stuff. Your order is served on a paper plate with fries and a pickle spear. They call your order out by yelling out the name of playing card the give you when you place your order..."10 of SPADES!" kind of like that, adds a good amount of kitsch factor to the place, don't lose your card and don't be a dumbass that starts throwing it around at your frineds.

The Works burger is my choice, the meat on the burger is juicy and the chilli is good, you'll find places that make chilli burgers where the meat is good but the chilli is sub-par or vice versa so I was very happy to find that this burger joint came through on both ends. Although the burger holds together well but does tend to get a bit messy towards the end. There are moments when I feel the need to add a little bit of green tabasco sauce on the bruger but, hey that' me...I love the abundance of condiments set out on the counters mustard, ketchup tabasco sauce. Gives you the option of flavoring up your burger however you like.

The fries are your standard cut fries, tasty. various flavors of milk shakes are really good not too thick not too runny, just about right.

Price - a meal at Hamburger Habit will run you from 4-6 dollars depending and well worth it if you ask me grade A meat and a good quality burger, a variety of choices on burger style. About the only downside to the place is location, not easy to get to and it is tucked away in a little corner on the edge of a freeway on ramp and not to visible, you may have already passed by it a couple of times. They stay open late, it's a great place to start your evening or go to lunch.
Hamburger Habit(310) 478-5000
11223 National Blvd Los Angeles, CA

I hope you find this review helpful, drop me a comment if you feel it's too much info or not enough. My hope is to have this burger review out once a week, and in the coming weeks I hope to have explanations of differences in burger styles...and I want this to be fun for you and for me.

Rock on,


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