Original Tommy's' sprawling empire extends far beyond the hallowed ground at Beverly and Rampart—including now San Diego. But a reviewer in the Union-Tribune there doesn't get what the fuss is about, writing "In a few words, this is not my burger... Tommy's is one of those nostalgia-fueled experiences where good memories fill in what might be missing in the taste department. I wanted to like the food, but nothing I tasted was worth a return trip." That was too much for one of her paper's own copy editors, who filed a response: "Ah, Maria – it is not your fault that they sent a woman to do a manly man's job. These are burgers with a Higher Mission: To fill a manly man's stomach to bursting, to sop up booze, to counter the onslaught of trendy faux-burger sliders topped with brie (!) and God knows what else."
At Tommy's you'll find cops next to stoners, socialites side by side with panhandlers, the newly arrived along with the old guard, all chowing down at the stand-up counters.
Tommy's is more than a hamburger. Tommy's is democracy in action.
Actually Tommy's isn't my favorite burger either, but it certainly has its believers. By the way, the Lincoln Heights history website gives a version of how "chili size" entered the local burger vernacular: "Ptomaine Tommy served straight chili and a Southwestern variation, a hamburger smothered with chili. He had two ladles, a large and a small. When a customer ordered straight chili, he got out the large ladle. When he wanted the other, he usually said 'Hamburger size.' So Ptomaine Tommy put up one sign that read HAMBURGER SIZE 15¢, and another that read CHILI SIZE 20¢. Other chili joints followed suit and before long chili was known throughout Los Angeles as 'size.' They'd say, 'Just gimme a bowl of size.'"
While we're at it: Here's an earlier Tommy's piece by Chip Jacobs, then with the L.A. Business Journal.
Photos: Originaltommys.com, Lincolnheightsla.com