Visiting Original Tommy's is like going to see an old friend. The Tujunga location was one of the first places I drove to when I got my car license in the 1970's. Before that, it was an occasional trip to Tommy's with friends after school, or a once in a while trip with my parents to “dine out”. Later, working for the studios, it was one of the few places I could actually go to when working the night shift and taking 'lunch' from anywhere between 11pm and 2am. Over the years, my tastes have expanded dramatically, but every once in a while an Original Tommy's burger or a Chili Tamale make some of the best comfort foods that I have grown up with.
One of the reasons for Tommy's popularity is that their food has not changed over the years. I can still get the same double cheeseburger that I got when I was in junior high. The basic toppings of tomato, pickle, onion and mustard are still the same as in my early years. And the chili is the same as it has always been, closer to the Greek style “Cincinnati chili” then the authentic chili that I get when I attend the International Chili Society's Chili Cookoffs. However, as a topping for a burger it is just perfect, more like a meat gravy with just enough kick to add some spice and not enough to overpower the other flavors on the burger.
Today, I primarily go to the Lake Forest Tommy's since it is close to my home in Orange County. In my younger days, I made the trek to Los Angeles once in a while, just to see where it all began. That location, at the corner of Rampart and Beverly Boulevards, has changed some since 1946 when Tommy Koulax first opened his hamburger stand, but it still has the original stand there and always has a crowd waiting. It's nice when you can go someplace and see a little bit of history. The lines there, like at all of the Original Tommy's, move quite fast. This may be fast food, but it is fresh and good tasting food. Realizing that all the food is made to order, with no pre-made wrapped burgers sitting under a heat lamp, makes the speed of the staff at Tommy's even more impressive.
Some things are an anachronism, such as the Chili Tamale. This is a tamale, similar to the old XLNT tamales still available in the markets. It is served in a paper bowl, topped with the chili, a slice of yellow cheese, a tomato and onions. It is something you do not see any place else. Sure, it is not like the tamales you get from a good taqueria or tamale vendor. It is not like the homemade tamales I have at home now made by hand by a friend's mother. But it is definitely comfort food, bringing back memories of sitting at the dinner table, watching my father ladling his homemade chili over those XLNT tamales so we could have a “Mexican dinner”.
Other dishes such as the Chili Fries are great for a once in a while, decadent treat. Another treat at Tommy's are the spicy little yellow peppers they have for the asking. They are nice if you like spicy peppers. They are also good to break apart, mixing the seeds and juice inside into the ketchup for your order of French fries. That's part of the fun at Tommy's, being able to do the same exact things like I did when I was a kid. It's nice to know that some things never change and that I can enjoy Original Tommy's as much now as when I was a kid.
24310 Swartz Dr,
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Other locations throughout California and Nevada