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Surprise! Great burger at Norms!

Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 12:23 AM

A whole bunch better than I expected, anyway. After half a day getting the sunblock scorched off us at the Long Beach flea market, Mrs. O and I stopped on the way home at our favorite Adequate-Food place, the Norm's on Lakewood just south of the 91 freeway. Looking for something different and feeling burgerish I ordered what I think is called the San Francisco burger, which comes on grilled sourdough with cheese, tomato, lettuce and pickle for $6.99, fries included. I was delighted to hear "And how would you like that cooked?", and specified medium-rare. Well, the sandwich she brought me had an obviously hand-formed patty hanging well out of the diagonal-cut bread, and was definitely a two-hander. It had a nice bite to it, a good rich beefiness, was precisely the shade of pink I wanted and oozily juicy to boot. The pickle slices were served on the side, along with some extra lettuce and sliced tomato, I suppose in case I found my sandwich understuffed, but I didn't. The fries were in fact just adequate, a tad floppy, but as I was dripping burger juice all over them anyway (Oh, I DO like gravy on my potatoes!) any real crispness would have just been wasted.

I usually consider visiting any round-the-clock breakfast venue to be just an excuse to have some more of my favorite meal, but now I'm going to have to check in periodically to see whether this burger experience can reliably repeat itself. I guess I should also try it at some different Norm's places. All in the interests of Chow Knowledge, folks!

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    dano RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 12:27 AM

    could be why they're hiring now-i've only been to 1 on a couple of occasions and dennys had em beat....

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      cupcake RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 12:37 AM

      With all due respect, I can't imagine anything at Norm's being remotely edible. In fact, several years ago I asked the server, "Is there ANYTHINg on the menu that's edible at all?", and she said....wellllll...
      No joke.

      1. ipsedixit RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 03:45 AM

        Never been a fan of burgers on grilled sourdough ...

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          hlwd_marko RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 04:16 AM

          The most disgusting food(S) I ever had was at Norms. It is amazing that place like that is in business.
          But I'm happy for you, OP, if you had some edible stuff in there.

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            mc michael RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 04:35 AM

            Accidents will happen. Years ago I ate too many meals at Norm's, foreshortening my life but living for the day cheaply. At this point, I'd say don't spoil the memory. Never eat there again (unless, of course, by "Norm's" you actually meant Norman's).

            1. Will Owen RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 08:37 PM

              Dang! I'm almost sorry I liked it! All I can gather from the replies here is that either the Lakewood Norm's is the only decent one on the planet (although I also had a perfectly adequate breakfast at one in Santa Monica, come to think of it), or else my tastebuds are as hopelessly undiscriminating as they were back when I was the only kid I knew who would cheerfully eat ALL of my school-cafeteria lunch...

              Aside from whatever lapses in taste I may have committed, however, I will defend the factual parts of my report: the burger patty WAS obviously hand-formed (either that or they have a lopsided patty-molding device), it WAS the right shade of pink everywhere inside, and it was, to my possibly inferior sensibilities, quite undeniably delicious. (It had to be, or I would have chosen to flee the mob scene, with unsupervised children swarming noisily amongst the employees chatting in the aisles and the guy pushing two hand-vacs around the floor. But we're supposed to stick to the food, right?)

              5 Replies
              1. re: Will Owen
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                silverlakebodhisattva RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 09:17 PM

                Will, I'll defend to the death your right to like Norm's. Eh, a fine dining experience it maybe wasn't, but hey, it's a BURGER in a COFFEE SHOP, guys. I've found the breakfasts at the Santa Monica branch, (where for various reasons I seem to end up about once a year) competent and reasonably priced; better than Denny's, and often as good, and without the foboho attitude of, my local Eat-Well. If you get there early you can avoid the huge masses of extended families with many screaming/whining toddlers.

                Besides, true afficianados of grimy boho nostalgia must eat patty melts there, since Norm's, with the demise of the "Copper Penny", is the last remaining vestige of the culinary delights mentioned in Tom Waits' "Nighthawks". . . I've never been there between midnight and 4 am personally, though. . .

                1. re: silverlakebodhisattva
                  PaulF RE: silverlakebodhisattva Jul 17, 2006 09:51 PM

                  You beat me to the Waits reference ... no joke, I almost wrote the same thing before scanning the whole thread ... nice work!

                  1. re: silverlakebodhisattva
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                    dano RE: silverlakebodhisattva Jul 17, 2006 10:05 PM

                    copper penny? thats bringin back some memories...

                    1. re: silverlakebodhisattva
                      Will Owen RE: silverlakebodhisattva Jul 18, 2006 09:10 PM

                      Actually, there are patty melts all over the place. Within the past year I've had the very good but ridiculously huge one at Pann's, and the surprisingly (there's that word again!) decent one at Twohey's. What's odd is that both are advertised as being 1/2-pounders, but sweartagod Pann's is at least half again as big!

                      I've also seen them on quite a few other menus, offered on either grilled rye bread or grilled sourdough. All the ones I've had around here differ from the back-East variety in that they're basically just cheeseburgers on toast; the ones East of the Rockies typically have the cheese inside the patty.

                    2. re: Will Owen
                      Funwithfood RE: Will Owen Jul 18, 2006 11:48 PM

                      No need to defend. Sometimes I get fantastic food where I least expect it, and horrible food (at least for the price) at the "best" places.

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                      hlwd_marko RE: Will Owen Jul 17, 2006 10:09 PM

                      Yep, it's burger place/coffee shop (I love coffee shops)but, no matter who mentioded Norm's name in their songs, out of my total, approximately 5 visits in there, my mashed potatoes (I didn't even expect it to be homemade)3 or 4 times were fridge-cold inside, burger burned, very tired salad and just... worst food ever.
                      Since it's coffee shop, I would expect them to get these basics right, but no, they fail, fail and fail. There is no excuse to charge for bad food even if the place is "coffee shop."
                      I went there first time because I'm aware of their role in googie/coffee shop -history. I tried many times, I always thought "maybe this was one time incident," but I'm done with them. There is plenty of much better coffee shops.

                      1. Kris P Pata RE: Will Owen Jul 18, 2006 11:22 PM

                        Please already; stop the hatin' on NORM'S! Indeed, it's a far cry from haute cuisine and yes, there are a number of menu items that I would not touch. But for LA natives, it's a comforting, solid standby that many of us discovered while in jr. high and high school.

                        The patty melt? They lay claim to inventing it. 'Nuff said.

                        Besides, where else can you still get soup AND salad with your meal?

                        COPPER PENNY . . . wow, talk about a nostalgia ride. The Wilshire Blvd. branch (now TOFU HOUSE) across from St. Basil's was my 2nd grade after school stop with my dad. Do we know of any keft in existence?

                        1. wilafur RE: Will Owen Jul 18, 2006 11:35 PM

                          i love waltzing into normas at 2-3am and ordering up the bigger better breakfast in an attempt to soak up all the booze in my system.

                          norms is coffeeshop food so i do not expect exceptional food. but it is a place for a quick and comforting meal anytime of the day or night.

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                            hlwd_marko RE: Will Owen Jul 19, 2006 03:48 AM

                            I've never manage to get any comfort out of bad cooking, discomfort, yes.
                            "What's your favorite discomfort food?"

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