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Best Chili Size?

  • m

Sensing a trend in "bests," ironic and otherwise, I have to ask: Is there anywhere I can get a good chili size other than Hamburger Hamlet? Same question for the patty melt.

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  1. Can you (or someone) clue me in on the derivation of that name?

    10 Replies
    1. re: soccerdad
      michael (mea culpa)

      Don't have a clue. Maybe something to do with the bowl it's served in?

      1. re: soccerdad

        I believe it refers to the portion (size sm,med or lge) of chili ladled over the meat.

        1. re: petradish
          michael (mea culpa)

          I believe it refers to the portion (size sm,med or lge) of chili ladled over the meat. >>
          What, you have an option? Never encountered that.

          1. re: BeenThereAteThat

            I was prepared to scoff - H. Allen Smith, a humorist of the '40s and '50s got pretty much everything else in the essay wrong - but his story of the name's origin is in fact correct. It must have been the fact that he was quoting Fred Beck, soul of the Farmers Market and one of the great names in L.A. food lore.

          2. re: soccerdad

            The "Chili Size" is an L.A. thing. Back in the 1920s, there was a chili parlor called Ptomaine Tommy's and he is credited with creating the first chili burger. His beanless chili was served two ways: 1.) in a bowl with beans and other fixins; and 2.) over a hamburger, much like the chili burger we know today. He had two different sized ladles for dispensing the chili, so he hung a sign up that read, "Hamburger size: 15¢" and another sign, "Chili size: 20¢".

            If someone wanted the chili burger, he'd get the hamburger size ladle; for a bowl of chili, the larger "chili size" ladle. WELL, somewhere along the way, he began serving an open-faced chili burger with the CHILI SIZE ladle so that it smothered the burger and bun with a bowlful of chili. This is how the CHILI SIZE menu item came to be.

            Other restaurants began copying the new creation. I have seen menus with "Cheeseburger Size" and "Hamburger size" as well as "Chili Size" but they all seem to mean the same thing: and open-face chili burger. The biggest mystery is why people began calling chili "size," as in "Gimme a bowl of size!" I guess the two terms just became synonymous for a while.

            1. re: bobbeecher

              bobbeecher, thank you so much for this very thorough explanation. That name has baffled me for nearly 15 years.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: bobbeecher

                Proving that, nowadays, one "size" fits all.

                1. re: bobbeecher

                  I'm an oldster who ate at Ptomaine Tommy's more times than I can count and this is what I remember. The floor was covered with sawdust and the walls were covered with signed pictures of actors and boxers declaring the 'size' to be the best food in town.
                  There were 2 'U' shaped counters you had to step up to so the waiters could serve without bending over. At lunch it was pretty easy to get a seat but at night the line often went around the block and the wait could be an hour or more giving you time to rub elbows with movie stars from across town.
                  The place was close to the railroad tracks so you couldn't say it was the best location but that just made it more exciting.
                  The main items on the menu were a regular size which was a hamburger patty with either beans or spaghetti topped with chile or a deluxe size called an egg royal decorated with again either beans or spaghetti and topped with chile. When it was placed in front of you the waiter asked if you wanted onions and if you said yes he reached behind the counter and scooped a cup or more of chopped raw onions on top of the size. Here is the kicker. The chile was so far superior to any chile anybody had ever eaten that it was the reason for the unbelievable popularity of the restaurant.
                  It was rumored that Tommy would come into the kitchen alone and make the chile. None of his staff knew the formula and when he died it died with him. I say that hoping someone will contradict me and give us the formula but I don't think that will happen.

              2. My kitchen at home, two requirements though, bring a six pack of ice cold Michelobe and a round of real Parisian sourdough direct from San Francisco...

                1. Chili My Soul in the Valley has about twenty different kinds of Chili varying in content and intensity. It's in Encino on Ventura Boulevard. Awesome!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: chris
                    michael (mea culpa)

                    Chili My Soul in the Valley has about twenty different kinds of Chili varying in content and intensity.>>
                    So, do they make a chili size, i.e., a plate with chili, a burger patty, melted cheese and some raw onions on the side?

                    1. re: michael (mea culpa)

                      Uff da... is THAT what it is? Just go to any Tommy's (or Tomy's or Big Tomy's or Thomas' or Thoma's &c. ad nauseam, WHY are their so many imitations of a mediocre burger joint anyway?) and get a chili burger with no bun.

                      1. re: PRSMDave

                        Any time I have ever eaten a Tommy Burger I have got a real bad stomach ache. Go to Chili's, order a burger and a side of chili, then do what ever with them...

                    2. I have an answer for your second question about best patty melts. In the food database that I call my memory, the two places with memorable patty melt are:

                      Pea Soup Andersen's. I went to the one in Carlsbad, but I don't know if that one still exists. There is, however, one still in Buellton (But if you've already driven that far, maybe you should go down the street to the Hitching Post). Anyway, the patty melt there was really good.

                      Pie-n-Burger in Pasadena. The place is a little slice of Americana, and the prices are somewhat high. They still mix the soda and water by hand. I haven't tried too much on their menu, but everytime I go, I'm tempted to go back to their reliable standby, the patty melt.

                      As for the chili size, I always thought that was a dish my old dorm cafeteria invented to get rid of leftovers, and threw together a name for it. That and "shrimp mates". wtf?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Panoz
                        michael (mea culpa)

                        Thanks for the informative reply. Shrimp mates? I guess I missed those altogether. Sounds scarey.

                        1. re: Panoz

                          I've never had the patty melt at Pea Soup Anderson's but now I want to try one!

                          Unfortunately the one in Carlsbad is no longer open.

                        2. Best Chili=size I or any of my friends have ever had including "Chili Johns" chili.. Well done burger, awesome crazy chili, w/lots of beans,and onions, and cheese. Served open face on a large toasted bun! When i was a "meat eater" it was the bomb! But since I gave up animal protein, and lost 170lbs, it sure brings back those old memories...

                          Los Toros is on Devonshire & Topanga, also full bar w/ rocking Margarita's !!!

                          1. Best patty melt is Sambos in Santa Barbara, (yes the same Sambos that used to be everywhere). Runner up would be Pie n Burger in Pasadena.

                            1. can't speak to the chili size; last one i had was at bob's big boy in glendale (long gone).
                              but the best patty melt i've ever had is at rick's in palm springs. right on north palm canyon as you enter town. thick, fresh patty that you can actually get rare or medium rare; perfect grilling, not too greasy and great fries!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Terry House

                                I was just at the (I think)very last Bob's Big Boy, in Burbank for a first birthday party (baby's mom used it as an excuse to have Bob's Hot Fudge Cake). They still have Chili Size on the menu. I kind of wanted to order it, because I have fond childhood memories of it, but decided that I didn't want to disturb the memory incase it's actual goodness was only in my (then) 8 year old mind. I had to stick to the Big Boy Combo for old time sake -the burger still tastes of that ketchupy relish and the cheese wasn't melted as usual, but the dressing didn't seem to taste as "blue" as I remember it.

                                1. re: debra

                                  It's not exactly the L.A. area, but there's still a Bob's Big Boy in Calimesa off the 10 freeway (between San Bernadino and Palm Springs). Of course, it's not an original one like the one in Burbank.

                                  1. re: Chris G.

                                    And now Northridge, on Corbin and Nordhoff. Thanks for mentioning Bob's, I've been looking for decent chili/chili sizes myself lately, as the weather has turned colder, and been coming up with some pretty tasteless ones.....

                              2. Can't vouch for the quality, but the Bob's Big Boy in Burbank still serves a chili size. Here's a link to their menu.

                                Link: http://www.bobs.net/bobsmenu/dinner.html

                                1. there's a Bob's Big Boy on Wilshire and Highland.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kevin

                                    There's a Bob's Big Boy on Colima in Walnut, right next to the 60 fwy

                                  2. Hello, Micheal.

                                    FWIW. In the Jan/Feb '01 Saveur Magazine (The Saveur 100), #84 on the list is the Patty Melt. According to the blurb, it was invented by Tiny Naylor of Tiny Naylor's coffee shop chain.
                                    They provide Tiny's granddughter's recipe, which she serves at Granita for Sat/Sun brunch. I don't claim to be a connoisseur of The Melt, but I've made her version a couple times, and its fantastic.

                                    Erik M.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Erik M.

                                      I used to order that patty melt all the time at Tiny Naylor's when I was a kid. I remember it as being truly delicious. From little chowhounds do big chowhounds grow...

                                      1. re: Sheryl

                                        Whatever DID happened to Tiny Naylor's? I know that the one in Long Beach named Tiny Naylor's at the Beach has nothing to do with the original restaurant.

                                      2. re: Erik M.
                                        michael (mea culpa)

                                        Thanks for the history lesson.

                                        1. re: michael (mea culpa)

                                          Regrets if you were offended.
                                          Couched in there was mention of Granita.
                                          Granted, I don't know if I'd wanna go TO Granita for a Patty Melt.

                                          Erik M.

                                          1. re: Erik M.
                                            michael (mea culpa)

                                            Erik, I apologize if I was opaque (obviously, I was). I seriously meant thanks for the history. Didn't know the whole bit about Tiny Naylor's. As for Granita, I agree, if I ever get there you are gonna have a hard time convincing me to order a chili size.

                                      3. The best chili size is at Claim Jumpers. They don't call it a chili size, it's steak and black bean chili. It's served over a piece of garlic toast and a hamburger patty that is awesome. The chili is really good and a good price for a lot of food.

                                        Best patty melt is at Elephant Bar, the beef they use is amazing, best ever anywhere. The price of a patty melt is less than $7.00 and comes with a side. Awesome.

                                        1. i believe twohey's in alhambra serves both. back in the day, both were excellent there, as were the lime freezes. haven't been in ages, but might have to go down to check them out again.

                                          Twohey's Restaurant
                                          1224 N Atlantic Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: chez cherie

                                            Not a chili size, but Twohey's has good hot fudge sundaes - they give you a choice of milk chocolate or bittersweet!

                                            1. re: asimen

                                              And they'll also make it with any ice cream they have! Bittersweet on chocolate, holy crap...!

                                          2. You can get this at The Stand. Haven't tried it yet, but I've been thinking about it. Now I feel more inspired to try it.

                                            1. I'd vote for the Bear Pit BBQ on Sepulveda.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                The BBQ at the Bear Pit is dry as dust, so I'm glad to hear they at least have a good chili size. What's it like?

                                                Bear Pit Bar-B-Que Restaurant
                                                10825 Sepulveda Blvd, Mission Hills, CA 91345

                                              2. I like two different chili sizes:

                                                Pepy's Galley, a great greasy spoon diner attached a bowling alley. Wonderful chili size. Venice near Centinela.

                                                Brent's Deli - I don't know why their chili is so good, but it really is. Great in an omelette, on a chili dog and their chili size is amazing as well. Northridge.

                                                Patty Melt - I thought the one I had at Boneyard Bistro was outrageously good. Maybe not a 'true' patty melt, but great nonetheless. Studio City.


                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: TimToyGeek

                                                  If you would like to try a "classic" patty melt give the version at Pann's a try. Great comfort food, and I will even sub out the standard fries and get either onion rings or a baked potato to go with it.

                                                  Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                  6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    Now, there are two of the most-informative posts I've seen in a long time. I had no idea the chili at Brent's ( http://brentsdeli.com/ ) was so good (I would have picked some up with my corned beef during a pre-game stop on Sunday) or that Boneyard Bistro ( http://boneyardbistro.com/ ) even had a patty melt, although it's right there on the menu:

                                                    “Southwest Patty Melt” * Grilled Rye Bread * Gruyere & Cheddar Cheeses * Sautéed Onions, Anaheim Chilies, & Bacon * Trio of Dipping Sauces (Avocado-Cilantro Ranch *1000 Island * Chipotle Aioli) 20

                                                    Twenty bucks for a patty melt? Well, that justifies ordering a very nice glass of wine with your burger.

                                                    I did know that Pann's ( www.panns.com ) has a patty melt, of course, but just never think about it when I'm heading over for great fried chicken or, as on last Friday night, Southern-fried pork chops (be sure to ask for gravy). I'll keep Servorg's recommendation in mind next time, and I also like his suggestion about adding their good onion rings.

                                                    Pepy's? Need to get there before they outlaw bowling under the influence of chili size.

                                                    Pepy's Galley
                                                    12125 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                    1. re: Harry Nile


                                                      The patty melt at Boneyard Bistro is delicious. Give it a taste.

                                                      1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                        I second Boneyard's patty melt. Definitely at the top of my list for patty melts.

                                                        1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                          Boneyard Bistro has to be the only BBQ place in the country where I've been served baguette slices instead of Wonder Bread, Buckeye, and I really like theirs (and the delicious butter). So I've never been motivated to have a sandwich on anything else. But since you and mrshankly give such high marks to the patty melt (which, under penalty of law, must be served on rye), I'll try it next time and report back. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that I also snag some of that baguette as a side dish. ;-)

                                                          Boneyard Bistro
                                                          13539 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

                                                          1. re: Harry Nile

                                                            "...the patty melt (which, under penalty of law, must be served on rye)..."

                                                            Against such rigid fundamentalism, I will insist on my right to be a heretic. I do not like grilled rye bread much, but adore grilled sourdough, and always insist on that substitution. I have yet to be refused, so the self-appointed Guardians of the One True Pattymelt are obviously not the ones selling them. For which I am grateful.

                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                              I can't even remember if the Patty Melt at Boneyard is even served on rye because the afterglow is so tremendous after eating it.

                                                              There, I admitted my Boneyard Patty Melt seduction in public.

                                                      2. re: Servorg

                                                        As with most things there I adore Pann's patty melt, the only problem being that that's something like a 2/3 or 3/4 lb. patty in there, and fat elderly gentlemen got no business eating that kind of thing. So I don't...except when I do...

                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                          lol Moderation in all things, including moderation. (Moderators - no offense implied). Will, at a certain point in life you've earned the 2/3 lb. patty melt at Pann's. And, in any case as my brother likes to say "Life ain't no dress rehearsal"

                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                            Well, a year and a half later … I've not gotten back to Pann's in all this time (no more work in that part of town; $$$$ gas), but when I do, as I'm yearning to, I'll just cut the damn thing in half and see how it is the next day.

                                                            In the meantime, the best PM I've found so far other than Pann's is at the Busy Bee Café on Main St. in Ventura, five or six blocks east from the Mission on the south side of the street. Lots of other good stuff too. Kinda kitschy, and at first I thought it was a retro fake like Johnny Rocket's, but it really is an old burger joint/diner that's just been spiffed up.

                                                            Busy Bee Cafe
                                                            478 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001

                                                    2. I like the chili size at LeRoy's, in Monrovia. I think their chili is really good, you can get it with the "goodies" (extra cheese, onion, sour cream etc.) on the side. You can also have the burger cooked the way you like it.

                                                      1. Wow is this ever an old CH thread! Coincidentally, I had some ravoli from Domenico's today and an hour or so later the tomato sauce had me refluxing like a good chili size.

                                                        1. Love the revival of this old chestnut of a post! One awesome chili size, actually called that, is at Richmond Bar and Grill in El Segundo. What makes it awesome: 1) the bed of fresh-made potato chips. I don't know where they get these mutant potatoes but the chips are up to 5-6" in length and as big as a coaster. After you put in your order, you hear the sizzle of the chips going into the fryer. 2) Great patties. Thick and meaty, no anemic beef here. The half-size is one patty, full-size has 2. 3) loads of chili. Not the pasty type like Tommy's but chunky and a little thin and runny (but good). 4) The "accessories": they have a wall rack full of hot sauces like Frank's and Red Rooster as well as the usual suspects, and don't forget beer on tap served by the "schooner" (basically a goblet sized like a high school track trophy). Worth a try at the least.

                                                          Richmond Bar & Grill
                                                          145 Richmond St, El Segundo, CA 90245

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: ccasparian

                                                            Good, detailed post, ccasparian. I'll try Richmond Bar & Grill when I'm in El Segundo sometime other than a Thursday (Big Mista's day at the Farmers Market).

                                                          2. Hamlets Patty Melt is AWESOME!! There is a little mom and pop reataurant called Jeremy's in the foothills around Montrose I think, their Patty is really f-in' good too... and great fries