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Are new Tommy's burger locations as good as original?

  • b

I'm a big fan of the Original Tommy's at Rampart & Beverly. There's always a line and burgers are freshly made with fresh ingredients. Love hearing tourists order "no chili on mine".

I've noticed more and more satellite locations popping up and I'm wondering if the food is as good as the original. Was just Long Beach and Westminster near me, plus the one in the Valley. Now they got 'em in Hollywood and on the way to Vegas.

For those of you familiar with the original at it's best let me know your impressions of the satellite locations.

One thing they've added that I love is the breakfast sandwich. No one is perfect including Tommy's, they put mayo on it (huh?). Skip the mayo and mustard and just get the egg, sausage, chili, tomato, onions and cheese. Awesome at 5am!

PP Tommy's fan

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  1. The food is identical at all Tommy's locations. Only the original has the self-service bottled/canned drink coolers. Other than that, what you don't get at the outlying locations is the unique ambience that only exists at the original location.

    I first started going to Tommy's in 1964 when the stand at Beverly & Rampart was the sole location. I believe they started expanding wih additional locations in the 1970's. The Hollywood and Barstow (on the way to Vegas) locations aren't new. They have existed for 10 years or so.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Sam D.

      I remember Tommy's Burgers in Eagle Rock, California, because it was my first outing with my soon to be first boyfriend (and for 4 1/2 years). A group of us went to get a "Tommy Burger" - what sounded like a cool fad thing to do - before we went to the bowling alley - all rather far from our homes. I was 16 and hadn't been far on my own. I guess that's about 1973 or so. Thanks for the memory.

      I remember really liking the chili on the burger then (and dipping in the french fries) and can kind of reproduce the same flavor I remember with some soft chorizo, cream cheese, and lentils. Put a slice of tomato, onion, with some lettuce on really soft bun with the smoky grilled hamburger and chilli and you're "there."

      I think we only went there that once. Bowling, too. We both liked other places in areas we frequented more (like Tressles via Porsche).

      When I saw a Tommy's about ten years ago, I was tempted to try one because of the old memory. Not bad. Still quite a good memory, though.

      1. re: kc girl

        Go for it, try it again. For some reason I can eat Tommy's late on not feel full the next day. You really need to go because you forgot that they put lettuce on their burgers. They don't and that's one of the things that makes it so deep brain good...

        * patty
        * chili
        * tomato
        * onion
        * pickle
        * mustard

        That's the classic combo. It wouldn't be the same if you left anything out or substituted.

        BP Tommy's fan

        1. re: BP

          And they didn't have fries at Eagle Rock Tommy's in 1973. Fries didn't show up until the latter half of the 80's...Oh yeah, and you went to a batting cage and not bowling...!

          1. re: BP

            It's pretty good with grilled onions. I didn't like the giant slice of tomato when I first started eating there, but it offsets the chili superbly and now I can't imagine not having it. God that place is good. I usually go to the one in Santa Monica, but I've been to the one in SFV/North Hills (on Roscoe?) and the original and all are excellent.
            Their chili dog kicks Pink's chili dog's ass, the dog itself is far better.

            1. re: BP

              yup, you are right there's something about that combo, it's sacrosanct and I wouldn't dream of "customizing" a tommy's burger. I also remember when it was "no fries, chips" and their offering for dessert consisted of those Hostess fruit pies, IIRC. I do love their chili cheese fries.

          2. re: Sam D.

            Perhaps it's psychological, but my experience is that the food at the Hollywood location is much worse than the food at the original Tommy's. The service was very poor at the Hollywood branch too. Maybe the ingredients are the same, but they don't do a good job cooking them at some locations. My view on it is stick to the original.

          3. I haven't been to Tommy's since I went to UCLA. So eager to try the breakfast sand, based on your note. Thanks for the write-up.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LawrenceS

              BTW the breakfast sandwich is not new, it's been around for the last 25+ years at the Tommys on Roscoe/405. I order it without the sausage; the egg and chili combo is a winner IMO.

            2. Who ever says "no chili on mine"? Damn them all to hell.

              Great, sloppy burger after a night of drinking. Other than the random gunfire, a delicious, pleasant experience.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bostonbob3

                "Who ever says "no chili on mine"? Damn them all to hell."

                Amen and Hallelujah!

                I would concur that they represent a most consistent chain, right up there with In And Out (consistency-wise, InO is much better quality).

                And let's not forget the formidable Tommy's breakfast sandwich:

                Fried Egg, Sausage Patty, Cheese, Chili, Pickle, Onions and Mayo on an English Muffin. They DO serve lettuce on that one, but I 86 it and have them add mustard. Magnificent. Many a morning I could be found at the Huntington Beach location with either 1 of those and a loaded dog or 2 breakfast sannies and an orange drink (it is breakfast after all).

                1. re: GroovinGourmet

                  In-n-Out may be better beef and potato quality, but imagine if In-n-Wait got the huge crush of diners Tommy's gets after a Dodgers or USC game. People would be standing in line for five-and-a-half hours waiting for food. The Tommy's crew is a beautifully efficient piece of machinery whereas In-n-Wait is Just. So. Incredibly. Slow.

              2. I haven't been to the original Tommy's location, but of the other locations I've visited, they all seem to be pretty consistent in the quality of the food.

                1. My friends and I made a pilgrimage (yes, pilgrimage) to the original on beverely and rampart last year. tasted exactly the same as the one I usually go to in Santa Monica. Very tasty!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: young_chower

                    My older sisters were eating Tommy burgers since about 1967...my first one was around 1968..I went to school near there during those years. Later, we'd go to the Eagle Rock location while attending Glendale Jr. College. I've also been to the valley location. But, I was super happy to have the Palmdale location open up....(maybe a year ago). That is the closest one to me (still an hour and a half away). I find its just as good as any....I love them!!My husband did not like them at first but he loves them now...they "grew" on him...ha ha.
                    However, my friend says the Barstow location is not as good....I don't know that myself.

                  2. I think it's largely psychological. Somehow eating the burger while standing at the little ledge at Beverly & Rampart results in a different taste (to me) than sitting inside ala what I imagine Burger King is like. Back when the Busch brewery had Busch Gardens we'd go to the Tommy's across the street, get burgers and smuggle them into the Gardens and eat them while drinking free beer from the various pavilions. Does anyone remember the big Hawaiian or Somoan guy at Beverly & Rampart who'd assemble the burgers with lightning speed, pulling white and yellow tissues from nowhere and serving up a box of 4 double cheese in just a few seconds? That never happens at the branches. One of the ways I know I'm getting older is that I can no longer eat those 4 double cheese and now stick to 2 at most. Sigh...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: TomSwift

                      When was the Samoan or Hawaiian guy at Beverly & Rampart? I remember someone there in the late 60s-early 70s who fits the description.

                      1. re: Chauve Souris

                        This would have been in 1970 through perhaps as late as '76. I think he may have been there in '69 as well.

                      2. re: TomSwift

                        I can't say I remember the specific grill guys, but I do remember that my order used to be up so quickly, and the cashier guy would be wanting my money so they could get to the next customer (always a long, quickly-moving line) that I'd get all nervous about not being fast enough for them !

                      3. The origional Bev Rampart spot is the best. The quality and construction of the burgers just seems slightly better. After the origional I'd have to say that Long beach, Fountain valley and Eagle Rock come next. The Brewery, Canoga and Santa Monica usually have good burgers but are less consistant. Both Simi Valley and Barstow should not even be allowed to be called Tomm'ys.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Hypnotoad

                          I think the food quality is the same, but psychologically it tastes better at the original, delicious! However good a Tommys Burger is, it aint no Jayburger.

                          1. re: bringiton

                            you got that right.
                            I'd still take marty's on pico over it and same with carney's. I'm still not feeling it on that massive unripe tomato slice

                        2. I've eaten at the original location many times and a number of the other locations and to me the double chilli cheese burger (with extra chilli and onions of course, no charge) are identical.

                          1. this is a great old thread! i've been going since the very late 50's! when we moved to silver lake from echo park. i remember tommy - he was the reason there were no french fries - he hated them. so if we wanted fries we would go caddy corner to the taco place and get them to eat with our burgers. i'm pretty sure that the samoan guy showed up in the mid sixties - i remember thinking how big he was and all of the gold jewelry that he wore. i think that he was there at least through the 70's.

                            when they started opening up satellite locations, several of us would check them out and they would never measure up. looking back, i believe that this was psychological (at least in part), but we did develop the theory that the reason that the original was the best was because the parking lot had much older grease on it and as a result - the best base for the chili!

                            i am now closest to the eagle rock & sunland locations. they're both pretty good, but i think that monrovia is a bit better, though farther for me. but if i have friends from out of town who have never been to tommy's, i always take them to beverly/rampart and explain about the parking lot grease build-up.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: justanotherpenguin

                              LET ME HAVE a cheese burger "heavy chili"; chips, and pop. And a handful of yellow chili peppers and one antacid pill : O
                              The original Tommy's slops on the chili the way I remember it (excuse me I just burped) and the tomatoe slices are always huge. In comparison the Tommy's in Rowland Heights and La Habra do not measure up. Even when I ask for heavy chili they teaspoon it on. What's up with that! The tomatoes are paper thin!
                              Any oh how -- I take the drive to the original and regret every minute of it : )

                            2. The thing that annoys me is that the Simi Valley location has taken away the yellow chilli container and you have to ask for them, they give you a little container with 3 or 4 chillis in it, I love to eat a pile of them and think this is cheap so I boycot this location.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: malibumike

                                the yellow chilies are critical. my 80+ year old father-in-law swears that if he does NOT have 4-5 with each burger, he always gets indigestion.

                                1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                  Yeah, I have lovingly (?) named them Hot F*#@!$^!! I love to squeeze the juice out of them onto my chili cheese fries (cooked well-done, extra chili). Recently, I got the hot dog with only mustard and onions and it was REALLY good.

                              2. I used to be friends with the grandson of one of the owners. The chain had two partners that had a split years ago. Those two families ran the "two" chains independently of each other but both badged as the same. You wouldn't be able to tell one from the other without knowing either of the two families.

                                Both families took pride in ownership and those "two" chains were being passed down generation to generation. With all of that said, they both tried to mimick the quality of their orig store.

                                I know one chain was expanding and the other was sitting pretty still, but that was ten years ago... I have no clue what is going on these days.

                                1. Some are Ok....The Valley on roscoes is Good, The one in Burbank is Good, The One In Barstow is TERRIBLE! Santa Monica is Ok But the best is the Original Beverly & Rampart

                                  1. I have been a long time fan of Tommy's, starting with the Rampart/Beverly location and having tried numerous branches over the years. The overall quality of the food is consistent, it's the atmosphere at the Original that's amazing. Even late at night there are long lines of people waiting to place their orders. And the efficiency of the Original is unmatched anywhere else. No matter the line, you'll get your food quickly. There is absolutely no place to sit, but scores of people standing in a parking lot chomping down their chiliburgers. Tommy's is an LA original.

                                    1. "If it's not from the shack...take it back!"

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Normal Garciaparra

                                        Yep, advertised right on the bags and cups!! ;-)

                                      2. I ate at the original many years ago. Since then, I have been to three locations in the San Fernando Valley, one in Barstow, one in Fountain Valley and the one in Universal City Walk. All the food is consistent. Their famous chili tastes the same to me regardless of location. I sometimes plan the time I leave to drive to Vegas so I will be at Tommy's in time for their breakfast sandwich.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Visionfixer

                                          The Double Sausage & Egg with cheese Is The BEST thing on their menu. Only to 10:30 am though..... Oh Yeah You have to ASK for a double, or triple or More.....LOL

                                        2. The food has always been the same at any location i've been to. As for the chilli I don't think the burgers would be good without it. double cheeseburger and fries (sounds good right now). if the quality is off maybe check the sign and make sure it doesn't say "Tommies".

                                          1. If you are in Orange County, the Fountain Valley is a great location. Avoid the Westminster location.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: frenetic

                                              The original on Bev/Rampart stills serves it up the proper way. The chili oozes and the tomatoe slice is thick as a brick. I've tried other locations and they truly disappoint. The burgers are smaller and the taste suffers for it.

                                            2. It seems that the Tommy's Company suffers from REALLY bad franchise management. Some locations are really good and others are truly disgusting!

                                              IMHO stay away from the Pico Rivera location!

                                              When I'm craving Tommy's I make the effort and drive! It's SOOO worth it.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: nrique

                                                there are NO franchised locations. all are owned by the original family.

                                                1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                                  Be sure you don't go to TOMMIES. The one on Sawtelle is really bad.

                                                  1. re: BBQ101

                                                    does it have "the shack" on it's logo?

                                                    1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                                      BBQ101 must be talking about Big Tomy's which is on the NE corner of Sawtelle and Pico.

                                                    2. re: BBQ101

                                                      Hmm, I've had good luck with the Big Tomy's on the corner of Sawtelle and Pico. And I was weaned on midnight runs to the Beverly/Rampart Tommy's.

                                                2. I remember going to Tommy's at 3 or 4 in the AM there would be a line. Not as long as the PM crowd but you still had a wait. Guy's in the building's to the right in there cutting up the Onion's, Tomatoes and ETC..Wife was Pregnant..1968,,working for Southern Calif. Edison at that time, Corner of 5th & Grand..Just wondering if they are still in the same location, Rampart & Beverly,,Great Memories..Great Burgers, & the little Yellow Chiiles in them Stainless Steel Containers..Thanks J. Payan from Big Lake Alaska

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I visit the original location every few months or so and am pretty familiar with the food. I also visit the Fountain Valley location (in OC right off the Warner exit of the 405) and the burger is consistent with the original.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: bringiton

                                                      There's just something about the original Tommy's that sets it apart from the others!

                                                      1. re: JosephEBacon

                                                        Great tailgating layout and feel. I love it.

                                                    2. Will the CH managing crowd please GO BACK to printing
                                                      the names of the OP and the CH Responders in a LARGER
                                                      size with an ink that can be more easily read.

                                                      1. Nothing tastes as good as the original Tommy's at 2am after a Springsteen concert at the Sports Arena.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: wienermobile

                                                          If you can somehow pass up a bacon wrapped dog outside! Love the boss !

                                                          1. re: wienermobile

                                                            Swap Springsteen for Motörhead,and swap the Sports Arena for a Sunset Strip club circa 1987, and I am in full agreement.


                                                            Tommy's rocks.

                                                          2. RIP Tommy's on the corner of Lincoln/Pico in Santa Monica.

                                                            It is being replaced with a Starbucks. What a downgrade.

                                                            (To the point of the OP, though, I found the original Tommy's to be tastier. I think the patina of time imparts a special flavor to the burgers.)

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: spoonlicker

                                                              That's what the Santa Monica market wants. More Starbucks.

                                                              1. re: jessejames

                                                                Tommy's wanted to stay, lease was up. They said they are looking for another location in the Santa Monica/Venice area. This was the only Tommy's location on the Westside of LA.

                                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                                  Oh, that's encouraging news, at least. I hope they find a happy new home soon.

                                                                  I can picture them somewhere on the Venice side of Lincoln, south of Rose.

                                                                  Those pickles...

                                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                                    I used to live off montana back when it was a hell of a lot different than now. Starbucks central. Then again could say what isn't