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The Hat (Review + Pics) - Alhambra

I've been going to The Hat for about twelve years now but the one in Alhambra (their first location) is always a step above the rest. In the tough economic times there's nothing better than cheap eats that will keep you stuffed for two days.

Blog with pictures and review: http://www.twohungrypandas.com/2009/0...


Since 1951, The Hat in Alhambra, CA has been serving the city and community its World Famous Pastrami. Not much has changed since then for The Hat. The bright neon sign still lights up the corner of Garfield Ave. and Valley Blvd., and the world famous pastrami is still being chowed down by locals and tourists alike.

We wanted the best of both worlds, so we shared the pastrami dip ($6.99) and an order of chili cheese fries ($4.99).

The pastrami dip is generously stuffed with layers of lean, tender, juicy pastrami in between a soft french roll. Mustard and pickles line one side of the french roll, adding a special kick of flavor that complements the pastrami.

The Hat's chili cheese fries are unbeatable. First, the fries are fried to a crisp perfection that prevent it from being instantly soggy when the shredded cheese melts from the heat of the chili that is lavishly poured over. Then, tomatoes, onions, and pickles are piled over this delicious indulgence. Stab a fork into it to grab every layer of the mound of heavenly goodness.

Every fry from the beginning to the end of the feast is still crispy. The chili is filled with bits of minced beef and unlike other chili cheese fries, it is not laden with that extra layer of oil that is usually soaking through the paper plate. It doesn't taste fattening, which can be very dangerous if you eat this with your eyes close.

The Hat has opened many locations throughout Southern California since 1951, but none of the locations have been able to match up to the original Hat in Alhambra, CA. This location only provides outdoor seating and the food is only prepared for take out.

1 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

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  1. I am not a big The Hat fan, but your review makes me want to go. Good Job!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Burger Boy

      Looking at the pictures, I feel like my cholesterol just redlined. *urp*

      The Hat is still among my occasional "guilty pleasures" (N. Lake Ave.), but I'm afraid their chili fries must remain part of my distant past.

    2. I had an order of the really good CC fries at their Lake Forest Location. It was everything you described. I just wish they offered a smaller version, because it's sooo much food. I filled up on a portion of that one order, took the rest home and my wife and I shared the rest the next night.

        1. "(chilli cheese fries) doesn't taste fattening"...
          Your joking right...those fries are the most dense, oil-laden form of American gluttony you can get...your pics especially the sushi ones are great btw

          1. Try this sometime when you're at The Hat.

            Order up, one of each, a side of their potato salad and chili. Mix together and top it on their fries. Mmmm. Total trailer food, but who cares.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              There you go again -- mixing it all up. This one, being from "The Hat" really does sound like "Trailer food." I'll pass because I never had "lean, tender, juicy pastrami" (as stated in the OP) from The Hat. Only fatty and rubbery every time. I will go back to try that good looking grilled cheese I saw on my last visit with my brother – he loves the beef dip there. If I wanted dip style pastrami in Alhambra I would go to Tops Jr. on Main. But wherever you get the dinner the dessert should be the classic ipsedixit mix-it. Like you said, in Alhambra go over to Costco just South of Main (near Tops Jr.) and buy a couple hot churros and keep them hot while you quickly drive a block more to Fosselman's ice cream. The result is a must-have flavor, texture and temperature mix. FROZEN & CREAMY ice cream with a HOT & CRUSTY churro. I finally did it a couple of weeks ago and it is a great mix -- hot and cold along with creamy and crusty. Keep-up the good work ipse.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Hey that's what I've been doing lately too!

                By the way ipse, are you also going by the moniker ipse_dixit (space in between)?

                1. re: J.L.

                  Whoa. Someone else besides me is doing this evil combo?? Kudos to you.

                  Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever ordered the pastrami at The Hat. It's always been the roast beef, or the chili/potato salad fries combo.

                  Since the transition to Chow.com it's always "ipsedixit". In chowhound.com's earlier iteration (before the fancy graphics and java applets), there are posts where I have been "ipse dixit" but that's a long, long time ago.

              2. I've enjoyed The Hat ever since I was a kid. I prefer the location you mention in your post. For some reason, I like the chili better here compared to the other locations. They also put the chili over the cheese instead of the other way around so it melts and coats the fries more evenly.

                Here's a thought, next time skip the pastrami dip altogether and order the chili cheese fries topped with pastrami. Heaven on a plate...and it just might help you get there faster ;)

                8 Replies
                1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                  I hear the onion rings are good that way, too.

                    1. re: Dommy

                      This sounds evil, but do they put chili and cheese on the onion rings?

                      1. re: Brussels Sprout

                        I was in a subversive move one time I was there, and I asked the counter guy if they would do that. He just stared at me and said "no". I thought that I was going to get thrown out.... :-)

                        This was at the Lake Forest location.

                        1. re: Brussels Sprout

                          If you ask nicely... they'll even do the Pastrami thing that the poster above mentioned. :)


                    2. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                      I've been to so many locations throughout LA/OC/SB county but the Alhambra location just seems to be the best of the bunch. I will go for the pastrami on top next time, with extra onions. mmmmm.

                      1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                        when I was young and...supple...a good wink at the lady at the counter used to get twice the cheese on top of my chili cheese fries.
                        Ah, what a slut I was!
                        (BTW: before you send me photos of your junk, you should know: all-male running gear typing this. The name is interesting, but it's the only andro thing about me)
                        I saw a guy order CCF with pastrami on top and I thought, well, it's cheaper than buying a gun to kill yourself. I wish they would offer a half-order. That's just too much food, especially if you're not young and supple (well, so supple) anymore.

                        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                          Chili cheese fries with pastrami on top is wonderful! Make sure you get the pickles and tomatoes on top, though. Acidity and freshness helps cut through the fat and grease.

                        2. Gotta say...... this New York boy had to carve out an area of his psyche for this 'pastrami' but found it to be a real guilty pleasure when the mood strikes. I think I could only try the chili-cheese fries or the chili-cheese onion rings, or (OMG) chili-cheese fries WITH PASTRAMI ON TOP(or, I suppose) chili-cheese onion rings WITH PASTRAMI ON TOP............ on separate visits. I have this built-in cholesterol meter than calls my wife and my doctor automatically when I get anywhere near something like that.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Midlife

                            The pastrami at The Hat is definitely in a different vein from NY deli style or Langer's here in LA. But I still find it tasty. There's just something satisfying watching them grab a huge amount of thinly sliced pastrami from a vat of au jus and dumping it on the french roll/french fries...

                            1. re: Midlife

                              I will give that a try and get back if I don't fall over on the spot. I try to limit eating there to 4-5 times a year.

                            2. Oh man, I laughed when I saw the picture of the chili cheese fries - that is so overkill! I'm not criticizing it, I just thought it was funny seeing everything piled in a mound like that. I like the Hat, too.

                              1. It seems that "World Famous Pastrami" is an overused bit of hyperbole that a lot of pastrami joints claim. I have been going to The Hat for years, and I really do enjoy their pastrami, but I would never call a "pastrami dip" sandwich "world famous", I reserve that for the likes of Langer's and their Jewish deli style pastrami, which of course is a different animal.

                                But back to The Hat, they do make a very satisfying pastrami dip sandwich, I've been known to OD on two at a time, but by the time you are eating the second half of the second greasy pastrami sandwich, your neither regions tell you that maybe you have bigger eyes than your stomach. I always add additional mustard to their sandwiches (and if we have brought the sandwiches home, then it will be Plochmann's Ballpark hot mustard).

                                The Hat's fries are outstanding. They are what fries used to be, before the McFactory. Big, thick, real potatoes, fried perfectly, as are their rings. Their burger's aren't bad either, and I'll take a Hat chili dog over a DW any day. A "regular" fries is like the other guys' "Large", you really do get value for your money at The Hat.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: ChinoWayne

                                  2 @ a time? I like The Hat (my go-to is in Brea) and usually consume 1/2 during the sitting and the other 1/2 an hour later....

                                  1. re: ChinoWayne

                                    The first time I went to The Hat (I live near the one on North Lake in Pasadena) I asked for large fries. Wondered why the guy looked at me funny, until he handed me this big paper sack! Where I came from, small fries is a handful, large a handful and a half...

                                    I like the pastrami okay - in fact, I like it a lot - but the lure of that big floppy cheeseburger is something I find hard to resist.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Those fries are good, especially with chili and cheese duking it out on top, but I usually don't have a small village with me and have to throw away too much food. I'm not a fan of The Hat's pastrami but do agree with Will Owen about the "big floppy cheeseburger." Sweet burger of youth, if memory serves.

                                      1. re: Harry Nile

                                        Yeah, I think the Hat and Connel's cheeseburgers pretty much rule North Pasadena. Both big, both floppy, both needing to be eaten while they're fresh and hot, because otherwise they disappoint. I live just a few blocks from both of them, and if I get either one to go, I have to dash home really fast and eat them right away. But OH so good.

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          I love how the chili at The Hat takes on a nice fluorescent orange hue to it after it cools off a bit.

                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                        Agree, at least the last burger I had at the Hat in Montclair was much better than the crap from the mainstream fast food joints.

                                        I used to enjoy their pastrami, but I recent excursion to the Fullerton Hat was ultimately disappointing. The joint was (not surprisingly) jumping at about 2:00 in the afternoon, but the wait was not worth it. Their pastrami has become bland and almost totally flavorless.

                                        Just mooched a half a pastrami my brother-in-law brought back from Andy's #3 in Chino, and THAT sandwich had the flavor and spiciness that The Hat was so sadly lacking. Andy's #3 certainly is not on a par with Langers, and just as is The Hat's is, it is a different beast, but its flavor is far closer to Langer's than The Hat's.

                                    2. Thanks for the review. I always enjoy the Lake Avenue branch in Pasadena, but will be sure to try this one.

                                      1. I've never been hot for The Hat but it might be because I've only ever gone to the Pasadena location on Lake Ave. The fries are *always* under cooked and under salted there - never crispy. And I find the pastrami to be greasy and fatty. Maybe it's just not my thing.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Kevitivity

                                          The pastrami at The Hat IS greasy and fatty. I think that's the idea. As has been said, it's a whole different animal from Langers'.

                                          1. re: Kevitivity

                                            That's a shame about the fries. The Alhambra and Temple City branches rarely, if ever, have given me under cooked fries. Give them a try, especially the original Alhambra branch.

                                          2. I occasionally go to The Hat in Glendora. Their chili burgers are excellent. Similar to Tommy's but a lot bigger. I have a friend who visits from Chicago and the first thing he does is make a bee line to The Hat for a pastrami burger and an order of wet fries (slathered in gravy)

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: parker394

                                              I agree that the chili burgers are way better than Tommy's. Clearman's Galley...The Boat... also makes them very similar in style to the Hat's version.

                                              1. re: heckonwheels

                                                That's so funny that you mention the Galley. I was there Sunday and had a chili burger (but all of their burgers come with chili) I was going to mention that place too, but I didn't want to throw too many other places into a post about The Hat. One thing that bothers me about the Galley though is how they almost DOUBLED there prices after that remodel. What a shame.

                                              2. re: parker394

                                                Sigh, used to visit The Hat on Valley often when I went to Cal State LA and lived a couple of blocks away....always had a couple chili burgers, never tried the pastrami because I prefer it NY style, on rye with slaw. Just thinking about The Hat gives me a wonderful, memorable heartburn.

                                              3. My Son and I love the Hat. I ordered Fries and Onion Rings the first time I went there, did not know they gave you a shopping bag full. My 12 y/o still talks about it. Pastrami Dip is good. never knew about the burgers as some stated..