Eat, Los Angeles, Monica Byers — January 11, 2012 at 10:15 am



Original Tommy’s – 1900 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA (photo by Monica Byers)


LOS ANGELES – I was first introduced to Tommy’s by my ex-husband on the weekend we became engaged (don’t ask).  I must admit that, on that first visit, I didn’t get the appeal.   The restaurant was populated with all sorts of miscreants, and I wasn’t sure the food was worth the weirdness.  The whole thing was a bit scary.

Happy Anniversary, Tommy’s! xxoo (photo by Monica Byers)

Tommy’s (or Original Tommy’s, which I believe is its official name) is an LA institution.  The first restaurant was opened in 1946 at the corner of Beverly and Rampart Boulevards (which, despite its lack of seating, is still my favorite location because of the history), and has since grown to include a whole bunch of locations in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, San Diego, San Bernadino, Riverside, Barstow and Las Vegas.  Tommy’s is known for its chili – on hamburgers, hot dogs and fries.  It’s the most austere of restaurants – paper towels instead of napkins, staff adorned in basic  white aprons, t-shirts and caps, cement tables drilled into the ground (in locations where there actually are tables).   Many locations are open 24 hours, which is a major selling point in a city like LA where the streets tend to roll up at 2 am.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I succumbed to the charm that is uniquely Tommy’s, but it most certainly did happen and I think I know why.  Tommy’s is basic but awesome – it’s an everyman place where you see all kinds of folks, including the frightening ones.   And, truth be told, I thinks this last point might be a big part of the appeal.   There is something cool about running with the “rough” crowd.  The food – while not haute cuisine – is tasty and filling.  I decided that my go-to menu item is the #4 Combo Meal (chili cheese dog, fries, soft drink) and became a somewhat regular customer. That the visits began to coincide with late nights out may have something to do with it.  Though Tommy’s is fine when you’re cold sober and just want a bit of down and dirty dining, it’s a definite must-have after you’ve downed a few cocktails.  When the bars have all shut, nothing quite hits the spot like Tommy’s chili (complete with onions, tomato and pickles) slathered on a hamburger or hot dog, gobbled down in a spartan burger joint.

Tommy’s #4 Combo Meal (photo by Monica Byers)

What is the little thing that makes it worth visiting?  Atmosphere, history and a mini walk on the wild side.  As a tourist, it’s an opportunity to live like the locals.  As a local, it’s a chance to revel one of the coolest things about being an Angeleno. And, nothing tastes quite as good at 2 am.

Where is it?  The location that started it all is at 2575 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles; check the website for other locations.

For more from Monica, follow her on Twitter at @MonicaJuniel.

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