Jay's Jayburgers

the Original Tommy’s Business Card

Many generations spent their chili burger youth hanging out at Tommy’s Burgers at Rampart & Beverly Blvd at all hours of the day and night, long before Tommy’s was franchised and spread all across Los Angeles County, even stretching into Nevada. Tommy’s chili burgers could soak up a long evening’s worth of alcohol and even treat a hang-over or at least distract from the pain with a good dose of indigestion. 

But close by, over at Virgil & Santa Monica Blvd there was another chili burger stand, much smaller but just as good, many Angelinos say even better.  The burger stand had a great 58 year run, mostly as Jay’s Jayburgers, before it was forced to close in ugly fashion back in 2005, another bit of Los Angeles history tossed into the trash bin.

the Embattled Jay’s in 2005

It was first closed in 2000 when owner Lionel “Jay” Coffin could not afford the massive rent hike demanded by the new owners of the land beneath Jay’s feet.  However, Jay and his burger fans didn’t go down without a fight, fueled by their love of Jay’s chili burgers.  And why not? Jay invented the recipe for Tommy’s chili and left Tommy’s when he wasn’t cut in with a piece of the action, or so the story goes. 

Jay’s Last Stand

A couple fans of Jay’s initially stepped in and purchased the stand from Coffin and managed to keep it running another 5 years until another rent hike forced a second closing.  Jay’s daughter then tried to move the stand but the landowners claimed they owned it because it was bolted to the cement that was part of the corner lot they purchased.  Most of the story is documented in the obit for Jayburger published in the LA Times.

Last Days of Jays

But the story doesn’t end there because Jayburgers has a bitter sweet ending:  Jayburger’s stand remains in its original spot though a two story mini mall now surrounds it and chili burgers are no longer sold but instead Mexican food with rows of chickens roasting on a large open barbecue most afternoons. 

Jay’s, Nowadays…

Where’s the Beef?

So you’re driving along and suddenly notice the city has lost a tooth. Where things once stood– a block is suddenly vacant, a lot is suddenly empty, a sign has disappeared.

Only the bird knows…

You scratch your head and and rack your brain trying to remember what was there before. And then if you are lucky enough, you remember it was a spot that added color and life to the city. Then you kick yourself for never buying a burrito, a burger, or a shrimp there. And another kick for never getting a proper photo of the joint before it died, before it gentrified.

Tom’s backside. No Booze + No Loitering!

This was Tom’s Burgers. Its mighty sign and distinctive green tiled building anchored the corner of Sunset and Silverlake ever since I was a mere passenger in the back of the wood paneled Country Squire station wagon.  

Yeah, Tom’s didn’t get rave reviews but its presence was a fixture in my LA geography. A few years back, the sign went blank and Tom’s was gone. I regretted never stopping in or to take a shot or two of Tom’s. Eh, why bother? It’ll always be there. I’ll drive-thru next time.  Until there wasn’t a next time.

Now every time I pass the modern pizza joint that replaced it, I try to envision Tom’s. Through my spotty memory and a few random area snapshots I re-imagined the sign for better or worse.

The moral of the story? Go there. Experience the place. At least take a picture of it today. Because it could be gone tomorrow.

Field Notes for Urban Adventurers

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Take note. Our handmade upcycled photo notebooks are one of a kind. Pick a theme that strikes your fancy– from Pizza to Urban Birding to Mid Mod Architecture. Original urban photography inside and out is sure to inspire some bright ideas. Tour our mini journals here and put one in your pocket!