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.
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.
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.
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.
The Kosher Burrito once stood on 1st Street between Los Angeles City Hall and Little Tokyo. (Yep, that’s the New Otani in the background.) I snapped this shot with my old 2 1/4 Spartus in the 90’s before it was gone for good in 2002.
Picture a simple lunch counter/ burger stand with a few stools that offered up a cross between Mexican and deli food such as the famed Kosher Burrito which was filled with pastrami, mustard, chili, pickles and onions. Word has it they had pretty good burgers too.
All in the backdrop of Little Tokyo. Only in Los Angeles. Just archive it in the ever expanding file of terrific things that aren’t here anymore.
We are still left with a few “Mexicatessens” around town– joints that serve Mexican food and hamburger style grub. While amusing and promising in name, the reality is a far cry from the Kosher Burrito.
The old burger stand. I’m not talking about a Tommy’s Burger but a little stand. The size of a roach coach. Take off the wheels, add a few bar stools and start grilling the patties and onions. Pass the ketchup while you’re at it.
Back in the 1980’s, I could walk down Sawtelle in my westside neighborhood and eat a different burger at a different stand and no two burgers were the same.
Heading East down Pico toward Fairfax, Mr. Philly was already boarded up. By the time I reached Fairfax there was another burger joint with the deliciously misspelled but apt name Meatty Meat Burgers – what you got here was meat and a bun. I preferred the patties back in my neighborhood but MMB was well known. They even repainted it green after this photo was taken.
One of the last to go was Jay’s Jayburgers on Virgil and Santa Monica but it’s been a memory for about 8 years now. I hear you can still find a good burger at some classic joints like Capital Burger (also on Pico) but I stopped eating meat back when Jay’s closed. With Jay’s chili gone, it was time to pack it in.