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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tommy's - Beverly & Rampart

Tommy's is a Los Angeles based hamburger chain specializing in chili-topped burgers, hotdogs, and fries.
The original, and still most popular location, is on the corner of Beverly & Rampart just northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the Westlake district.

Even though I grew up in Los Angeles, I wasn't aware Tommy's even existed until my second year at UCLA when a fraternity brother took a few of us on our first "Tommy's Run."

Apparently, USC students are even greater fans of Tommy's - perhaps because of the proximity of the original stand to the campus, or perhaps because USC's mascot is "Tommy" Trojan. Either way, lines can literally wrap around the block after a 'SC football game.

When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, it was very quiet. No crowds, no lines, just a couple of customers. Of course, it was only 9:30am on a Saturday. And, yes, Tommy's is open 24 hours.

According to their website, tour groups from around the world include the original Tommy's stand as one of their stops. Foreign press and television programs have featured Tommy's as "L.A.'s quintessential fast food."

Tommy's is also one of the most copied chains that I'm aware of. Driving around L.A. you'll see "Tommies" or "Tomy's" or even "Tommas." But only the original "Tommy's" has the iconic "shack" as part of their logo. Their tag line is "if you don't see the shack - take it back."

Is there anything profound to say about a hamburger stand?

I'm not sure . . . perhaps that in a city that's divided by socio-economic and ethnic differences, it's one of the few places I know that both rich and poor, black and white, Anglo and Latino, blue collar and white collar actually mingle. Sure, it's only for a burger, fries, and a soda, but that's still OK.

I was in Los Angeles again this weekend and took the family I was staying with to Tommy's in Santa Monica.

Even though they've lived in Los Angeles their entire lives, it was the first time to Tommy's for all of them.

Their little eight year old boy commented "the burger is like In-and-Out - but the chili is outstanding."


Forget a happy meal.

They've got a customer for life.

View Beverly & Rampart Los Angeles in a larger map

Here's their website:

© 2011


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snowy Day in El Lay

UCLA - January 15, 1932

Apparently, it might snow in metro Los Angeles this weekend. Much more likely in the inland valleys (against the San Gabriel and San Bernardio Mountains) than anywhere along the coast.

Whether or not that happens, I doubt it will look anything like what Westwood experienced the morning of January 15, 1932.

Now THAT would have been amazing to have seen.

© 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

California Science Center, Los Angeles

The California Science Center is an outstanding public science museum adjacent to USC in the University Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It has dozens of state of the art exhibits for all age groups.

Best of all - it's free.

Two Saturdays ago we were in Los Angeles for a send off for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their three three kids, whose job has taken them to Shanghai, China (!).

We were down for the weekend to say good-bye, but also to provide some needed childcare as they got some last minute things done. First stop with "the cousins" - the California Science Center.

Stars? Molecules? Well, it looked cool. This is looking up at the entrance pavilion.

While the Science Center is often crowded during the week with school groups, we got there when it opened at 10am on Saturday, and it was virtually empty. Kind of nice.

Unlike other places where the "suggested donation" really isn't "suggested" - it's an admission fee, the California Science Center really is free.

If they were smart, they'd put in a credit card machine or two. If Los Angeles can have parking meters that accept credit cards, surely a museum of this calibre can, too.

Just a suggestion.

First stop: the Eco System Exhibit upstairs.

The Eco System exhibit opened last year - and is
very impressive.

It features various ecological environments: desert, forest, rivers, the L.A. cityscape, and oceans.

My niece inside the kelp forest display - part of the oceans.

There is a twenty-five foot deep salt water tank with kelp, marine life, and (when we were there) divers explaining it all. Very cool.

A Garibaldi - the official California salt water fish. Had to take a pic - even in low light.

My kids and their cousins enjoying the 15 minute program.

The University Park neighborhood is in the heart of the city and a good 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean - all this salt water had to be hauled in via trucks.

I also kept thinking: this reminds me of the Aquarium in Long Beach or the one in Monterey. Except that this is free.

Afterwards kids came up to touch the 11" thick Plexiglass and say "hi" to the divers.

There were several other displays but I thought the L.A. Zone was fairly unique: it gave the kids a chance to see how people as well as plants and animals survive and often thrive in a urban environment like Los Angeles.

There was an enormous, HUGE map on the floor - stretching from LAX and the Marina del Rey all the way to the inland empire. My nieces and nephew were able to find their house near USC.

My son and his cousin doing a faux news broadcast.

TV monitor, the whole bit.

Lots and lots of displays all over the museum. We've been there dozens of times and there always seems to be something new.

The five cousins.

My in-laws lived a mile northwest of USC for 15+ years, so our kids have been going to Science Center with their cousins since they were little, and have many great memories.

WIth us now out of the area, and their family heading overseas, this visit was bitter sweet. Really, the end of an era.
Here's their website:

Parking is $8 in the adjacent structure. Admission is free, although there is a suggested donation of $5.

© 2011


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Griffith Observatory at Twilight

photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

The Griffith Observatory, located in Griffith Park, is six miles - and yet worlds away - from the office towers of downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times photographer Wally Skalij did an amazing job capturing the lights of both the observatory and the city in this shot.

Here's a link to a previous blog post on the Griffith Observatory from a visit in 2009.

With some outstandinging displays, including a telescope that more people have looked though than any other telescope in the world, free admission and (yes!) free parking, the Griffith Observarory is a definite "must see" for both locals and visitors.

© 2011


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Main Street, Santa Monica (Part III)

This is Part III of a three part series on walk up Main Street, Santa Monica last July. Click here for
Part I and Part II.

The Omelette Parlor - and my destination for breakfast with a group of co-workers from the summer.

Fun place - I highly recommend it. Our group was meeting at the outdoor patio out back.

Heat lamps for the outdoor patio -
in July?

This being Los Angeles they were cranked up high - at 10 o'clock in the morning.

When I asked the staff if we could, um, turn them off, the lady next to us said "no, keep them on, it's cold".


Overcast? Yes. Cold? No.

This past summer my wife and I helped staff a student leadership project - these are the staff and interns we had the privilege of working with for six weeks. Getting together at The Omelette Parlor was a final breakfast together.

Afterwards, I had a few more minutes and wanted to explore a bit more of the Santa Monica/Venice neighborhood. This is a different view of Main & Rose - where I had started earlier that morning.

Looking back northwest. You can see the green and blue "welcome to Santa Monica sign" - meaning I had crossed over into Venice, technically part of the city of Los Angeles.

Venice is part of the City of Los Angeles - Santa Monica is it's own separate city.

Confusing, I know. Subject for yet another blog post.

Venice was originally designed to look like it's Italian counterpart - complete with canals, gondolas, and covered colonnades. Most of the canals were filled in the 1930's. A few of the original buildings survive, including this renovated building with recently painted columns.

Exhale - Center for Sacred Movement.

Not sure what this is all about, but it reminds me of the Yoga Center down the street.

The Firehouse - a local restaurant - across the street at Main Street Rose Avenue. It has mixed reviews on Yelp. What I really wanted to see what up ahead.

The binoculars building!


I had seen this in many pictures, and even driven by several times, but up till now, had never had a chance to stop and see it.

Here's their website:

The Binoculars Building was designed by world renowned and Los Angeles based architect Frank Ghery and was completed in 1991. The entrance to the underground parking garage is located by driving through the middle of the two binoculars.

I cross the street for another view. According to
this Los Angeles Times article, Google recently signed a lease with the Binoculars Buildings, making it it's Los Angeles headquarters. Somewhat fitting.

Looking northwest and back towards Santa Monica.

The Clown Building: Main Street and Rose Avenue. Their current tenant includes a CVS Pharmacy.




Welcome to Venice.

A closer view of The Firehouse, located directly across the street from the Clown Building.

The streetscape looking northwest up Main into Santa Monica.

Yet another pricey boutique. Main Street reminds me a lot of Abbot Kinney, a similar street located about a mile away in Venice. Click
here or here for links to a couple previous blog posts on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Mishkon Tephilo, a conservative synogogue located where Venice meets Santa Monica.

According to their website, their byline is "Devotion by the Ocean" and is another facet to the huge and diverse Jewish community on the westside of Los Angeles.

As an aside, if you're looking for a church in the immediate area, I highly recommend Pacific Crossroads Church, meeting a mile and a half away at 16th Street and Pearl Street in Santa Monica. It's affiliated with Redeemer Presbyterian Chuch in New York City.

I cut through the alley from Main Street to 2nd Street. That's my car at the end of the alley (I've since sold it).

A final view of Santa Monica - this time looking north up Ocean Avenue.

I can't think of many other communities where you'll see a pink Mini Cooper out and about.

But then again, I can't think of many other communities like Santa Monica (or Venice).

© 2011