Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hat

I've written of The Hat before, a little short of a year ago when I had a chili dog and some fries, but I will write again. I've been doing some volunteer work in that part of town north of the freeway where you have access to a wide array of food choices, from any fast food joint you might want (like Popeyes and Fatburger) or might not (like Burger King and KFC), to one of the best Italian markets in Southern California, to my favorite carnitas tacos in Pasadena, to an "International hot dog pub" that has been featured on Food Network.

And yet still I find myself eating at The Hat pretty frequently, much more than I ever would have envisioned. If I had to choose my top 5 favorite restaurants in a three block stretch, it probably would not even make the list. But it's always quick, no matter how crowded they are, there is always leftover food from any order of fries or onion rings to reheat for dinner that night, and there is an amazing amount of condiment packets available for you to help yourself. One drawer in my kitchen is so full of horseradish packets I could probably cover the Rose Bowl field with enough sauce to make it hard for the UCLA football team to score.

Okay, that's a bad example.

So I thought I would include some photos of the food I have been sampling recently. (It's a 6.8 mile round trip from my place to the non-profit and I've walked it many times recently, in no small part to burn off the calories.)

I just wish the order of onion rings was a little larger, you know? (There were two of us sharing these; we couldn't finish half of them. Elizabeth and I ate the other half for dinner.)

The Hat is well known for their pastrami, but to be honest I have always preferred the roast beef sandwich. There are many places in Pasadena where I like the pastrami; there are very few where I like the beef dip. The beef is lean, the roll is the perfect softness with just enough firmness not to fall apart when dunked in the au jus. There is also the option of getting gravy with the sandwich, and indeed there are many people who get gravy not only with their sandwich but also smothered across their fries, but that's never been my thing. (Though I admit the gravy fries are delicious and a decade ago when I thought calling something "drunk food" was a compliment there was perhaps nothing better.)  

The chili is nothing too special by itself. Wolfe Burger's chili is miles better, Tops is too, and I have always preferred Jake's and Original Tommy's. But The Hat's chili is still fine, especially when you dunk a couple of fries into them.

The fries are definitely nothing special. But slicked with chili, you know...

The burger is always a solid choice - it reminds me of the burger at Rick's that I love, although it's a few notches below - and with some relish and a spoonful of chili it is always a better-than-average fast food burger.

Did I pile two onion rings on top of each other like the "onion volcano" they always make at Shogun? Did I put chili, relish and mustard on it? Did I get laughed at? Was it delicious? Yes to all four.

This is the sandwich my mom always gets: ham and Swiss on sourdough with extra pickles. I've never had a bite - there are tomatoes on it! - but it definitely looks good so I thought I'd include a picture.


Banana Wonder said...

I'm disappointed no chili cheese fries are in the mix. That's okay. I'm still living vicariously through your man food porn.

mindful mule said...

The Hat is where I first learned the term “au jus.”

Awesome onion volcano – feel no shame.

Your Mom’s special sandwich reminds me of the greatest of all time Combo Sandwich from Jergensen’s, which became Wild Oats which became Fresh and Easy which became…

Justin said...

Anna: I'll make it up to... do you wanna see Fatburger chili fries or those terrifying Hat chili cheese fries with pastrami?

Mindful: Did I seem the least bit ashamed?

I am not familiar with that sandwich, but then again I barely remember Jergensen's.

Emily said...


Fritos and Foie Gras said...

There is something about a French Dip that is just so amazing...and might I say that if you were to try poutine, your feelings on gravy fries might be different...

JustinM said...

I've had poutine, it's not bad. But I'm just not a gravy guy, period. Even at Thanksgiving I like my mashed potatoes by themselves.