- Terelle Jerricks
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor of Random Lengths News
Everybody has a favorite burger spot. Not the franchise conglomerates like Micky D’s or the Burger Kings. I’m talking about the mom-and-pops stands that have their distinct recipes to produce their distinct combination flavors rooted in the the communities they serve. Mo Better Meaty Meat Burger, Oki Dog, A-1 Burger and once upon a time, Fat Burger.
The Original Tommy’s Burger is another one. Not that one that started on Beverly Rampart near downtown Los Angeles, but the Tommy’s Original World Famous Burger in Wilmington on Anaheim, between Avalon and Broad. This is a worker’s burger joint where two or three generations of Wilmington families go for that home grown brand of burgers,chili, and Mexican fast food.
Troy Spiropoulos, Tommy’s second generational proprietor invited Random Lengths to talk about the Penny Sale to commemorate their 42 years in business. It’s a sale they have every year, but this is probably the first year they’ve attempted to go really get the word out. Until now, only the locals really knew and took advantage of the sale.
This Tommys Burger opened July 1970 by Troy’s father, James, and his maternal uncle Tom Papulos. In 1972, Tom sold his share of the business to James, and opened another restaurant on 12th and Gaffey. This was the first Tommy Burgers in Wilmington, until a few others popped up.
“We’re a part of the community, a lot of people know us, and a lot of the customers are return customers,” Troy said. “Some them we know their order before they even walk in. A lot of people tell me, ‘I was raised on your food,’ which makes me feel good because I was on these burgers as well.”
The Supreme Burger is Tommy burger’s fan favorite. Next is the Chilli fries with Tommy’s original recipe chili.
“The Colossal burger… turkey and pastrami on a burger. The Supreme burger is really popular with bacon, cheese, and avocado. We also do a chili pastrami on a burger,” Troy explained.
The restaurant has always been a family affair. Managed at one time or another by Troy’s father and/or uncles (maternal or paternal). Troy explained that some aunts helped out as well and that his mother was also moonlighted as waitress at the family restaurant.
There’s hardly any turn over at the family restaurant.
“We’ve had the same people for a long time,” Troy said. “Alvino Diaz, who’s been here for 12 or 13 years; Mario Chavez, who has been cooking here since 1986; Tony Romero has been here since 1976. He started managing about 1982; Jorge Cruz who has been there for about two or three years. Magdalena Alonso, has been here at least 15 years. Evangelina Prado has been here for about 15 years, Liz Natividad has been here at least 10 or 12 years. And our newest waitress, Paulina Martinez, has been for about two years now.
The majority of them are all from the same village in Mexico, Tacatzcuaro, Michoacan and lot of them grew with each other or with each others families. And then they are related by inlaws. His uncles who are also restaurateurs has been the same. Low turn over.
They’re launching a very large promotion July 17 to commemorate the 42 years in Wilmington. To celebrate, there’s going to be a Penny Sale special where with the purchase of one hamburger you can get a second burger for a penny.
“It usually goes over well with the community, they seem to stock up on those two days. We also have bonus specials for those two days as well. For 99 cents you can get a grilled cheese sandwich, a bean cheese burrito, a hard shell taco, taquitos, a corn dog, five piece chicken nuggets and a small order of fries.”
The Penny Saver promotions began about 20 years ago. At around the anniversary of the burger stand’s founding, he would do a Penny Sale. Actually it was originally July 3. Buy one get one free. It’s not just to help us. It’s to help the community.
Details: (310) 549-1342
Location: 137 E. Anaheim St., Wilmington