The Original Tops is a classic countertop-style diner in Pasadena that would probably evoke nostalgic memories if you were from the area. As someone who is not from Pasadena, I at least get excited over the prospect of a new burger spot, especially a no-frills type of place that has stood the test of time like The Original Tops.
In a city filled with all kinds of fun events, one event (aside from a plethora of farmer’s markets) can be counted on every week. It’s Smorgasburg, which originally started over in Brooklyn, and it’s kind of like a miniaturized, hipster version of 626 Night Market. On my first venture, I made my way to Ugly Drum Pastrami.
In the world of great Kosher-style pastrami, the list almost always begins with Katz’s, with very few others even coming close. This is an insane New York bias and after years of proclaiming Langer’s in LA to be the greater of the two, I finally had a chance to put my money where my mouth is (pun very much intended).
It’s no secret that Pasadena isn’t quite flush with Jews. That might be related to the fact that the Hebrews were banned from living in the place until more recent times, but who can really know. What is know, though, is that without Jews there is a certain lack of amenities like good bagels and Jewish delis. Fortunately, the Pasadena Sandwich Company is there to at list fill part of the niche of the Jewish deli.
Usually when a restaurant name includes something that I hate very much, I go into that restaurant expecting the worst. Yet, while I have never had any need for slaw, I somehow knew that The Slaw Dogs in Pasadena was going to be an experience to remember. Sure, there were all sorts of options that made my mouth water, but it was the throwback to Oki Dog that really got me excited.
One of the newer and incredibly popular places in Pasadena goes by the name of Lincoln. Why? Well it’s on Lincoln Avenue, duh. It has a pretty trendy menu that seems to be pretty flexible and very much caters to people who have special needs. Except, of course, if your special need is the fact that you are an unvegan.
The Hat is one of those local LA fast food spots that has been around forever and seems to be in no rush to change. It has “World Famous Pastrami,” but is not limited to just one meat, because the place also serves burgers, roast beef dip and crazy big portions of sides. I mean crazy. Just look at that order of chili cheese fries on the left and try to comprehend how small the individual fries look.
Around the LA area and the surrounding region is a small group of hot dog spots called Dog Haus. Despite the fact that this seems to portray some sort of Germanic hot dog spot, it’s really just a place for some creative hot dogs and burgers. And while the burgers were actually looking mighty fine, I just had to stick with the hot dog part of the menu.
Growing up near Detroit and then living in LA, I must admit I have been spoiled by good delis. Thus, when I moved to Pittsburgh I was shocked to learn that apparently the deli scene was pretty terrible. Because of this, it took me nearly two years to get to Smallman Street Deli – the biggest Jewish Deli in town.
When you think of an “old world deli,” what comes to mind? Perhaps some amazing cured meats? Italian or rye bread (depending on which part of the old world). Maybe cheeses that aren’t synonymous with Kraft or Velveeta? Root beer floats and pierogies probably don’t cross your mind, but when it comes to Szmidt’s Old World Deli, which has recently reopened in Downtown Pittsburgh, they are certainly worth trying.