In secret corners of Los Angeles, there are places that just scream, “Old Hollywood.” You know, the Hollywood before organic Whole Foods soy milk took over, when hot dogs were chock-full of nitrates and the only conceivable burger was of the “ham” variety. Vestiges of this near-forgotten time still exist, as proven by Irv’s Burgers, which I visited a few months ago. But Irv’s is not alone, as I recently discovered a similarly classic-looking place called Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake.
Papoo’s opened back in 1949, eight years before the Dodgers arrived, and while the future of the Dodgers is in question, Papoo’s seemed to be kicking it old school just fine. At least on the outside. On the inside, things were thrown a bit into question. I was grabbing lunch with a coworker and we wanted to sit down, but couldn’t find a clean table. After wandering around awkwardly for a few minutes, one of the women behind the counter of this low-ceilinged building told us the bus boy was out, but she would clean the table for us. After another couple minutes, we took our seats and a look at the menu.
This menu was reminiscent of a greasy spoon, but with a heavy emphasis on hamburgers and hot dogs. In fact, despite having hot dog in the name, burgers came first on the menu. Yet, I needed me some hot dog and quickly found the ABC Dog. The A-B-C in the name stood for avocado, bacon and cheese – three delicious ingredients that pretty much go well with everything. Except chocolate. I don’t want avocado chocolate. What I did want was some fries and baked beans with my meal to make it a platter. Although they had beers on tap, I avoided such delights in order to prevent what would surely be a food-and-beer-induced coma.
The hot dogs were 1/4 pound, all-beef and offered boiled, grilled or ripped (deep fried). I was told grilled was the way to go, so I ordered away and waited a surprising 10 minutes for my hot dog. But when it arrived, it looked monstrously beautiful. Loaded and overflowing with toppings, Papoo’s didn’t skimp on anything. I’m actually pretty sure they used an entire avocado. The cheese was as American as Papoo’s, which is what I really hoped for in a place like this, and the mass of bacon was nearly equal to the mass of the hot dog itself.
When I bit in, I could taste what life was like back when Papoo’s first started serving the Hollywood regulars of the Burbank studios. The simple, yet delicious ingredients blended together perfectly and offered neither more nor less than I expected. The dog had a great snap to it and the bacon was cooked to a perfect crisp. The avocado was surprisingly fresh and cheese was exactly what you would expect from American. The only thing that really let me down was the fortitude of the bun, which split down the seam midway through my hot dog feast. Sure, the bun had been given a hefty charge, but I couldn’t help but think a little steam could have kept the bun strong.
Ultimately, it matters little what I thought of Papoo’s Hot Dog Show, because while researching this post, I have learned that Papoo’s closed their doors for good on Sunday. Yes, mere days after I ate my first meal there. According to the LA Times, the owner simply couldn’t give the place the attention it deserved. It’s a damn shame, too, because while Papoo’s wasn’t the best hot dog I ever had, it was still pretty good. Fortunately, serendipity brought me to Papoo’s before it shuttered, but it is still a shame to see another icon of old Hollywood disappear. Whatever ultimately takes residence in that corner in Toluca Lake will surely not have the character than Papoo’s brought and I’m willing to bet their hot dogs won’t compare.