Growing up in Southern California, I have definitely consumed my fair share of chili burgers. So many in fact that I just assumed that every omnivore has enjoyed a chili burger. It wasn’t until college, talking with out-of-state students, that I found out that chili burgers are in fact a Southern California delicacy. Furthermore, Wikipedia credits nearby Lincoln Heights as the birthplace of the chili burger. As Pasadena is the birthplace of the cheeseburger, it seemed fitting that many local burger joints offer chili burgers as well—with or without cheese. By the way I earlier wrote about Bachi Burger too.
The Original Tops has been a Pasadena burger joint since 1952. Although the menu is now vast and includes an entire section devoted to salads, the chili burger is still a favorite option. The chili is made in house, without the tinned flavor that often plagues fast food joints. Or you can go for a regular burger and save the chili as a fry topping. Either way, your palate will likely be pleased.
The Original Tops 3838 East Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107 626-449-4412 http://www.theoriginaltops.com/index.html
Original Tommy’s may be a chain, but it can only be found in Southern California. Many have tried to fool consumers with similar names, but only Original Tommy’s is really original. This place is so devoted to chili burgers that the menu doesn’t even mention the chili part—order a burger or cheeseburger and the chili comes with it. My personal order is a burger and finding someone to share a chili tamale with. The no frills, paper-towels-for-napkins Original Tommy’s has a lot more locations than it used to, meaning that a delightfully messy chili burger can be found nearby. Don’t forget the hot peppers—they really heat up the original experience.
Original Tommy’s 170 N. Hill Ave Pasadena, CA 626-792-5971 http://www.originaltommys.com
Just to confuse names and diners a little more, Tops over on Allen and Walnut also offers a chili burger, as any Southern California diner should. Part of the core menu is the burger offerings, including a chili burger topped with traditional burger toppings. Wash it down with a thick shake that doubles as dessert.
Tops Drive In Restaurant 1792 East Walnut St Pasadena, CA 91107 626-584-0244 http://www.topsburger.com/
And local legend Lucky Boy on Arroyo Parkway is frequently written up for its delightfully greasy concoctions from burritos to chili burgers. Thanks to opening early and closing late, it’s a perfect spot to stop for a late night treat. Lucky Boy has a second Pasadena location, on Walnut.
Lucky Boy 640 S Arroyo Pkwy Pasadena, CA 91105 626-793-0120 and 531 E Walnut St. Pasadena CA 91101 626-793-7079 http://www.luckyboyburgers.com