Friday, February 01, 2013

The Original Tops - Pasadena

While chatting with the owners of Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena, I found out that their father opened The Original Tops in Pasadena in 1952 shortly after immigrating here from Greece. He was only 19 years old at the time! How cool is that?!

The Gus's Barbecue owners said their father used to make them work at Tops as punishment. And yet, they decided to go into the restaurant business... Up until a few years ago, their father was still working at the restaurant every day. I love a hard-working immigrant story.

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Other Tops locations that have spun off from this one were all sold off and are no longer affiliated. So if you want the original owner, go to The Original Tops.

The only nod to their heritage is in the Greek Salad, otherwise, the menu is all American comfort food. The 100% Angus chuck ground beef is fresh, never frozen. The French, sweet potato, and zucchini fries are cut by hand and fried in small batches throughout the day. The pastrami is made in-house. And the kobe beef burger is just as delicious as it sounds.

I first checked out The Original Tops with cousin Q in April 2009.

We each ordered the 1/4-lb cheeseburger, $3.19.

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Small French fries, $2.09.

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Small zucchini fries, $2.99.

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Everything was good, but pretty standard as far as such fare goes. So I didn't get around to coming back until February 2011. I bought a Groupon, $10 worth of food for $5, that I wanted to use and lil' sis was in town to eat with me.

I had forgotten to take pictures last time, but the self-service bar of pickled peppers and pickled carrots is pretty awesome.

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I ordered a large orange bang, $2.39.

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Small zucchini fries again because I just can't resist them. They're $3.09 now, but the small order is huge. It's served in one of those take-out cardboard boxes.

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The chili cheese fries were topped with a jack and cheddar cheese blend, small $4.69. The meat used in the chili is the same fresh ground Angus chuck beef that's used in the burgers. We added pastrami though so it was $8.28. The pastrami is handmade from an old family recipe, marinated in homemade au jus, and takes 24 hours to prepare.

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It was delicious, but the fries were a little too thin to hold up to all the chili and cheese and pastrami. I still think The Hat's pastrami chili cheese fries are best. While we were eating, a customer walked by and his eyes widened when he saw our order. He promptly asked us how he could order the same too.

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This time, instead of an ordinary cheeseburger, I wanted to try the Kobe Bistro Burger, 1/2 lb fresh ground American kobe beef, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, tomato, mixed greens, and herb mayonnaise, $6.99. It's $1 more now.

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Even the list of ingredients makes it sound sooo good. The special bun, the herb mayonnaise, the caramelized onions, just everything made this burger a winner.

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The servings were so large that lil' sis and I packed up the leftovers and brought them to our brother's house to share. 

There are also breakfast and Mexican items on the menu that I still have yet to try. But I definitely recommend the Kobe Bistro Burger and pastrami chili cheese fries and zucchini fries.

Other burger posts:
Burgerville - Portland - Oregon
In-N-Out Burger and the "Hidden" Menu
Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen - Portland - Oregon
The Oinkster - Eagle Rock
Umami Burger - Anaheim

The Original Tops
3838 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Sunday to Thursday 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to midnight

1 year ago today,
2 years ago today,
3 years ago today, Nonna Pizzeria - South Pasadena.
4 years ago today, Lunasia Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum) - Alhambra.
5 years ago today, Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Juice).
6 years ago today, some of my favorite restaurant and business names.

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