Chili burger with fries
|Alternative name(s)||Chili size, size|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||originally Los Angeles|
|Creator(s)||Likely Thomas "Ptomaine Tommy" DeForest, 1920s|
|Main ingredient(s)||Hamburger patty, chili con carne|
A chili burger (also known as a chili size, or simply size, stemming from "hamburger size") is a type of hamburger. It consists of a hamburger, with the patty topped with chili con carne. It is often served open-faced, and sometimes the chili is served alongside the burger rather than on top. The chili may be served alone, or with cheese, onions, or occasionally tomatoes as garnishes.
Chili burgers appear to have been invented in the 1920s by Thomas M. "Ptomaine Tommy" DeForest, who founded a sawdust-floored all-night restaurant, "Ptomaine Tommy's", located in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ptomaine Tommy's was open from around 1919 to 1958, where his chili burger was referred to as "size", and chopped onions as "flowers" or "violets".
The term size for a chili burger arguably derives from the portion size of the chili used at Ptomaine Tommy's. Ptomaine Tommy "had two ladles, a large and a small" with which to serve his chili, whether smothered on top of the burger or in a bowl; originally the ordering lingo used by his patrons was "hamburger size" vs. "steak size", but later simplified to "size" and "oversize". The use of the shorthand term "size" for burger-size portion of chili (in a bowl or on a burger) then gained currency throughout Los Angeles. Ptomaine Tommy was forced to close his restaurant August 10, 1958 and sell his property to satisfy creditors, and he died just a week later. His service to the community and his invention was noted by resolution of the California State Senate that same year. Food author John T. Edge considers the invention the milestone that marks the start of "traceable history of burgers in LA", a first step to what he considers the "baroque" character of the Los Angeles hamburger scene. By interviewing former customers and friends decades after the fact, columnist Jack Smith wrote a definitive article in 1974 about DeForest and the dish that he had invented which became a very important part of the history of Los Angeles.
The Carolina Burger is a regional variant of the chili burger served with coleslaw, mustard and chopped onions. Common in local restaurants in the Carolinas, it is also periodically offered at Wendy's restaurants as the Carolina Classic.
- Sherman, Gene. (September 19, 1957). Cityside, Los Angeles Times, Page 2. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
- California State Senate (1958). The Journal of the Senate During the ... Session of the Legislature of the State of California. s.n. p. 344. Retrieved December 4, 2012. "Senate Resolution No. 55: Relative to congratulating Thomas SI. '"Ptomaine Tommy" DeForeat Whereas, Thomas M. DeForest, noted restaurateur of the community of Lincoln Heights ... where the popular specialty of the house was a plate labelled "size" consisting of chili, hamburger, and beans..."
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- Thompson, Clay (November 23, 2005). Why There's No Channel 1 on Television, Arizona Republic ("According to the International Chili Society, the "size" part came from the owner of a Los Angeles chili parlor known as Ptomaine Tommy.")
- Sherman, Gene (August 14, 1958). Cityside, Los Angeles Times, Page 2. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
- Roderick, Kevin. (March 16, 2006). Dissing Tommy's, LA Observed
- "Landmark Falls To Debt: Ptomaine Tommy Forced to Close Up". Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1958, Page B1. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
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- Smith, Jack (1980). Jack Smith's L.A. (snippet). McGraw-Hill. p. 88. ISBN 9780070584716.
- Edge, John T. (June 23, 2005). Hamburgers and Fries. Penguin. pp. 99–. ISBN 9781440627583. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
- "Sizing Up Ptomaine Tommy". Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1974, Page H1. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
- Gould, Lark Ellen. "Los Angeles Off the Beaten Path" (2004), p.34, ISBN 9780762752270. ("On May 15, 1946, a young Tommy Koulax introduced Los Angeles to a new kind of burger—this one with a chili con carne base")
- Gold, Jonathan. (May 16, 1996). The Tom Bomb, Los Angeles Times
- Murrell, Duncan (June 2011). "Burger, with Everything". Our State. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- "Wendy's Brings Back a Regional Classic". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. February 12, 2006. p. E6. Retrieved December 7, 2012.