Sunday, March 18, 2007

From the nostalgia corner of our minds

Ellie at Kitchen Wench is having an event, Nostalgia, memories tied in with food so Doodles and Moon bumped their heads together and came up with this. The deadline is 3/23/07 so there is still time to send her your thoughts. Here's ours.

When my sister and I were young, seven and fourteen we had just moved to Southern California and as parents do ours made friends and these friends were happy to introduce our family to many sites and tastes we did not have in Indiana.

I'm sure our parents ate chili at one time or another but it wasn't common fare at our table. The place these friends took us to was the Night Hawk Cafe. It was a typical diner, stools with a few tables but they only had one thing on the menu, chili size. Having it with or without onions and cheese was the only choice on the menu.

The diner was about two blocks from the Los Angeles Coliseum and I think it was there when they had the first Olympics in the 30s. There was no decor and I'm not even sure it was all that clean; I remember the windows being greasy on the inside. You didn't go for the ambiance you went for the wonderful spicy mixture ladled over a fried hamburger patty and topped with chopped raw onions and cheese. This came with a french roll and butter. That was it. Simple, the best I've ever tasted and I've been chasing that taste ever since.

Doodles has a pretty good stab at the memory with her version. Little grime on the window and a squeaky stool and we'd be kids again. Ah, nostalgia it's time travel you take in your head.

Chili Size(and no I don't know why it was called that)
under the mound of chili is a small hamburger pattie


1 1/2 lb ground sirloin
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
chili powder to your taste
1 large onion chopped
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper to taste


Brown 1 lb of the beef. Ground beef can be ground finer in a food processor after cooking but before adding rest of ingredients. Add the onions and seasonings and cook another maybe 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and simmer to for 20 - 30 mins. If too thick add low sodium beef broth, if too thin add a bit more tomato sauce.

Now for the interesting part. Make hamburger patties out of the remainder of the ground beef, cook to desired doness that you prefer. Place patties in a wide soup bowl, pour chili on top finish off with chopped onions and shredded cheddar cheese if desired. Serve with a hard roll for sopping up the remainder of the chili. And don't forget your adult beverage. I like a good beer with this dish but serve whatever your pleasure.

Any Los Angelenos remeber this place? Yep nostalgia is a wonderful place to be right about now. Thanks Ellie for coming up with this event.


Ellie said...

You know, I've heard of this mysterious dish called chili but have never been fortunate enough to taste/try it! By the sounds of the way this dish has haunted you, it might be the one to give me my foray into this meal :)

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing! The chili looks dee-lish! Since the temperature dropped this weekend - it would be perfect to eat...right now!

Ilva said...

I'm hungry now and it's still HOURS until lunch...

Freya and Paul said...

Doodles, you have surpassed yourself with this great post! I love anything with chilli, especially when it has a funny name too!!

Doodles said...

first I must say that sister moon and doodles both contributed to this piece and second I didn't name this - it came with it's name. I cannot tell you how many times I have served this and tried to explain the name. ellie you must try chili once...

Lydia said...

First visit to your blog, and I'm glad to be here! Thanks for peeking in my pantry, too.

Acme Instant Food said...

I can practiclly smell the layers of grease on the window ledge now! AND, I think I can picture the place too. Is it gone now?

Doodles said...

yep Kevin it is long gone from what I remember.....but still a great memory. and yep it must have taken a big sturdy bulldozer to get the building down what for the grease.

lydia thank you I enjoy poking in your pantry. thanks for visiting us here.

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for this recipe for years - The Nighthawk was one of our family favorites for years - We would attend events (4th of July fireworks, games, etc.) at the Coliseum and than walk across the street to to the Nighthawk for chili - yes, they served chili sizes but also just a bowl of chili & beans both with their famous roll and butter. When we moved from the area my dad would still occasionally drive to L.A. with our bean pot for chili and beans. Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

P.S. My memories of the Nighthawk include a big horseshoe counter lined overhead with a rainbow of lightbulbs, skirted with tall swiveling chairs. We - a family of five - would line up behind the chairs and wait until the occupant would finish their dinner and slip quickly into the vacant seat. Sometimes we were lucky enough to get 5 chairs in a row. . . most times not.

following farryl said...

yes, i remember the night hawk. it was the best. my family would make a special trip over, it was not close,
to have a size. i love that you are commenting on it as i have little on it as i google all the los angeles lore of my childhood. thanks

Moon said...

Everyone that knew about the Night Hawk Cafe, family and friends, are long gone. Nice to see these last few comments from people who remember.

Anonymous, you are correct about the seating. I can remember doing the same and not all sitting together but it didn't matter, everyone was friendly.

Wish I could find an old photo.