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Lovie Yancey, Creator of Fatburger, R.I.P.
February 4, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Opening a restaurant is not an easy way to get rich, but for 36 year old Lovie Yancey, an African American woman living in Southern Califoria in 1947, the gamble paid off. As founder of the Fatburger chain (warning - audio), Lovie is remembered as the creator of arguably the greatest hamburger in a nation obsessed with hamburgers. Lovie passed away Jan 26, at 96 years of age, and even if you're not a fan of her burgers, take a moment in tribute to a remarkable woman.
posted by jonson (34 comments total)

 
If only I had a kingsburger with a fried egg to go with my
.
posted by bertrandom at 11:27 AM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had no idea of the company's history. I used to go to the Fatburger on Vermont avenue in Hollywood/Silverlake all the time when I lived in LA and order a Fatburger and chili cheese fries whenever I was feeling "bad". That drive-thru was the SLOWEST with the average wait time being over 5 minutes. But the wait was always worth it.

RIP Lovie
posted by cazoo at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2008


Fatburger has always been ridiculously overpriced, in my opinion. But when I used to work at the movie theatre, there was a Fatburger next door, and we had a criss-cross deal where they got in free and we got 50% off everything. I used to really go all out...Double Kingburgers, Onions rings and a shake...

There's still a Fatburger across the street from my office, but they're too expensive to really be in the running for day-to-day lunch consideration. When your baseline burger combo tops $10, something's not right. It's not really any better than the $6 equivalent at In-N-Out.

.
posted by anazgnos at 11:55 AM on February 4, 2008


Interesting that the greater L.A. area has three hamburger stands/chains -- Fatburger, In-N-Out, Tommy's -- with interesting histories and rabid followers (at least, three that I can think of). The pattern is repeated elsewhere of course (here in Seattle, there's Dick's), but not nearly to the extent that L.A. has. And of course, McDonalds was started in San Bernardino, too. Wonder what made the area so fertile for this kind of food? The weather? Post WWII aerospace workers? The car culture? All of the above?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:56 AM on February 4, 2008


I never had one. But I have heard of them because they're referenced a lot on 70's sitcoms like Sandford & Son.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2008


Went to Fatburger for the very first time on Friday. Damned expensive for what you get and not very good.

That said, I wondered about Lovie Yancey, as there was a recent shrine/memorial plaque to her in the restaurant.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2008


Such a marvelously politically incorrect name, fat + burger. Love that.

YAY women entrepreneurs.

Glad she lived a long life.

.
posted by nickyskye at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2008


Cool Papa Bell, I remember reading an article that discussed the growth of the LA burger stand, and I managed to find it on another site. Go here and scroll to post #16. According to an article by Bob Pool that was in the LA Times,

"The hamburger stand was born in Los Angeles as an outgrowth of World War II. Returning GIs discovered that they could easily — and cheaply — go into business for themselves by selling burgers.

Very little space was required. Owners of tiny, odd-shaped parcels too small for a retail shop were more than happy to unload their orphan slivers of land.

Enterprising veterans used surplus aluminum and steel from local aircraft and defense plants to build their 40-foot-square shacks. Often, prefabricated cubicles were trucked in and placed on pre-poured concrete pads.

Mild Los Angeles winters meant that the open-air businesses could operate year-round. Because walk-up stands served primarily patrons from nearby offices, shops or industrial plants, there was no need for customer parking lots like those required for another popular business that was emerging: the drive-in restaurant."

The article quotes a photographer, Gerald Panter, who went around the city taking pictures of fast food stands for a project called Eating on the Run.
posted by mogget at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Gimme gimme gimme that Fat Burger toniiiight.
posted by piratebowling at 12:34 PM on February 4, 2008


I used to go to the Fatburger on Vermont avenue in Hollywood/Silverlake

you must have seen me, I was the guy passed out on the floor in a blissful state of grease coma. Fatburger is an American treasure: even if In-N-Out is supposed to be marginally less unhealthy (I don't know if it's true) I'm firmly on the Fatburger team. Even their Vegas branch was pretty good. I'm lucky I don't live in California or I'd be dead by now, a Fatburger paper wrapper clutched in my greasy hand

my "." for Ms. Yancey should be as big as one of her burgers.
posted by matteo at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


here in Seattle, there's Dick's

I don't know if it was a joke or just a lame joke, but I remember a famous porn actress from the Northwest explaining in an interview that she used to work at Dick's and hated it (and the NW weather) so much that she moved to L.A. and chose to do porn for a living instead. The interviewer had, mercifully, restraint in not insisting on the "Dick's" thing.
posted by matteo at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2008


(l)
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:55 PM on February 4, 2008


Ha ha! You see, red meat IS good for you!
posted by fusinski at 1:06 PM on February 4, 2008


The pattern is repeated elsewhere of course (here in Seattle, there's Dick's)

Uh, Kidd Valley?

And Portland has Burgerville, which they revere in a way completely counter to their organic vegan sensibilities.

I see the burger joint on the West Coast the way I see the barbeque stand in the South. Everyone has their local, and everyone will argue passionately for their local.
posted by dw at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2008


even if In-N-Out is supposed to be marginally less unhealthy (I don't know if it's true) I'm firmly on the Fatburger team.

Hey hey hey, they're both great! Although right now, I must confess the image of a nice greasy Fatburger dripping in my mind's drive-through is giving me a visceral craving that I will never be able to satisfy here in Massachusetts...

.
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2008


Man, Thurston must be totally devastated. :(

(I lurve their turkey cheeseburgers, btw.)
posted by miss lynnster at 1:15 PM on February 4, 2008


Kidd Valley

Ah, the burger dip. What remains of my arteries is hardening just thinking about one.

And Dicks does the "quickie" burger right. Ketchup, mustard. None of this disgusting "special sauce" junk.
posted by maxwelton at 1:16 PM on February 4, 2008


Might I add... anyone who says that Los Angeles has never brought anything good to the world has never tried the chili cheese fries. Because dayum they're good.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2008


King Burger + bacon + fried egg.

.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:28 PM on February 4, 2008


Another SoCal-centric drive-thru sandwich phenomenon: The Hat.

R.I.P., Lovie.
posted by LionIndex at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2008


I wasn't overly impressed by Fatburger on my one time trial, and In-and-Out wasn't bad. A tasty and relatively new chain emerging out of the DC metro area and spiraling out is Five Guys. Praise, though, to anyone who starts a successful hamburger joint. Nothing quite more American than fast, greasy, and delicious meat on a bun.
posted by Atreides at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2008


Huh. I had no idea that Fatburger had a "real" history. Only ever seeing them on touristy drags, I just sort of assumed they were another product of the Chili's/Applebee's machine.

Great burgers, though.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2008


to make a small fortune in the restaurant business, start with a large fortune.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Blech. We have a Fatburger that opened up here about a year ago and after trying it, my conclusion is this: Equal to a Wendy's double, at triple the price.

No thanks. I'll take Five Guys any day over Fatburger.
posted by tgrundke at 5:06 PM on February 4, 2008


"Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn't even see a berry flashing those high beams
No helicopter looking for a murder
Two in the morning got the Fatburger"

I had a Fatburger once. I liked it. I had no idea that the chain was started by a black woman in the fifties, before the Civil Rights Act. That sounds very difficult to me. Excellent work, Lovie.

.
posted by ignignokt at 5:29 PM on February 4, 2008


Cool Papa Bell writes "Interesting that the greater L.A. area has three hamburger stands/chains -- Fatburger, In-N-Out, Tommy's -- with interesting histories and rabid followers (at least, three that I can think of). "

Carl's Jr! A bit bigger, and the followers certainly aren't as rabid, but it's worth mentioning in this thread since we just lost Carl Karcher, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2008


I'm so sad that nobody got my Gilligan's Island joke. Well, not that it was funny.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:35 PM on February 4, 2008


And to add to the iconic LA burger joint list, Lincoln Heights' own Ptomaine Tommy's, inventor of the chili size! Long gone, but whatta name...
posted by Scram at 6:50 PM on February 4, 2008


"If I wanna squirt her, take her to Fatburger"
posted by box at 6:52 PM on February 4, 2008


Favorite part of Fatburger is the bottles of Tabasco sitting there. Chipotle Tabasco + ketchup = onion ring dipping heaven. Don't have one around here, glad I had a chance to visit one a few times before moving. Goodbye, Lovie, and thanks for the burgers.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:35 PM on February 4, 2008


I used to go to the Fatburger on Vermont avenue in Hollywood/Silverlake all the time when I lived in LA and order a Fatburger and chili cheese fries whenever I was feeling "bad". That drive-thru was the SLOWEST

I've spent an hour in that drive-thru before. The Kingburger with an egg and Fat fries is worth it.

.
posted by carsonb at 10:02 PM on February 4, 2008


And Portland has Burgerville, which they revere in a way completely counter to their organic vegan sensibilities

Ahem.
posted by dersins at 12:48 AM on February 5, 2008


Huh, I had never really thought about the story behind the place. It's, of course, sad for those that loved her that she died, but I find their burgers mediocre at best. You can get them with an egg on them, but that only sometimes makes up for it.
posted by !Jim at 7:25 PM on February 5, 2008


Fatburger (at least our local outlet here in Clearwater, FL) is quite tasty but NOTHING can compare to In & Out. And damn it, the nearest one is an 8 hour plane ride away from Florida. *grumble*

Carl's sucks, BTW. And not well, either. Hardee's was at least edible until Carl's bought them ought. :-p
posted by keptwench at 5:54 PM on February 6, 2008


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