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Linda's Parisian Burgers

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Linda's
Ah, Linda's.  This place and the food it served are arguably the best-documented in the Los Altos / Mountain View / Palo Alto area in the 1950's -1960's.  Blogs honor it, recipes are passed around, present-day restaurants claim to duplicate special eats, and sentimental tears are shed over the glories of Linda's Parisian Burgers.  This photo is from  Tod Wick's Blog about Linda's .   Below are several articles from different sources -- and I'll bet we will add more to this website before we are done!







An article from April 2009 reiterates "Linda's lore" for the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association, where  OMVNA.org gives their version of the recipe.  Someday the page will be possibly archived and less available, so we give the article here......

Parisian Burgers Are From Mountain View, Not Paris, By Bruce Karney

Hanging out at the local burger joint was an essential part of growing up in small town America from the 40s to the 80s. Every town had a burger restaurant or two, most likely locally owned and not a franchise. Here in Mountain View, for a span of about 30 years, one of the best of the breed was Linda’s at the corner of El Camino and Escuela (the building that now houses Wolf Camera.)

Linda’s “Parisian Burger” has recently made a comeback at Armadillo Willy’s and at Pezzella’s Villa Napoli. But in case it disappears from the menu, I’m happy to let you know that I’ve gotten the recipe for the “secret sauce” from Tony Siress, who worked at Linda’s in the 80’s. It makes 1 1/2 cups, which is enough for 6 Parisian Burgers.

Put 2 tablespoons of dried onions in a small bowl and add warm water to the top of the onions. Let hydrate for 30 minutes. Mix the following in a one-quart bowl:

6 oz. catsup (Heinz)
6 oz. tomato paste (Heinz)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard (French’s)
1 teaspoon celery seed 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Don’t forget to add the dried onions after they have hydrated.

Take the sauce out when you are ready to make the burgers and warm it before using. If you’re a Linda’s fan, this sauce recipe is sure to bring back memories. If you’re new in town, listen to some old time rock and roll and flip through your high school yearbook to get yourself in the mood before you chow down.

Don’t forget the authentic side dish – a couple dozen steaming hot Tater Tots, which were called “Super Fries” at Linda’s. And as for the “Parisian” name – they were called that because the roll the burger was served on came from the Parisian Bakery. According to Tony, Armadillo Willy’s has the “real” Parisian roll but a historically incorrect single patty, while Pezzella’ s has the correct double patty but a non-Parisian bun.

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Here is the article from The Ecphorizer.  (just in case the article is no longer available on the original website, we show it here -- though Tod's article about Linda's seems to be the most popular of all time)

Linda's Parisian Burgers, by Tod Wicks

One of the fond memories of my high school years of the late 1950s is of Linda's Drive-in Restaurant in Mountain View, CA.

This place served hamburgers, fish sandwiches, shakes, a few other specialty sandwiches. One item that I often enjoyed was called a Parisian Burger. This was made with a couple of hamburger patties, a slice or two of cheese, a real French bun, and some special sauce. One usually ordered their special fries, known today as potato puffs or Tater Tots. The soft drinks were supplied by the makers of Royal Crown Cola. A drink, fries and a Parisian Burger were very affordable for kids in the 50s.  It was a regular hangout for many of us from both Los Altos High School (the Knights) and Mountain View High School (the Eagles) as it was about equidistant between the two schools.  After a quick afternoon snack after school, a few of us would drive over to Camino Bowl for a game or two.

Linda's was "fast food" well before the term ever came into vogue.  It was sited on El Camino Real at Escuela in Mountain View.  All they served were a couple of varieties of hamburgers - one was called a steakburger and on the glass window someone had painted the slogan, "When we say 'steak,' we mean (a cartoon of a t-bone steak)."  It was a red and white cube of a building with large glass windows on three walls.  You walked up and gave your order to one of the kids who worked there and within a couple of minutes, your burger, fries and drink were ready.

Linda's is long gone, having been replaced by a 1-hour photo outfit. The memories of those hamburgers with their special sauce will always linger. I recently began a stuttering search online and in libraries for information about making Linda's secret sauce.  I'd heard that some old-timers in Mountain View knew the recipe but guarded it closely as if it were Coca Cola's cola recipe.

I discovered a posting on a web site devoted to locating and publishing "lost" recipes.  One correspondent wrote in that the recipe was very similar to hamburgers served at a place called Tommy's Burgers in Los Angeles.  The writer noted that the only difference was the bun.  He then provided what he felt was the recipe for Linda's Parisian Burger secret sauce, copied out of one of author Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Restaurant Recipes books.  The recipe was actually more of a chili-burger sauce than anything I recalled from Linda's.  Interested readers can view the bogus Linda's recipe here.

However, I did publish that recipe as a blog entry several years ago.  That blog entry proved to be mildly popular and eventually generated emails from a several  readers.

The first, Charles Guest of Mountain View, wrote that he enjoyed my original recollection of Linda's and noted that he had worked there in the late 70s and he knew a Mrs. Riggs, who owned Linda's.  He informed me that the recipe I had published was not correct.  Charles offered to let me watch him some time as he brewed up some secret sauce.  Unfortunately, though there were a number of followup notes between us, the topic petered out with me being no closer than before.

About the time that the "Charles" lead dried up I heard from Jim Noon, who was a year ahead of me in school at Los Altos High.  He bumped into my blog after being referred to The Ecphorizer by a San Diego Mensa member.

Jim also noted that the Tommy's recipe was completely bogus.  He was close buddies with a fella in his class named Scott Curtis, who (Jim claims) was one of Linda's original employees.  Jim sent me his version of the recipe, which is much simpler than the Tommy's recipe.  I tried it and it was perfect!  I bought a bag of sourdough French rolls, grilled a patty, slapped on some cheese, and smeared on the sauce.  Words cannot describe how good that tasted and how it brought back memories so sweet.

About a month after Jim Noon contacted me, a local reader named Roberta sent me an email indicating that she had also run across my blog entry.  Roberta wrote that she had gotten the recipe from an online posting by a former employee of Linda's who actually had his hands in making the sauce.  Roberta provided me with the original bulk recipe, which called for, among other ingredients, 6 gallons of ketchup and 2 gallons of mustard.  Wow!

On further research I discovered that Roberta's source was none other than Charles Guest, my original correspondent!

Roberta kindly divided the commercial recipe's volume by 128 and came up with a recipe remarkably similar to Jim's.

Even though Jim warned me to guard his recipe with my life, since I have a second source I feel that I can now publish the recipe for Linda's Parisian Burger secret sauce.

Here is the basic "bill of materials" for Linda's famous Parisian Burger:
  • Small round sour dough french roll  (a little bigger in diameter than a normal hamburger bun.)   
  • Two beef Patties  (a little thicker than regular hamburger patties usually made from very high grade Denver Meat Company meat)   
  • One piece of cheese  (usually Kraft or similar high quality American  sliced cheese)    
  • A glob of sauce
Preparing the hamburger:

The meat was cooked on a gas fired grill/griddle at 350 degrees. The hamburger was cooked just long enugh to see gray juice come up through the meat while cooking the first side and then it was turned over. By the time the buns were ready, and the sauce and cheese on the meat, the patties were done.

The split sourdough rolls were heated on a covered grill at about 250 degrees, just until the inside was starting to toast a little.

When the meat was done on side one it was turned over, about 1-1/2 tablespoons of sauce was put on one patty and cheese was put on the other.

The bottom half of the French roll was removed from the grill and put on a heated counter. The pattie that had the sauce on it was removed from the grill and placed on the pattie with the cheese on it and then the whole 'stack' was removed from the grill, using the top half of the French roll to balance the stack and absorb the sauce  The stack was then placed onto the bottom part of the French roll.  The whole thing was then wrapped in waxed paper and served to the customer.

Assembling the ingredients:

Ingredient
Jim
Roberta
Commerical
ketchup (1)
2 ½ cups
8 oz
8 #10 cans (2)
mustard (1)
¼ cup
4 Tbsp
2 gallons
dehydrated onion
¼ cup
1 ½ tsp
4 cups
celery seed
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
8 "industrial spoonsful" (3)
pepper
--
1 ½
4 "industrial spoonsful" (3)

Putting it all together:
  • All three recipes start out by rehydrating the dried onions by adding some warm water to the onions and letting stand for an hour or so.   
  • Combine the other ingredients, mixing thoroughly.    
  • Heat the mixture over low heat    
  • Add the onions and let simmer for a while
The sauce is best served when warm and can be used as a general purpose meat sauce in addition to its original use at Linda's.

Incidentally, according to Charles, the commercial recipe called for all the ingredients to be poured into "...an old looking 15 gallon trash can..." and mixed by hand - literally, as Charles adds:

Now reach into the plastic garbage can and touch the bottom of it beneath the mustard and ketchup.  Good.  Your arm is now immersed in the sauce a little bit past the elbow. Stir the ketchup and mustard together with your hand and arm until they are well mixed.

Nothing was said about what the cooks did to prevent arm hair and dander from mixing in with the sauce, or what was done with the sauce that clung to the cook's arm.  One supposes that they rinsed off rather than using the other hand to squeegee the mix back into the bucket.  Charles' post online can be viewed here.

Notes:
1.  The commercial recipe calls for S. E. Rykoff brand ketchup and mustard.
2.  A #10 can is equal to ¾ gallon.
3.  The recipe posted online mentions that an "industrial spoonful" was equal in diameter to a man's closed fist.

A search online turned up nothing relating to "industrial" spoons.

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From Charles J. Guest's comments (edited):

Well, I used to work at Linda's Drive In.  It was a nice little mom and pop run walk up burger stand.  I worked there for almost four years while in high school.

Whew!  There has certainly been a lot of interest in the sauces that we used to make at Linda's Drive In.  As promised, here are the recipies for the sauces were made at Linda's before it closed down.

I have been asked for a little history of Linda's and why it closed down, I will start off with that and follow with the recipes.

Several persons asked for the recipies for the sauces that I used to make when I was the evening supervisor at Linda's Drive In on Esquella and El Camino Real in Mountain View.

The Place:

If you did not live in Mountain View or frequent El Camino Real in Mountain View you probably missed an old red and white building on the corner of El Camino Real and Esquella.   The predominant feature of this building was a massive red and white metal awning that extended over the front of the building and toward El Camino.  The place was called Linda's Drive In, and by the time I began working there in 1978 it had become something of an institution in Mountain View.

Linda's was a fast food/hamburger joint that was started by Dean and Becky Riggs when El Monte was still a dirt road.  I don't know the date but suffice it to say that it was one of Mountain View's earlier business establishments.  (To put this in perspective El Monte is now a two to four lane road and the orchards that provided Linda's first customers are all long since cut down and covered over with asphalt.)

Linda's was never a walk in restauraunt.  There may have been a short time when there were car-hops but I am not aware of it.  The owners made you walk up to a window, place your order, and, (until about 1979/80), go back to your car to eat.  It was a well known spot for really good hamburgers and was usually frequented by the local police.  (Who, by the way, NEVER ate free.)

Linda's Drive In closed around 1984 not too long after Dean Riggs passed away.  For the sake of privacy  I won't go into how it happened, but lets say that he probably should have lived many more years were it not for an un-expected medical problem.

The old drive in is now a Photo Drive up, and because of  the inept re-modeling the building got, it  looks nothing like the original Linda's Drive In.  Thee look now is that yuppie modern plasticised garbage that we have all become too familiar with.

The Food:

Linda's experimented over the years with different kinds of food including pizza, hotdogs, and other fast eats, but durring the time that I worked there, (1978-1981), they had gotten the menu down to three main items, the 'Parisian Burger', the Fish Sandwich (called a Norweigen when it was called back to the cook), and the Steak Sandwich.  In addition they had 'Super Fries' which was just a grandiose way of saying tater totts without having to buy them from the Ore-Ida company who held the trade-mark.  They also had turnovers (like McDonalds apple pie), 3-bean salad, chilli, cole-slaw, soft-serve frozen yogurt, and about 9 kinds of milk shakes.

All in all the food was really pretty good.  Well, on to the recipies:

The 'biggie' was the Parisian burger.  As with all of the food served at Linda's it was very simple.

A Parisian was:

1) Small round sour dough french roll  (a little bigger in diameter than a normal hamburger bun.)

2) Two beef Patties  (a little thicker than regular hamburger patties usually made from very high grade Denver Company meat)

3) One piece of cheese  (usually kraft or similar high quality american slices cheese)

4) a glob of sauce   (see below)

The meat was cooked on a gas fired grill/griddle at (I think) 350 derees.  The hamburger was cooked just long eonugh to see greying come up through the meat while you were cooking the first side and then it was turned over.  By the time you  got the buns ready and the  sauce and cheese on the meat, the patties were usually exactly well done.

The sourdough rolls were heated on a grill that was covered at about 250 degrees, just until the inside was starting to toast a little. (They were obviously cut in half before being put under the hood and onto the grill.)

When the meat was done on side one it was turned over, about one and one half tablespoons of souce was put on one patty and cheese was put on the other.

The bottom half of the french roll was removed from the grill and put on a heated counter.  You would then take your spatula, pull up the pattie that had the sauce on it, place it on the pattie with the cheese on it and then remove the 'stack' from the grill using the top half of the french roll to balance/absorb the sauce, and put this 'stack' onto the bottom part of the french roll.

The sauce was really quite simple as you will see.  Please forgive me for not giving the ingridients list in more reasonable quantities, but hey this is a bona_fide recipie.  :-)

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From The Mountain View Voice, March 2009

Battle of the burgers
Amadillo Willy's, Pezzella's unveil competing versions of a Mountain View classic: Linda's Parisian Burger

by Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice Staff

There were other Mountain View drive-in burgers that people remember, such as the Cadillac burger at Spivey's, and the pre-McDonald's Big Mac at Johnny Mac's.

But the Parisian burger of Linda's Drive-In stood out. Put it this way: if a local high schooler were to cut school in the 1960s and 1970s, there were two popular options -- hit the beach or grab a Parisian burger at Linda's Drive-In.

Linda's Drive-In is long gone, demolished in about 1985 to make way for the Wolf Camera that exists now at Escuela Avenue and El Camino Real. But its beloved burger is being replicated at two local restaurants: Armadillo Willy's in Los Altos and Pezzella's Villa Napoli in Sunnyvale.

Recently, a Voice writer sat down with his uncle Geoff, who ate Parisian burgers regularly as a teenager in 1960s Mountain View, to see which version is truest to the original.

People who remember the Parisian burger agree that it was two beef patties, American cheese, a French roll bun (from a bakery called "Parisian," hence the name) and a glob of "special sauce" made from ketchup, mustard, dried onions, celery seed and pepper. Tater tots were served on the side. Still, those same people can disagree strongly about their favorite burger.

"Everybody remembers something different," said Pat Pezzella, who owns Pezella's with his brother Vince. "One guy said, 'The burger is great, but there's something wrong with the sauce.'"

"What is it?" Pat recalls asking him.

"It was yellow."

"It was never yellow, what's the matter with you?"

"Another guy said, 'I remember the bun, it was oval,' Pat continued. "Where do you guys come up with this stuff?"

The Pezzellas moved from Brooklyn in 1956 and attended Mountain View High School (then located downtown) in the late 1950s. Since the summer of 2008, they have been serving the Parisian at their 52-year-old restaurant, a fairly upscale place that looks like an Italian villa.

Meanwhile, in late 2008 John Berwald unveiled his own version of the Parisian at his Armadillo Willy's chain of restaurants. Already, he said, it's outselling any other new dish. At the Los Altos location, 104 Parisian burgers sold in the first day, while 2,300 sold in the first week across all nine locations.

Berwald says he used to eat the burger "practically every day for lunch, and sometimes go back for dinner" while attending Cubberly High School (class of 1966) just over the Mountain View border in Palo Alto. "I always remembered that taste," he says. He had his friend Rusty, the pickiest eater he knows, give the final seal of approval on the sauce.

The bun and the sauce are probably the trickiest parts to replicate. After many years of mystery, the sauce recipe is readily available now on the Internet, although the restaurant owners spent months perfecting theirs. Berwald had a sourdough bun custom made by Le Boulanger bakery, while Pezzella's uses the bakery they've used for years to cook the restaurant's bread.

The verdict

A Parisian burger was purchased from both restaurants and placed side by side on the table. Armadillo Willy's charged $7.25, while Pezzella's charged $10.80.

Geoff started with the Pezzella's version.

"Except for the roll, it's good," he said, later explaining that the roll was more like an Italian Ciabatta roll than the crispy-shelled French roll he remembered. "A lot of it is the roll and the sauce," he said. "This is a light, fluffy bun -- that's not what the Parisian Burger was at all."

"But it's good as far as burgers go," Geoff concluded, ranking Pezzella's over any other local burger, even Clarke's.

Then he tried the Armadillo Willy's version, which has a roll crispy enough to shine.

"That's more like it," he said. "Armadillo Willy's pretty much nailed it."

For Geoff, it was Armadillo Willy's by a nose. Though it had less meat (one patty instead of Pezzella's historically correct double patty), the bun was more like sourdough, and it had more sauce with a "heavier" and "spicier" flavor to it. It also came with crispier tater tots.

Armadillo Willy's was closer by price, too. After all, Linda's was far from fancy. One former restaurant supervisor remembers using his whole arm to mix large batches of the sauce in a vat the size of a garbage can.

But Armadillo Willy's is serving the burger for a "limited time only" and Pezzella's may keep it around for the long run. And there's not doubt Pezzella's makes it with a certain degree of appreciation for Mountain View. Chefs Ralph and Maria Pezzella are in their 40s now, but both remember the Parisian burger "distinctly."

"They do it with a little bit of love because they remember it," Pat Pezzella said.

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