A few months ago, I wrote about a restaurant in my neighborhood that had been a part of my life for more than three decades. Hamburger Hamlet closed in July, headed for bankruptcy court. The windows looked blankly out on Van Nuys Boulevard, and those who ambled past the place each day saw dust and idle stoves, the bar swathed in black plastic trash bags. I held out little hope that the place would rise from the ashes and make a comeback.
So I was surprised to drive by the other day and see bus boys cleaning the windows and signs of activity. Something was happening. A quick Google search gave me a most welcomed result: yes, Hamburger Hamlet was open again, under new management, guided by the owners of the Killer Shrimp restaurants, one of whom started his career at Hamburger Hamlet working alongside original owners Marilyn and Harry Lewis. Looking over the newly reconstituted menu, it is clear the owners wanted to bring back the classic hamburgers and dishes made famous in the original restaurants both here in Los Angeles and back east.
Earlier this week, I stopped in for dinner and received another surprise. One of my former students, Dustin Belvedere, is the Director of Operations. He greeted us at our table and we were able to reminisce about the days of yore. Interestingly, he clearly remembered being assigned summer reading when he was in my junior high school English class. In short, he hated having to read during the summer, and his family continues to tease him about it even now. On those long ago days of summer break, if he became annoying, his parents would command him to leave them alone and “go read.” In spite of his lackluster enthusiasm for books over the summer, it was good to see how well his life had turned out.
The food was, as the old Hamlet sign used to say, “simply marvelous.” The lobster bisque and split pea soup are back, as are many of the classic burgers that had dropped off the menu in the last few years. The ambiance remains intact, and some of the wait staff have also returned for another go around. Of course, they are still ironing out the kinks—the restaurant will undergo remodeling after the first of the year, and more classic food items will be added back onto the menu soon—it was comforting to know our favorite comfort food place is back in operation.
After dinner, we walked to the newsstand at the corner of Ventura and Van Nuys Boulevards for our usual magazines and reading material. The air was autumn crisp with a slight breeze. For a week night, there were a lot of people enjoying the transition to November in southern California. When I last wrote about Hamburger Hamlet, I said that things did not look promising for a resurgence of the brand. I am very happy to say that at least for now, I was wrong. Hamburger Hamlet is back.