The Burger That Ate L.A. from “Melrose Place”Jul 26th, 2012 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
Way back in July 2009, a fellow stalker named Zoe emailed me to ask for some help in tracking down a hamburger-shaped restaurant that had appeared regularly in establishing shots on the original Melrose Place. Because I had never really watched the series, though, and had never noticed a burger-shaped eatery in all my years of living in L.A., I was not able to offer much help. So imagine my surprise when, while stalking in the West Hollywood area with Mike, from MovieShotsLA, a couple of months ago, we drove by the Starbucks pictured above and he announced that in the late ‘90s it was a famous hamburger-shaped restaurant named The Burger That Ate L.A. and that it was featured in an early episode of MP. I just about passed out from excitement over the news! More exciting still was the fact that, as Mike pointed out, even though the eatery has since gone through a series of different incarnations, the shape and structure of it is still almost exactly the same as it was when it was a burger place. Yay! Because we were rushing off to stalk Frank’s Wedding Coordinator shop from Father of the Bride (which I blogged about here) though, we did not pull over to take pictures. (I know, I know – me passing up the chance to stalk a Starbucks is seriously blasphemous!) But I immediately added the address to my To-Stalk list and finally dragged the Grim Cheaper right on over there a couple of weeks ago.
In the pilot episode of Melrose Place, Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) drops Donna Martin (Tori Spelling) and David Silver (Brian Austin Green) – all of whom were making a guest appearance – off in front of The Burger That Ate L.A. before heading over to see her new boyfriend, Jake Hanson (Grant Show), who “lives around the corner” at the Melrose Place apartment building (which I blogged about many, many moons ago here). As you can see below, The Burger That Ate L.A. was quite an extraordinary place.
The eatery also popped up in the opening credits of Melrose Place’s pilot episode and, as I mentioned above, in the series’ regular establishing shots of the Melrose District neighborhood, where the characters supposedly lived.
The Burger That Ate L.A. was also featured very briefly in the Season 1 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 titled “The First Time”, in the scene in which Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley) takes his former girlfriend, Sheryl (Paula Irvine), who is visiting from Minnesota, sightseeing.
The unique programmatic design of The Burger That Ate L.A. was the brainchild of restaurateur David Alderman, who also founded Carlos & Pepe’s in Fort Lauderdale and Moonshadows in Malibu (where Mel Gibson partied before his infamous DUI arrest in 2006). Alderman became inspired to shape his latest venture like a hamburger late one night while watching a B-movie. According to this July 7th, 1989 Los Angeles Times article, of the idea, he said, “Something in the old movie must have flipped a switch, and a light bulb popped in my head. I grew up in West Los Angeles, and often passed the Tail o’ the Pup hot-dog stand, which is shaped like a sausage sticking out between two buns.” Alderman commissioned the Solberg + Associates (which was then known as Solberg + Lowe Architects) firm to design and carry out his vision and The Burger That Ate L.A. was opened in mid-1989. The kitschy diner featured bar stools that were shaped like pickle wedges and a huge tomato slice that was suspended from the ceiling. What I wouldn’t give to have been able to see it in person!
The Burger That Ate L.A. was insanely popular for a time and even attracted its fair share of celebs. Apparently, Drew Barrymore once dined there, as did Axl Rose. Sadly though, the popularity did not last. While I do not know the exact date of its closure, by October 1994, The Burger had already been shut down, re-opened as the Acapulco Chicken Café (which inexplicably retained the burger shape of the building, as you can see here), closed yet again and left to deteriorate. At some point, the façade of Los Angeles City Hall was removed, but when Starbucks leased the property in 1995 or 1996, they added it back on, which I think is so incredibly cool! As you can see below, the basic shape of the place is still exactly the same as it was back in The Burger That Ate L.A. days. The rounded “burger” area is still there, as are the winged backdrop and the curved windows. And, as you can see in this 2000 photograph of the building on the Starbucks Everywhere website, the place even retained its brick siding for a time.
I cannot tell you how exciting it is to discover that, despite years of change (or in this case decades!), some remnant of a historic location still exists, no matter how small. And I love, love, love that Starbucks not only chose to incorporate the basic shape of The Burger That Ate L.A. into its design, but also restored the City Hall façade back onto its roof. While most Starbucks stores look like cookie cutter versions of themselves, this one not only stands out, but also preserves a bit of Los Angeles’ history in the process. That’s Starbucks for you – making the world better, one latte at a time.
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Big THANK YOU to Mike, from MovieShotsLA, for telling me about this location!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Burger That Ate L.A., from the pilot episode of Melrose Place, was formerly located at 7624 Melrose Avenue in the Melrose District of Los Angeles. The space now houses a Starbucks.