Hamptons (spelled with no apostrophe) was an upscale hamburger joint — perhaps the first one in Southern California. There were in fact two outlets of Hamptons. The original one was on Highland in Hollywood and in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that the proprietor of this site was a part-owner of this one during its last few years of life. The other was out on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake and it has now been transformed into Mo’s, with some but not all of the old Hamptons menu remaining.

Hamptons was famous as the restaurant that Paul Newman owned. That’s not exactly true but it’s also not utterly untrue. Here is how the story was told to me…

One day in the seventies, Paul Newman was having dinner with a friend of his, Ron Buck. Buck was a writer, artist and entrepreneur who had, among other ventures, built the 9000 Sunset building, as well as a trendy West Hollywood discotheque known as The Factory. He had worked without credit on several of Newman’s films, and he and the actor would later share credit for the screenplay of the 1984 Harry and Son. Buck was also great at cooking hamburgers on his backyard barbecue.

He had recently inherited an old house in which his mother had lived…on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, a few blocks south of Sunset. The other dwellings on the block were now housing real estate offices and Buck was trying to decide if he should sell the property or lease it to some business or what. Somehow, the suggestion arose that he open a gourmet burger restaurant there…a place where folks in the movie business who could afford better than Hamburger Hamlet could get one of Buck’s specialties, served with a glass of expensive wine.

The story then gets a bit murkier. Some say Newman put up the money and Buck put up the expertise and management. Since Buck was pretty wealthy, this may not be true, or it may be partially true. Some say Newman just agreed to be a frequent customer and to allow Buck to exploit that fact in publicity. Either way, the house was remodeled into a restaurant, mostly by enclosing the backyard. There was a wonderful, gnarled old tree in the middle of the yard and rather than remove it, the renovators bricked in the ground around it and allowed the tree to remain, reaching up through an opening in the newly-installed roof.

The place was named Hamptons because it was to reflect the fun and leisure of vacationing in the Long Island community known as The Hamptons. Various burgers were named for various friends and soon, it became a very “in” spot for folks who worked at nearby studios, such as Sunset-Gower or Paramount. The place didn’t do much of a dinner business but at lunchtime, it provided a welcome alternative to the fast food emporiums and taco stands of the neighborhood. At some point, it became so lucrative that Buck opened the branch on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake. Some say that after Newman had recouped his initial investment thrice over, he withdrew whatever financial interest he had and gave full ownership to Buck. That is, if he even had any financial interest in it.

As you can see the story of Hamptons and Paul Newman’s involvement is a bit fuzzy. I vouch for none of the above, but for the fact that the two outlets of Hamptons became very popular. Once upon a time, it was impossible to get a table at lunch without a long wait. People loved the eighty varieties of burgers, including Stan’s Fantasy (with sour cream and black caviar), The Nelly Burger (creamed horseradish and bacon) and The Foggy Bottom Burger (peanut butter and sour plum jam). People also loved the little buffet that accompanied each burger, allowing you to further dress your sandwich and pile the plate with salads and side dishes. The menu did not include french fries — odd for a burger joint — but if the German Potato Salad available in the buffet wasn’t to your liking, you could order a platter of Potatoes Hamptons, which was basically hash-browns with sour cream.

I have dozens of memories of Hamptons, commencing when I worked at various studios up in Hollywood and we’d eat there once a week. It was a great place to spot celebrities and/or talk about that new screenplay. One friend of mine said it was the best place in Hollywood to meet out-of-work actresses who were waiting tables.

One time, I was lunching with the star of a TV special I was producing and we had a little trouble with a fellow at an adjoining table. He was a bit drunk and he kept banging his chair into our table and acting like it was our fault. Finally, my dining companion told him to knock it off, and the drunk stood up like he was ready to start brawling. My friend stood up to face him and the inebriated gent suddenly realized he was staring at famed dirty wrestler, Roddy “Rowdy” Piper. He immediately paid his check and left, and Roddy and I returned to our burgers.

This was in the mid-eighties. As that decade ended, so did the popularity of a lot of restaurants in Hollywood. An amazing percentage of them folded and Hamptons, while it managed to stay open, was rarely crowded. It also wasn’t very good. I believe — again, this is fourth-hand info, maybe more — Buck passed away, as did the fellow he had managing the two eateries for him. Whoever was running it tried a lot of different things, including the introduction of french fries but it didn’t help. Around 1990, I had a meal there that was so lousy, I scratched Hamptons from my list of places to go. I was not alone in this decision.

Then just a few years later, the two outlets of Hamptons were put up for sale, and were quickly purchased. One group of investors bought the one in Toluca Lake, completely renovated it and since they didn’t get custody of the name, reredubbed it “Mo’s.” The original Hamptons on Highland became Hamptons Hollywood Cafe and the group that purchased it also did a lot of remodeling, bringing in a new chef and adding new items to the menu. For some reason, they installed a “car phone” in the parking lot…a phone booth made out of an old Nash Metropolitan. And they rounded up a number of investors, one of whom was me.

I never expected to make any money off my investment and, indeed, I didn’t. The whole point of it was to be able to say to friends, “Hey, let’s have lunch at my restaurant.” Taken on that basis, it was a lot of fun. The folks who actually operated the place had a lot of good ideas, some of which were quite amusing. Since Hamptons had catered largely to an industry (show biz) crowd, they instituted an unusual pricing policy. Members of the Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild and Directors Guild paid 10% less, while agents had to pay 10% more. The latter was meant as a joke but amazingly, there were actually diners who said, “I’m an agent. Do I really have to pay 10% more?” A few of those who asked were told yes, and they did. Wouldn’t you love to have one of those folks negotiating your deals for you?

The quality of the new Hamptons varied a lot. Sometimes, it was a great place to eat; sometimes, not. I didn’t have much to do with it except to (a) rewrite the menu to make it sillier, (b) make occasional suggestions and (c) add one menu item: The Groo Burger, based on the way my partner Sergio Aragonés likes his served…Grilled onions on top, then Mozzarella and Cheddar melted over the onions. I also had the supreme honor of having the barbecued chicken sandwich named for me and so consumed many.

But business was never too good and finally, the place was sold to a developer. For several months, it was “closed for remodeling” but no remodeling occurred. Instead, they finally tore down the house where Ron Buck’s mother had once lived, and even uprooted and removed that grand, majestic tree. The land now has on it a mixed-use structure (offices and residences) called Hampton Place. I already miss Hamptons and it’s not my investment I miss. I made a few bucks. I just always found it to be a friendly place to lunch with real good burgers and a great crowd. What more could you want?

84 Responses to Hamptons

  • Eric says:

    I lived right across the street from Hamptons/Mos in Toluca Lake for 18 years, ate there quite a bit. Last time I drove by it was emptying a tenant.

    I LOVED the Pasta Cobb Salad and always hoped to find out whT the redding dressing was they served on it. After reading these posts I now wonder if it was Newman’s famous French dressing. Anyone know for sure?

  • Martin says:

    A little more history. My family had a shop on Melrose, near the Highland location and used to eat there from time to time. We were very pleased when they opened the Toluca Lake location later, but a little sad to see the former tenant depart. That location on Rose and Riverside was the very first International House of Pancakes. The corporation had a falling out with the property owners and wound up abandoning their first store. I’d love to see Hamptons open again somewhere.

  • Terry G. Smith says:

    Love Hamptons. Went there before when it was, I think, a pancake house. Like Hamptons better. Happened on this site accidentally, looking for the restaurant in Talouca Lake, I went to in the mid 60’s. Bobby Troup used to play there in the bar area. If anyone out there remembers the name of the place, I would love it if you’d email me. My wife and I loved those old places in those days. They don’t make them like that anymore: Scandia, The old Luau, Frascati’s, Hamburger Hamlet. Great times. tgsmith36@earthlink.net

  • Lizanne Schader says:

    Big Dave!!! Are you still in Hollywood? I’ve lost your contact info. This was the BEST site to find today. I’ve been reminiscing for half an hour about all these food items and people. I worked at Hollywood Hamptons around 1986-88 with Debra Hill, Paul Cairns, Tracy, Melissa Colton, Mike Weir, Danny Fry, David Mielke, Greg Fuqua, Kevin Reader and remember all the bus boys and cooks so fondly. Johnny was the homeless man that we all gave food to. The Foggy Bottom Turkey burger was the alltime best as was the Parmesan Toast in those drawers. Kathy Nagle’s bread pudding is something I still dream of and can’t duplicate. The mention of the Bucks still makes me nervous, but the memory of all those famous people is still exciting.
    I remember closing early on Academy Awards night because the restaurant would be dead. And that walk-in freezer! Brrr! When I first started working there, that was where I was told to get into my uniform (the black and white with green apron) and leave my belongings.

    One special memory was the night a young man came in and said his grandmother used to live in the house. David Cutter, was this you? I took him for a tour where they washed the dishes and he showed me the original bathroom and dining room. Waited on Anthony Perkins, Demi Moore (a lot), Tom Selleck, Steve Allen and Jayne and Audra Meadows, Dennis Hopper, Sean Penn, Beau Bridges (a lot), Bob Seeger and countless others.

    Funniest/weirdest memory is of the night a rat died and fell directly into the Carrot Raisin salad from one of the big beams right above it. It was dealt with so swiftly and not a beat was missed. The cooks just replaced the large tins of salads and none of the customers knew (except the ones filling up their plates with the three salads at the time)…
    Thank you for the history and memories!

  • RS says:

    Menu! Someone post a menu!

  • bill says:

    Had a Hamptons of Hollywood burger place in winneg Canada…same owners?

  • Debi says:

    Does anyone remember hosting Paul Newman’s party to introduce “newman’s Own” salad dressings. We all wore a yellow t-shirt with Paul’s face on it. I’ve been trying to remember when that event took place. I still have my t-shirt which he signed for me that night. Guess I was lucky I didn’t get fired for breaking the “NO AUTOGRAPH” rule:)

    I worked with Bonnie, Jenipher, Paul Flick, the guy manager that drove a jaguar, and manager Wendy. So many faces coming to mind but names aren’t accompanying them:(

    Fun place to work!! Waited on so many celebs! Favorites – Dick VanDyke and Bill Murray

    Thanks for the memories!!

  • John Twiss says:

    Living in the UK now, I remember the Hamptons fondly as a hangout for myself and pals after a workout at the gym, where we recouped our expended energy with good beef, certainly the only hamburgers I was willing to eat anywhere! So sad to know that another icon of LA has disappeared.

  • rainey says:

    Wow! I just discovered your site and I’m having so much fun reading about favorite places that are no longer there. HAD to comment about Hamptons, tho, as I used to live not far from the Highland one and still miss it to this day.

    They were GREAT burgers that Mo’s doesn’t quite live up to. I still make what I think was called the Kazoo Burger. It had dijon mustard and plum jam. I got my first one because it was something I simply had to try. I got every subsequent one because it’s a sensational combination with beef.

    Sooo many memories of sitting beneath that tree on the patio, listening to classical music and squeezing through the narrow dining room to get my toppings!

  • David wilbourn says:

    After reading the intro about Hamptons i thought the record should be
    set straight-Paul Newman never had money invested in the restaurant-
    Ron only let that rumor persist because he thought it was good for business-
    which it obviously was–Ron and Paul were very good friends so Newman
    allowed it to go on –there was a bump in the road when Paul began his
    own food line as he wanted Ron to take his name off the salad dressing
    at the salad bar–eventually it got smoothed out–as one can see from
    reading the posts on this site there was and is still confusion about
    the ownership of Hamptons with some people–i know the truth simply
    because i was involved with the restaurant from the beginning till it
    was sold in the mid-90’s–i do miss at times my Avocado tree desk which
    was built for me by handyman Michael and the nice handle for the drawer
    that Ron bought for me–Amazing how many paths were crossed by standing under an Avocado tree-from the homeless to the Hollywood elite—
    Peace to all————-David

  • david wilbourn says:

    My name is David but i was known as Big David in my Hamptons days-
    I was the day host at Hamptons for i6 years -it certainly brings back
    fond memories as i read the e-mails of the people on this site-I remember
    Robin and Frank Cappola and most of the rest who have posted,although
    i was under the Avocado tree for all my years at the restaurant so there
    were some from the Burbank store that i didn’t know as well-I do remember
    Kathy Nagel’s wonderful Key Lime pie and my favorite Chocolate Chocolate
    Chip cake-The Buck’s were difficult at times but i found pretty much all
    restaurant owners are a little paranoid and edgy -I would like to say though they always treated me with respect and helped me out of several
    bad times in my life –It was a perfect job for me ,as i worked 5 hours a day
    and Ron and Ann paid me well for for my work which allowed me to pursue
    other interests in my life-One of the moments i always remember is when
    Paul Newman would come into the restaurant everything would stop for
    at least 5 or 6 seconds as if we were all frozen in time and then the noise
    would return with people buzzing about Paul—Met a lot of people under
    the Avocado tree—Peace and Love to all——David
    P.S.-After Ron passed Ann went on to become a facilitator in Vipassana

  • Tom Bell says:

    I had lunch there in the early 90’s and as I recall, had the burger with horseradish (Nelly?), cooked medium. It was delicious! Possibly even more memorable was the fact that actor Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith from Lost In Space) was sitting two tables away from me. I was a big LIS fan as a kid, so that was a hoot! He was by himself and ever the dignified, stately gentleman in his blue blazer and ascot. Diners around him soon began coming up to his table and telling him what big fans they were of his, and sheepishly asked for his autograph. I’ll never forget how incredibly gracious and humble he was and took the time to talk to every single person and seemed to love every minute of it. Don’t have too many stars like that any more. Good memories! Thanks. Great post and as usual, LOVED all the comments. This site is highly addictive!

  • Matt DiGregory says:

    I used to eat at Hamptons in the mid 80’s. Had my first ever Tuna Melt there. I can still taste it! I’ve been trying to duplicate that recipe ever since, but have never had one taste as good as that foot long, sourdough, cheddar cheesy goodness delight that I ate numerous times. I used to crave it and still do. I came across this site because, once again, I’m asked to make a tuna melt by the other half and keep hoping that somehow, somewhere I’ll find that recipe! You know its good if that memory is 25 years old! Help…I need a fix! Anyone know the ingredients?

  • Darlene says:

    I worked at both the Hollywood and Burbank locations, for 2 or 3 years in the early ’90s, as both a hostess and server. (As hostess at the Highland location, I stood at the host stand at the foot of that great, big avocado tree as I welcomed guests.) Also had a lot of fun waiting on celebs and industry bigwigs, like Ivan Reitman, Kathy Bates, Oliver Stone (he called me “Red” with a drawl), James Garner, Cliff Roberts, Jane Seymour, Ray Liotta, Sandra Bernhardt (she left me a whole dollar!), and many, many more.

    Best job I ever had and some of the most fun times EVER! Agree with some of the other former waitrons: I never did see Ann Buck smile, but her interaction with a pompous Gene Simmons from KISS one lunch day in Toluca Lake is one of my favorite memories (and is a really funny story). Still sad that they’re gone. And my favorite menu items: the Chinese Chicken Salad and the Foggy Bottom Burger (with PB&J). Folks never believe me, but man, that was good burger! Also loved the seasoned curly fries. And the garlic hummus that was NOT on the menu but was made by one of the Burbank managers, Lori. Thanks for a fun stroll down memory lane.

  • Jack Green says:

    I seem to recall an advertising tagline they used in LA Magazine back in the late seventies: “Hamptons gives great hamburger.”

    Anyway, I was addicted to a burger named after a Czech or Hungarian lady. Loved that place.

  • Maggie Sebastian says:

    I was one of the original wait crew hired in Burbank. These are some of the cast of characters who started with me. Pete the Greek who was the most requested waiter. Paul Flick, Chas Butcher, Peter Lucia (deceased) and Cathy Gelfuso.
    I was one of the few who could say they worked at both Hamptons, Burbank and Hollywood. Since I started in Burbank, it was my fave. Many laughs during a busy shift only to go into shock mode knowing that Anne Buck was on her way in from Malibu. Did she ever smile?
    People would always complain about this one painting of Ron’s because it was soooo depressing.
    Waay too much fun in those waitron years.

  • Peter Chaconas aka "MR PETE" KTLA-5 says:

    Hamptons oh Hamptons. How we loved thy name!!
    I was an original “watron” at the Toluca Lake Hamptons on Riverside Dr and a part timer at the Highland location. The Toluca Lake site was formerly a House of Pancakes right across from a vintage Bob’s Big Boy (yes, it was burger vs burger).

    My friend (Jim Mahady, above) lived across the street from me on Hollywood Blvd at Poinsettia and put in a word for me when the Toluca Lake site opened. There was a great crew of people. Paul Flick, Maggie Sebastian, Mark Buccola, Craig Gelfand, Teresa Willock, Bridgett Baker, Peter Lucia (yes the former drummer of Tommy James and the Shondels) later joined by Diane Delano. Lauren Keller, Kenny the “chef”, Jose our busboy, with Mary and Sandy, two tough Lesbians who managed us all.

    I know I’m forgetting some names, but who could forget those OWNERS?? Whoa! They were former “EST-heads” and total control freaks. Anne used to actually put on a WHITE glove and check for dirt.
    Their son Mark-a blond-haired/blued-eyed Malibu-surfer-rat worked there for a short time.

    Yes, the food was great! The Triple Chocolate Cake was amazing and the Marjolaine Cake was MORE amazing . The hot Vegetable Soup & the cold Gazpacho were the BEST!
    And of course, those great burgers. Quality meat, piled HIGH with crazy-strange-ass toppings that were totally original and sold like crazy! NO french fries… but, once a customer really wanted some, so I went across the street to Bob’s Big Boy and got some for them…. And yes, it was the PINK PEPPER Burger (my personal fave with blackened pepper onions & sherry wine dressing).

    Paul Newman did come in, with blue eyes-a-blazin, and tossed his beer can in the wastebasket & it was snapped up by a staff member.
    And yes, people kept their jobs there a long time. We had a killer lunch crowd since we were near Warners and some epic dinner crowds. Actually we made great money on all the shifts… Many of us wore Hawaiian shirts, and sat down at tables to take orders (quite off-putting to a newbie).

    Peter Lucia- a crazed, wickedly funny, womanizing man whom we ALL loved, died suddenly of a heart attack while golfing. And that group of ‘originals’ above, still see each other- 35 yrs later- at MO’s- to remember our times together. We adopted John Schneider (Dukes of Hazard) as our mascot, and we hung w/him the first year of his show….
    A Very special group of people, at a very special time (the cocaine/qualude late 70’s & early 80’s) with all those fantastic memories.

    I could drone on and on…but I’ll stop.

  • Jim Mahady says:

    Also, no one mentioned anything about Ron and Ann’s children, both of whom worked there at one time or another. Leigh Ann was the older one, I think, and she waited tables for a while, maybe even just filling in for people. Her brother, Mark, also was there off and on, and I think he was just a host or maybe expediter. They were both nice kids, probably still in their teens then (1977 or 78).

  • Jim Mahady says:

    I worked at Hamptons Kitchen in Hollywood from December 1976 until October 1979. Started as a night time host, then a cashier and finally a waiter. I have so many fond memories from that time. Managers were Robin, who commented above, and her girlfriend Georgia, and they were the best! The regular night waiters were all best friends – we’d go out regularly after our shifts and often meet before the shift for dinner. We celebrated birthdays at the fanciest restaurants we could find. The crew: Jody, Ken George, Ricky Gene, Reed, David Pearce, Stephanie (host), Jennifer and day timers Eugenia, Kathryn, Danny Mann, Frank Coppola (mentioned by Robin) and Richard. What a great, fun bunch!

    Reading the other posts has been so fun – being reminded of the great a I avocado tree in the middle of the patio, and all those wild names for the burgers. No one has mentioned that the patio was initially open-air. It was that way when I began in late ’76, and the plexiglass roof was added sometime soon after that. It doesn’t rain all that often in LA, but when it did, everyone would just run inside – leading to the addition of plexiglass.

    Paul Newman definitely came into the restaurant every so often – I was always surprised at how short he was. Lots of other TV and movie people came in, and budding young actors like Ray Underwood and Timothy Patrick Murphy. It was a really fun place to work and the tips were great. When the one in Toluca Lake opened, I encouraged my friend, Mr. Pete, to apply, and he got a job there and stayed for several years. He later had his own cable TV talk show.

    I’ve lost touch with most of my friends from those days – moved to NYC for many years and now live in DC. Waiters Kenny and Ricky Gene have passed on, and I am still in touch with Jody and Reed, and Mr. Pete. When I visited LA in 1991 after 11 years away, I went with several friends for dinner at Hamptons on Highland. Not sure it was still called that, but it seemed pretty much the same. Was sad to see on my last visit to LA (2011) that it was no longer there. Wasn’t that a time…

  • Rick Fuller says:

    Yes, it was the pink pepper burger made with Sherry-wine dressing. Does anyone have an old Hampton’s menu they can put up online?

  • Dana Gabbard says:

    I found online a menu from the period when Mr. Evanier was a part-owner. I also found a 1995 review which some may find of interest.

    Rode by it many a time pre-subway on the line 420 bus that linked the basin and the Valley. But sadly never ate there. Oh, well.

  • David Cutter says:

    I was delighted to find this post. My grandparents built the house in 1920 that became the entire kitchen and serving area for Hamptons Hollywood Cafe on Highland Avenue. My dad was born in that house in 1909 and he remembered that a lodger had planted the avocado tree that became the feature the cover over the patio was built around. It was a fruitful tree for years and years. I remember my grandparents house and family get togethers where we’d all get around and make music after dinner. I was sad to see the place razed to the ground to make way for condos. Even the fruitful avocado tree is gone now. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. :(

  • Willetta Grady says:

    I am so sad to see Hampton’s closed. Was looking forward to lunches there with my daughter on our next trip. What were my favs? The Oriental Chicken Salad — to die for! Also, the Nelly Burger!!

  • Shelley says:

    Omg! I was having a conversation about the restaurant that was way before the counter and finally remembered Hamptons!! Googled it and found this article. No, it wasn’t a red pepper burger, it was a pink pepper burger. I think can’t remember if it was red wine or champagne, but it was my favorite. I miss the german potato salad and just the whole atmosphere of Hamptons. I worked at Manufacturers Bank and used to head there for lunch. Memories. All of them good…

  • Pam Shakra says:

    WOW – Thanks for the great stroll down memory lane! I was checking to see if Hamptons was still open for our upcoming trip to LA. Sorry to see that it has closed. I worked there in 1979 – 1980 (?) and remember Dave, I thought that there was also a manager named Diane at that time. But then again, those were the 70’s! Although I did not wait tables; I do remember one waiter Peter Lucia formally of Tommy James and the Shondells. The staff was great and the food was awesome. Thanks again for the memories.

  • Rick Fuller says:

    We never had a “Red pepper burger” and we never gave a discount to industry people with a “guild” card. Everyone was treated the same, everyone paid the same price, whether they were a studio “gopher” or Johnny Carson who came into the Burbank location.

  • Rick Fuller says:

    I waited tables at Hamptons – Burbank from April 1985 to December 1990. Dana Hardon was the GM during this time. Hampton’s interviewed perspective employees every Monday, without fail, at the Hollywood store. Dana interviewed me and within a week I was working at the Burbank store.

    Hamptons was one of the best jobs I ever had. Although, I was not a singer, actor, model as my fellow “waitrons,” I was a college student at CSUN. There were only two of us “waitrons” who worked at Hamptons Burbank that were not singer, actor, models – myself and Wendy. She was a biology major. I was a nutrition major.

    The great thing about Hamptons was the longevity of most of the waiters. Either you worked there for a very long time, or you were newly hired.

    Ron and Ann would sit at table 67 and observe their operation with Dana.

    In the “ER” (employee room – table numbers in 80s) regular guest Johnny Grant would dine almost daily coming in between 4:00 and 5:30 each day.

    Even the managers were actors two of whom were Ginger and Marty. Some of my fellow “waitrons” were Paul, Suzette, Lana “Lips” and Tony. Our cashiers were Desiree (Suzette’s sister) and Richard.

    Every waiter had to “expedite” (runner) at least one shift a week. When first hired, most of the shifts were “expedite” shifts until rising up the seniority list where more wait shifts were in the offering. Day shifts were lower on the seniority rung, and the coveted dinner shifts (Friday, Saturday) were a premium.

    The history of Hamptons is exactly how it was told above by the host of this site. We were never, ever told to tell any of the customers that Paul Newman was an owner – only a friend of Ron and Ann’s.

    At our Burbank Hamptons, there was a yellow felt pen drawing by Paul Newman called “The Cat Regards His Dinner.”

    Thanks hosting this site, Richard. It’s been fun to wax nostalgic about Hamptons.

  • Eitan Alexander says:

    What wonderful stories and background info. Was taken to Hamptons on one of my first ever dates (it had to be in the fall of ’79 because we saw The Rose not too long after). I thought I’d be all fancy and daring and order the Frank’s Fantasy. I fell in love with that burger and, even though I’d be tempted by all the other ones on the menu, I’d never order anything else whenever I’d go there afterwards.

  • Just a Waitresses circa '80 (?) says:

    How fun to read this post, these comments!

    I’d waited tables at the original, in the way-back days — Robin! Tall, long brown hair, and FUNNY! You and Sandy (am I remembering our other manager right?) were great…
    Commenter Stephen Smith was there then, too, dating a beautiful waitress/actress who looked so much like him they made a beautifully dramatic couple (Stephanie?) — back when you could wear your own clothes on your shift, before they went to white shirts and black pants… you had to start out as an expediter before you could wait tables — bringing the customers up to that burger bar and explaining it all to them…

    My old memory conjures our managers in Hawaiian shirts, back at their dutch-door office off the gorgeous front room, responsible for putting the first appearance of “tropical” ice tea on local menus, from the then-start-up, Paradise Tea…

    And for years after I moved on I’d run into some of our sweet bus boys working other jobs at other restaurants — they’d called me ‘Flaka’ and ‘Blanca’ so I’d just repeat one name and they’d remember and say the other…
    Oh! And that chunky vegetable soup! And yes,the red-potato german potato salad was swell, but my staff meal (half price!) was often one of those foot-long cheese melts…

    Anne Buck was scary and respected and always looked great, in that icy, clipped, Anna Wintour-West way…

    Waiter Neil was a funny flake, and lived with a buncha guys in a foothill apartment above Gower;
    A waitress named Kathy made that great thick bread pudding dessert for them; they’d give her the rye/egg/wheat bread & crust scraps/eggs/cream/etc. in big pans to take home to bake and bring back…

    Funny the things you remember… I think most of us thought Mr. Newman had invested…

    Our tall, long-grey-haired host Dave was a “mellow” gentleman and a scholar, living in a teensy 2nd floor studio on Vine; he was the oldest person I’d ever met at that point, and he didn’t understand why I, an Herbal Essence girl, was shocked that he used bar soap on his hair rather than buy shampoo…

    We had great customers, too — one sweet shaggy-haired creative type from, I think, the post house down the block, would come in alone 3-5 lunches a week, sit at the same deuce against the front wall, order the same thing, let me feel useful and psychic when I brought him something that he hadn’t asked for yet… but had always ordered before…

    Now I wanna dig out my old address book from those days… I always felt the Burbank Hamptons was an imposter and felt stunned when our Hamptons closed… my first taste of nostalgia, long before I knew the truth of “these are the good ol’ days.”

    @Evanier — maybe Barone’s on Riverside (up to ’99) some day?

    Many thanks for your swell site —

  • Jess says:

    Totally lost in this discussion of Hamptons burgers are the outrageous desserts. The “Chocolate Mort” — “mort” as in death — was one of the great decadent chocolate desserts and Hamptons’ caramel and peanut butter sauces were also fantastic.

  • wil says:

    There was a comedy show filmed at the location back in 1998. I was one of the comedians and loved the food and the performance atmosphere. I would love to know if anyone know what happened to the show or Mike’s recordings with the place the way it was.

  • Karissa says:

    Great piece! I used to order the Menage a Trois (cheddar, bacon and avocado). I miss Hamptons. The place always felt like a house to me (and I loved that old tree) but I never knew the back story. Thanks!

  • Shel Willens says:

    The Red Pepper Burger was magic, and really HOT. I’m a writer and never failed to show my guild card and get my 10% discount. I even got my agent to buy lunch…once. It almost choked the bastard. One of the truly great old places.

  • Sharon says:

    This was a great trip down memory lane… the caviar burger – whatever it was called – was my favorite along with the ménage a trois. And, oh, that German potato salad! Loved the wood plank salad bar and the wonderful patio. Never knew it was originally a house. A real high point in LA eats!

  • Joan Dykman says:

    Ohhh… I do miss Hamptons. Piling up a salad to feed from for days … I would love to have an old menu or a copy of one – let me know if that’s possible.

  • Nancy Clendaniel says:

    Oh, that cinnamon coffee! The burgers were all wonderful, but it’s that beautiful coffee in those 50’s style brown mugs that is forever stuck in my mind.

  • R.R. says:

    I missed out on the original Hamptons, but I sometimes do takeout from Mo’s in Toluca Lake. Although I wasn’t there for the original, the quality of beef is akin to an old-style steakhouse burger…really deep flavor. Some of the Hamptons menu items mentioned in previous comments are still there. I order the Slam Dunk burger fairly regularly, and yes, the Foggy Bottom, Menage a Trois, and Nelly Burger are all great, too. (Frank’s Fantasy Burger went bye-bye a few years ago.) For takeout orders, the potato salad is served on the side…nice to know that’s one of the Hamptons items as well!

  • Jeff Maxwell says:

    I had one of the best birthday’s of my life at the Hamptons in the valley. I was doing pretty well in showbiz so I rented out the back room for a party of about 30 of my closest friends. Every guest received a “confidential” treat when they arrived which sent most into the bathroom. The party was truly fun, great vibes, warm feelings and remembered by all who are still alive.

    Thank you Hamptons for a life-long memory.

  • Susan Frisk says:

    Loved that great patio with the tree, while munching on the slam-dunk burger (plum jam & dijon mustard)!

  • Will Hamblet says:

    Anyone, besides me, ever try the Foggy Bottom burger? It was great. I’m convinced peanuts go well with any food: sweet, sour, whatever.

    I’m not sure they were first, but Hamptons is the first restaurant I remember serving premium wines by the glass.

  • Craig says:

    Always enjoyed Hamptons’ gazpacho, very refreshing. Nothing like drinking a salad.

  • Sherry Sherrard-Jackson says:

    OH I’m so happy I found this especially Robin Jones comment!!! I lived in LA in the 80’s and what I loved was the coffee! lol I’m so glad Robin mentioned the cinnamon in the coffee…it was the best. I was always under the impression that it was Paul Newman’s restaurant as well. Even took my dad there for the coffee and explaining that Paul Newman owned it etc. lol oh well I still love(d) it :-)

  • Robin Jones says:

    William, I checked my old menu — the Menage A Trois was, indeed, bacon and avocado, and the third item was the customer’s choice of swiss or cheddar cheese. :)

  • William says:

    We used to go to Hamptons on Highland Ave regularly back in the mid-late 80s, Robert wrote below about the Menage A Trois, that was my favorite as well. I can’t remember the toppings but I think it was bacon and avocado. Robert: Can you remember the toppings?

    Hamptons was a great place! After you ordered your burger, you could enjoy a glass of wine, or your favorite beverage, and then the waiter/waitress would summon you up from the dining room into the kitchen area where you would dress your burger with all the other great toppings they had. I remember the German potato salad also, it was awesome! Thank you for this website and for bringing back some great memories of one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., back in the day. William

    Robert Delgado Jr says:

    Long before anyone doing fusion burgers on the foodnetwork there was Hamptons pointing the way and setting the trend. My fave was the Manage A Trois. Like Newman, gone but never forgotten.

  • Robin Jones says:

    Wow! I was just going through some old files a few days ago and found an old Hamptons menu — from the early days when it was still called “Hamptons Kitchen.” (In those days, the caviar & sour cream burger was “Frank’s Fantasy,” named for its creator, a waiter/actor named Frank Coppola [no relation to the director]).

    I found your website while looking for information about Ron and Anne Buck. I was the general manager for them for several years in the mid-to-late 1970’s, when the evening shifts Wednesday through Sunday were as popular as the lunch shifts, and when we opened the second restaurant in Toluca Lake (now Mo’s) in response to numerous requests for a Hamptons closer to the Warner Brothers Studios. (Jack Warner was Ron Buck’s nextdoor neighbor.)

    I am impressed with how accurate your article is, though I’m surprised that it did not note that the main connection that Ron and Paul had (besides the weekend cookouts on the Bucks’ deck in The Colony overlooking the Pacific Ocean) was their mutual love of racing cars, playing pool, and Budweiser beer.

    You also might be interested to know that a number of the recipes that we used at the restaurants were, in fact, Paul Newman’s. In particular, the potato salad, the marinara sauce, the barbeque sauce, and last but not least, “Paul Newman’s Fabulous French Dressing,” which I gather became the first product in the Newman’s Own profits-to-charity food corporation. Paul also was the creator of the “Slam Dunk” burger, which featured Dijon mustard and sour plum jam.

    It is true that people popularly believed that Paul Newman was a co-owner or silent partner with Ron and Anne — owing mostly, I think, to the label over the homemade dressing at the salad bar — and the Bucks were not inclined to disabuse customers of the notion, because it provided a substantial boost to the popularity of the place. Paul occasionally came by in the late afternoon and would sit alone in the back and have a mug of Bud or a glass of white wine. Joanne and their son Scott had dinner there one night. However, the Newmans never participated directly in the business, and to the best of my knowledge, they never had an ownership interest in it.

    In fact, for a short time before it became Hamptons, the little orange house on Highland Avenue was an unsuccessful recording studio. I can’t recall the name at the moment, but the corporate name for the recording studio was the same as the corporate name for Hamptons. Ron couldn’t bear to sell the house when the recording studio went belly up, and he decided to convert it into a burger restaurant inspired by the cookouts with the Newmans.

    The first featured burger was “The Golden Kazoo,” which was a half-pound of chuck with sauteed mushrooms and a half of a steamed brocolli stalk smothered with a big slab of melted cheddar cheese. The beef for all of the burgers was pure chuck ground fresh twice per day in our food prep room, and the fat content of each batch was carefully calibrated using a device that Ron specially commissioned from the inventor. He also had to find a plastics fabricator to design and make the salad bar containers and sneeze shields, because in those days, as you noted, virtually no one had salad bars! I’m not sure where the addition of Korintje cinnamon to the coffee originated, but that too was uncommon in the pre-barista world of the 1970’s.

    The idea for the addition of wines came directly from the cookouts, but Ron’s real pride and joy was the serving counter and salad bar in the Highland Avenue restaurant. It was cut from a single slab of wood that Ron rescued from the deck of a decommissioned sailing ship. He also designed the patio, which had a plexiglass ceiling built around the ancient avocado tree that you mentioned. And he personally selected the classical music that played at all times during business hours. Anne’s major contribution was the dozens of hanging plants, which she personally selected and accented with colored flood lights.

    I don’t think that Ron and Anne ever expected the restaurant actually to turn a profit, but they were, of course, delighted when we busted through the break-even line my first year there and made a hefty 17-19% net profit for each of the remaining years that I was there, owing largely to a steady stream of actors, directors, musicians, and other notable personalities as regular customers. (Ask John Travolta about his “addiction” to the wickedly delicious carrot cake!) One of the main attractions for the notables was that they knew that they could eat in peace, guaranteed that no one would interupt their meals by asking for autographs, taking photographs, or offering unsolicited manuscripts. (Jeremy Iacone, who has since written numerous screenplays, including, for example, “The Bone Collector,” was actually fired from his job as a waiter for violating that rule; but I’m guessing that he believes that it was worth it!)

    The restaurant also occasionally served as a place for private celebrations such as a birthday party for one of the Bridges family (Jeff, I think) and an after-party for Lillian Gish following an event involving the preservation of celluloid films.

    Yes, Hamptons was a small piece of Hollywood history — one that I thought had been long forgotten. It’s awesome to know that a few people still remember it. Thank you for the stroll through fond memories!


  • Robert Delgado Jr says:

    Long before anyone doing fusion burgers on the foodnetwork there was Hamptons pointing the way and setting the trend. My fave was the Manage A Trois. Like Newman, gone but never forgotten.

  • George Geary says:

    Would any of you have pictures of the inside of the place?

  • M. Bouffant says:

    Always sorry I never got around to eating at Hamptons. Wanted to get in there & make my very own burger from the buffet.

  • Stephen Smith-Seattle says:

    I enjoyed your article. I worked at Hamptons in the mid 80’s while pursuing an acting career (short lived) and remember the Buck family, several other waiters that worked there for the few years I was there and the host named Rick that was there from the beginning. Did you work there as well?

    Stephen Smith

  • Bill Warren says:

    My dad, from a small town in Oregon he rarely left, was very snobbish about beef, since most of what he had came from the “ranch” (an island with cattle running free) he co-owned with his aunt. (I was a cowboy several times, helping rounding up the cattle annually for sale to a guy from the Willamette Valley; I did not ride a horse) He was usually critical to very critical of restaurant beef, but that at Hampton’s he just loved.

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