Woody’s Smorgasburger II

The comment thread on the original posting here about Woody’s Smorgasburger got so long that we decided to stop it there and start a sequel over there. You can read the old thread here. Please continue the conversation below. And by the way, all this talk has made some of us miss the place all the more.

251 Responses to Woody’s Smorgasburger II

  • Dick Roletta says:

    When I worked at Woody’s #1, Ralph Woods and Don Steinke were co owners. Ralph bought out Don who then opened a string of KFC’s in Orange County. Ralph still owns a restaurant in Palos Verdes called Admiral Risty if he is still alive. Risty was his wife’s name. I have some great stories to tell. When I worked, the grill was not gas but charcoal and the guy who delivered the charcoal was name Giancarlo Giambastiani. Always thought he was Mafia.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Per 1/23: “This site http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html features various A-frames of the era with several purported to be Woody’s. …”

    As there’s been no comment, does that indicate there was a Woody’s in Sacramento and Oakland?


  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    Let’s devote a little space to the desert offerings at Woody’s SmorgasBurger. The brownies from Martino’s Bakery were a long running offering. I was surprised to learn from Chris Pingel that he had featured them for as long as he did. I found those brownies were way to sweet because of the added chocolate frosting.
    In hind sight, I would have liked to offer individually wrapped brownies without frosting. Plain and Walnut .

    The jello cups seemed to be a consistently good seller.
    Remember the small yellow plastic dish with a pineapple slice and cherry ?
    The fruit filled tarts were a very good idea , but not a good enough seller
    with the customers.

    Your Pontiac wagon is in fantastic shape ! Don’t you have a mess of trophies to stand in front of the bumper?
    Great car for the Studio Drive In.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Interesting factoid on Mr. Wood’s station wagon, Phil. I know I didn’t get my love of station wagons from Mr. Wood, as I never knew what kind of vehiclehe drove. So here’s a link to a pic of my vehicle (mine’s a Pontiac though, instead of a Buick)


    And those salt pans……….hated that job.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Gary,

    It just occurred to me that your friends from Woody’s #1 should be joining us. I only assumed that you invited Steve C. and Dick R. to become readers and commenters. Perhaps they need a reminder that we would love to have them. I do realize that all individuals are not into this stuff.
    I have a friend who worked at the Woody’s location in Woodland Hills for about 9 months and I just cannot get him to participate on this site.
    Like the rest of us ex Woody guys, he has a bunch of fun stories.
    So D.B., if you are reading this now, please consider adding a few lines.

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary ( our Woody’s SmorgasBurger man in the Inland Empire )

    Since you and Chris are rowing in the same boat , I hope he will soon tell you and our other READERS about his ” favorite thing in the whole world. ”
    It is an old family recipe which has been handed down from his dad.
    Chris is very busy now as I write, so it may be a week or two before he can respond. Gary, I am thinking your famous salsa just might be a super addition to the Pingel families ” Ca_______al ” sandwich !

    It will be fun to see how Chris ties this subject in with Woody’s SmorgasBurger. As for me, my favorite thing in the whole world would
    be closer to a 12 oz. Delmonico steak, roasted medium, with a loaded baked potato and a bottle of Beaujolais wine. Perhaps a small salad too.

    Believe me, I noticed your recipes feature raw eggs as well.
    Let me just say this; raw eggs are only intended for throwing at people you do not like. I have Justin Bieber to back me on this.
    Have a great week everyone ! ( some will be having more fun than others )
    Phil Ankofski

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A

    I meant to say I enjoyed RARE Smorgas Burgers like Chris P. A rare burger is quickly seared on each side, on high heat, for a short period of time.

    A side note: The were four wooden markers that could be put in each burger at the time of cooking. Rare, Medium Rare, Medium and Well Done. It was the grill mans rule to undercook each designation, as it was possible to add the burger back to the grill if the customer found it to be too rare. This rule applied especially to steaks, as a Well Done steak could not be reversed.

  • Phil A. says:

    Chris and Gary, ( both Woody’s SmorgasBurger guys ! )

    Oh my Gosh ! All your talk of extra rare ground beef at mealtime only brings to mind John Belushi and Dan Akroyd at SNL. I imagine them doing scenes which feature them serving rare burgers at their burger joint.
    Instead of ” che burger, che burger ” it would be ” rare burger, rare burger,
    rare burger.”
    Of course Belushi’s menu board would list who was the current leader in the number of rare burgers consumed at one sitting. Yukkie !

    Both of you guys appear to be in better than average health, so I cannot
    diss you from a medical standpoint. I now wonder what both of your wives do for dinner when you are in one of your ” rare ” moods.
    I suppose you could be sent off to your man cave and eat on a TV table.
    Please, please , do not post comments saying they are in this with you.
    I could not bear it.

    Some last words on the rock salt;
    The rock salt must have been delivered in 30 to 40 lb. bags.
    I cannot remember where it was stored, or who supplied it.
    I do not remember ordering it, nor do I have a contact listed in my now famous Woody’s Rolodex.

    I know, I can hear some folks out there wondering ” who gives a _____
    about rock salt ? Well, I will remind you that I have been snowed in for two weeks ………. so what else have I got ?
    Great fun you guys !

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A

    FYI, raw ground beef is the key ingredient in Steak Tartare which is usually associated with Parisian bistros and the Tartare’s who gave the dish its name. I love it.
    Good for you Chris. I too enjoyed extra raw Smorgas Burgers of all kinds if it was quality meat and Patman’s, used at Woody’s, was quality meat.

  • ChrisP says:


    The salt pans were used to catch and absorb the grease from the broiler above.
    We would line the two large flat pans with thick tin foil and fill them with rock salt. The next morning ( when the pans were cold) the opening person would dump the pans into the trash and reline the pans and refill with rock salt.
    Not too hard but a little messy. I did it many times myself.
    If you think of anything else, let me know and I’ll try and answer your question or refer it to someone who can.
    Take care,

  • Phil A. says:

    I would invite Chris, Gary or Marshall to address Mark T.’s question on the salt pans. I do remember them, but not so much about their care.
    Have at it guys.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    a) If the salsa (created after my short time) was ‘worth its salt’, i.e. as served in New Mexico, it would have killed off any bacteria etc. in Chris’ rare King Swiss! Besides, LOL, if eating veggies raw is more nutritional, why not meat, albeit I wouldn’t do it. (For some reason, Charles Lamb’s Dissertation Upon Roast Pig comes to mind.)

    b) This site http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html features various A-frames of the era with several purported to be Woody’s. I’ll leave it to Y’…oopsy…to Phil etc. to confirm or correct the designations, if need be, here or the site. I.e. Woody’s in Northern CA????

  • Mark Thorson says:

    What were the salt pans used for?

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morning Guys and Gals,

    Gary Wilcuts posting on the 21st was the 325 th . Congratulaions Gary !

    Yes Chris, there is nothing lacking in your memory when you can come
    up with names from 50 years ago. When I saw Roberto’s name, I knew it sounded familiar but I could never place a face with it.

    I went upstairs to locate my 50 year old Rolodek which I used only at #7 and #2 . It was used exclusively to keep all the contact info for all of Woody’s vendors, suppliers and repairmen. I knew just where it was because I now use it as a paper weight. I had not opened it in 46 years.

    Sure enough ! I have Roberto’s name listed under Carpenter. 391- 8008

    A few more names of interest; Barbara Ann Bakery , Martino’s, Corsaro Produce, Atomic Insecticide ( Pat Hogan ),Meadows Sheet Metal ( Ed Banks ), and the Plumber ( Buck ).

    A very BIG surprise was my entry for Patman Meats.
    I have Bill Engel listed as the sales rep.
    Chris, could this be the same Bill Engel you work with ?
    If so, it’s a damn small world.

    In 1968, I remember learning that Mr. Pat Hogan was thinking about retiring and selling his Atomic Insecticide firm.
    We made an appointment for me to drive over and see his operation.
    It was located on Vermont in a questionable area.
    When we went in the back where the chemicals were mixed, I began to feel
    unstable and weak. No further interest in this business.

    I remember the name George Ann, but again no face.
    She must have been hired as Helens replacement around 1968 because Helen was sending out vibes about retirement too.

    Chris, as I was reading your last sentence, I began to shake my head.
    How anyone can enjoy 8 oz. of raw ground beef is beyond me.
    I think it is against the law here in Ohio.
    Phil A.

  • ChrisP says:

    Thanks, Gary.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Chris P

    There is a Blog on the internet entitled ” MEMORIES OF WESTCHESTER CALIF “. There are some terrific memories of Old Westchester, Visitation, Newberry’s, Broadway DEPT store, Loyola Theater and Tiny Naylor’s. I think you might enjoy it. Let me know.

  • ChrisP says:

    I’m sure glad when I started with Woody’s we had gas. The only thing we had to do is dump the 2 large salt pans in the morning and refill with rock salt, not too bad. The drip pans were always a pain because, with the volume, especially at #7 El Segundo, they would fill up in the middle of a lunch rush and you’d have to empty them over the hot grill.
    Anyway, do any of you remember Roberto Ruiz? He was our handyman for all our locations and would take care of almost any problem we had in those days. His shop was under the large movie screen at the, now gone, Studio Drive In Theater nearby.
    Do you remember George Ann? from the office? She was always very nice to me and very helpful.
    Remember the monthly manager’s meetings at the office? JR would want us to do some sort of presentation for the group. I remember I had to do one on Lyons Magnus.
    Those meetings were always nice because we could all meet together and compare notes. This was early seventies (1970) when I came back to work for Woody’s after a few years away.
    Still miss my favorite King Swiss, extra rare, with fresh salsa. I made myself one almost daily.
    Later, ChrisP

  • Phil A. says:

    Correction on the word contained in first paragraph of my previous post;
    Should be ” scraped ” as in scraped clean.
    Sister Ernestine always reminded us to proof read !

  • Phil A. says:

    Thank you Gary for your narrative on the real charcoal broiler.
    I just learned from you that charcoal was just kept being added throughout the day in appropriate amounts. I was thinking that the charcoal trays were removed after lunch, scrapped and then replaced under the grill with fresh charcoal. Under this incorrect scenario, some amount of down time would have been needed in the mid afternoon. Okay.

    If you were closing at 10PM , I am thinking the last addition of charcoal would be around 8 PM. I suppose you did not have to layer the entire grill, but perhaps just a half side to cook till closing.

    Yes the grease filters/pans were nasty !

    Thanks Gary !

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Well Phil, It’s not much of a story. I was a grill man for about a year and a half, so I am very familiar with the whole grill procedure. Early in the mourning after making coffee, putting out pasties and the old pay yourself cash register, I would begin preparing the grill for the day. I began by shoveling charcoal under the grill and then lighting it with charcoal starter. There was no special type of charcoal just plain old briquettes, I don’t recollect who the supplier was. The grill required constant attention before the lunch and dinner rush, shoveling in more charcoal.
    As you know MR Woods had a special procedure for every task in the restaurant. After closing the restaurant the real work began. I would scoop the remaining charcoal into a metal can, then clean the grill with a wire brush and wipe it down. The real dirty job was taking down the grease pans above the grill and putting them in the stainless steel sinks in the back for cleaning.
    There were never and serious injuries, just very hot summers behind the grill.
    This leads me to the story about the fire that occurred when one of the grease pans over flowed and spilled into the charcoal which ignited a fire, that burned a large part of the restaurant. The after lunch customers where evacuated and no one was hurt. At this point we changed to a gas grill which was cleaner and easier to maintain. End of story.

  • Phil A. says:

    And yet another item that Mr. Ralph Wood tied in with his last name;

    During my four year tenure with Woody’s SmorgasBurger, Mr. Wood
    favored the big Buick station wagon for his company car.
    And not the base model, but the top of the line model which was the Electra with the fake ” wood ” trim on the exterior side panels.
    Both GM and Ford offered the ” Woody ” trim on their high end wagons for many years. Perhaps Ralph used to ” hang ten ” during his college days.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    A real short quip;
    When Mr. and Mrs. Wood were invited to a house warming party, they would find out in advance if the new home had a natural fireplace.
    If so , they would have a cord of wood delivered as they loved to say
    ” wood from the Woods ” …….. cute .
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    For BOTVOLR,

    Since you are passing on the Skyline Chili, I will donate a couple of cans to our church food bank in your honor.
    I do not remember the grill cleaner. I do remember the O’Cedar for wiping down all the stainless steel on the front line each and every night. No exceptions !

  • Phil A. says:

    I am now the proud owner of a 1960 Woody’s SmorgasBurger matchbook.
    It was one of two different ” Woody’s ” matchbooks available on Ebay.
    The one I own now is most unique because it lists the ” Fiskehus ” as the
    #5 restaurant in the Woody’s group lineup.

    When I saw the listing on E bay, I noticed the photo showing the printing on the inside covers. It listed the first four Woody’s locations followed by the name and address of the Fiskehus.
    I was in ” detectives heaven “.
    Next I went to Google and typed in Fiskehus ……. no results.
    A day or two later I typed in Woody’s Fiskehus and what do you know !
    The first posting was from the Torrance Press with an article by the current restaurant critic. It tells all about the new seafood venture.(1960)
    Not bad for 3.99 . ( in pristine condition, not even a scratch on the front cover ! )
    I am feeling good today !
    Phil Ankofski

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Phil, Thank you for your concern and offer of Skyline Chil-i Sauce!!! Alas, out of respect for my 2 deceased Uncles who were competing salesmen for Armour and Hormel Chil-i, I’d better decline accepting a can(LOL) In addition, we in New Mexico are pretty sensitive/protective about our State Legislated Vegetable, the (red or green) chil-e. Thus, so as not to confuse the public, we have an unwritten law, not to permit that “brown” chil-i, which is of a completely different genre, into the State! Lo, given our current 50 degree temps tho, sure would enjoy a steaming bowl, topped with shredded Velveeta and diced onions!!!!
    —Re the grill…tho not a clear memory, wasn’t there a certain procedure for periodically “deep” cleaning it along with some vile stuff used to clean the coffee urns?

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    For Mark T.
    I like your phrase ” traction with the public. ” Amen.

    I think this short narrative will shed light on where Mr. Wood wanted to be in his corporate structure.
    He had a general manager to take care of operations.
    He had a partner and office staff ( Helen ) for administration.
    This allowed Mr.Wood to devote his corporate time to planning for growth.
    He apparently liked the concept of conversions, but he also showed interest
    in what the current competition was doing.

    In late 1966 or early 1967. we ( the mangers ) thought Mr.Wood was preparing to take on Philippe’s .
    He instructed all of us to meet him at his office in Culver City at 10:30AM.
    Once we were all there, Mr.Wood had all of us pile in his station wagon
    for the trip into Los Angeles and lunch at Philippe’s.
    He told us that he wanted us to observe the service method, the dining room arrangement and the menu. Many of us already knew the Quality spoke for itself.

    Anyway, on the way back to Culver City we discussed our impressions.
    Mr. Wood asked us to think about this in the weeks ahead and make notes if necessary so we could “brain storm ” at our next office meeting.

    To my knowledge, that was the end of the road for roast beef.
    I say this because Mr.Wood had interest in 28 restaurants and out of those 28, there are quite a few which are mysteries to me.
    So, Mr. Wood could have very well proceeded to do ” roast beef ” at a time and place which are unknown to me.
    Hell, he could have had a spot in Westchester right under my nose !
    Just another fun facet of Mr. Wood.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Mark Thorson says:

    Hmmm . . . so Mr. Wood had some failures in addition to his successes. I had thought that the main ingredient of success is people and the environment you make for people to succeed, but I guess the business model is of critical importance too. If it was just people and how you manage them, then Mr. Wood’s other ventures would have been equally successful. You need to have a vision that gets traction with the public, and you have to execute that vision perfectly or nearly so.

    I suppose the lesson is that you have to succeed in every area: people, product, delivery, etc. If you screw up in just one, the whole thing fails.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers and Gary Wilcut,
    This is specifically for Gary but sure to be of interest to all.
    So Gary , if you would indulge us.

    I have never heard the complete operational rundown regarding the
    real charcoal broiler at Woody’s SmorgasBurgers.
    I would love to learn just what was necessary to get things going in the morning for lunch, then what was done in the quiet afternoons.
    To complete the story, please tell us what you did to prepare the broiler for the big dinner rush, followed by the quiet evening hours and closing procedures.

    Did some of the procedures involve two guys at a time that were wearing insulated gloves?
    Were there a lot of serious injuries?
    Did Woody’s have a special charcoal composition which was different from what we buy in the stores now ?

    Was there a particular incident that caused Mr. Wood to switch out of charcoal and into gas ?

    I cannot believe that I am just now getting around to ask about this.
    So, if you will Gary, act like a teacher and instruct all of us here just what was involved with maintaining a commercial broiler.

    I am really looking forward to learning from you.
    PS. Tell us about the recent visit to Johnnie’s.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morning Chris and all Readers,
    I think your memory is serving you very well. My sisters always say how remarkable my memory is, but I remind them that I remember the bad things too.

    Yes, the Burger Pan was a conversion deal which was up and running in 1969 or 1970. Willie ( the African American ) was the one and only manager. He was my full time busboy at Redondo Beach prior to this.
    When I stopped in to see him, he was the only employee on site.
    I am sure it closed in a matter of months.

    I cannot help on Blums as this is the very first I have been aware of it.

    I was a one time patron at the Catalina Grill. It was in 1991 when I was back vacationing in the area. The Grill was also a conversion. I really wanted to go up the hill to the Risty, but I was too hungry to pull that off.

    Years ago, the Dailey Breeze ran an interview with Ralph Wood.
    Mr. Wood indicated that he had a direct hand in 28 restaurants.
    As we go through this , I am getting the idea that ” conversions ” were Mr. Woods forte, although a very large percentage were under performers.
    Plus, quite a few restaurants were opened for the benefit of John and Chip
    so there is no telling what the stories were at those units.

    I THINK Marshall said that he saw Willie on a regular basis when he rejoined the SmorgasBurger operations at Westwood Village.

    That’s it for today.
    Phil A.

  • chris P. says:

    I believe Mr. Wood opened a place called the Burger Pan? on Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance in the 70’s. he got the idea from the Famous Apple pan in L.A. I don’t know how long it lasted, but a short time, I believe.
    This is all from my aging memory so I hope I’m getting my facts right, if not, don’t kill me. I would be interested to see if I’m just imagining this.
    He also opened a 24 coffee shop called Blums or Plums on Artesia in, I think, Gardena. in the mid 70’s. It didn’t last too long either. I know he wasn’t thrilled with the 24 hour operation, after that, they did open a place in Redondo Beach called Catalina Grill. I believe it was run by one of his sons, John, I think. it was in Riviera Village. It was there for quite awhile and was pretty good. If you want, you can check this out. The dates I’m not sure, but the place, I am sure of. I met Risty there when I went to try it out.
    If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.
    Chris P.

  • Phil A. says:

    For BOTVOL,

    The last thing anyone would want to see at the start of 2014 is an
    expression of sadness from a Woody’s SmorgasBurger commenter.
    I do apologize, and I will be thinking of a way to make amends.
    Since you like different salsas and such, perhaps you would like a
    can of the Skyline Chili Sauce which is famous here in Ohio.
    It is used to make chili dogs or to pour over spaghetti .
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Very Big news my friends !
    Some Readers will be more interested in the following than others.
    As for me, I have been searching for this info for many years.

    I have discovered where the mysterious Woody’s #5 was located and what type of restaurant it was. ( No, it was NOT a SmorgasBurger )

    In early 1960, Mr. Wood and partner opened a seafood restaurant which was called ” Woody’s Fiskehus. ” It was located at 2713 S. Figueroa street
    which was just one block north of their brand new SmorgasBurger unit !
    The newspaper article describes the new venue as having a Swedish Modern atmosphere and offering a wide variety of fish dinners.

    I found this article in the Torrance Press archives, dated April 21, 1960.
    As Frank Barone would say ; ” Holy Crap ! ”

    So, here is the lineup as I now understand it for the SmorgasBurger’s;
    1956 ~ #1 ~ Culver City
    1958 ~ #2 ~ Redondo Beach
    1959 ~ #3 ~ Gardena ( short life )
    1959 ~ #4 ~ Los Angeles , Figueroa at 28th
    1960 ~ #5 ~ ( Fiskehus ) Los Angeles , Figueroa at 27th ( short life )
    1962 ~ #6 ~ Los Angeles , Vermont Ave at Santa Monica. ( short Life )
    1963 ~ #7 ~ El Segundo , ( ** LONGEST LIFE ** )
    1967 ~ #8 ~ Woodland Hills ( short life )
    1968 ~#9 ~ Westwood Village , ( short life )

    1980’s ~ several units in the Inland Empire area. ( all short lives )
    ****** I think these units were opened for the benefit of
    Chip Wood, who is the son of Ralph Wood. *******

    Separate from this list would be the IHOP units opened and operated during the time period of 1962 through 1967.
    MOST of the IHOP franchise owners pulled out within 2 or 3 years.

    I hope many of you find this info of some value or interest.
    Wow, I am going to sleep good tonight !

    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    For Mark T. and all Readers,

    I wanted to mention a growing burger chain that started in 1984 and is now spreading in all directions. ~ ” Culver’s Butter Burger’s ” ~
    Locations in Arizona are now the nearest to LA. ( to my knowledge)
    I would include Culvers in our discussion of companies that emulate the feeling of ” lightning in a bottle ” as Woody’s Smorgasburger and Trader Joe’s. It is so much fun to walk in their locations and be greeted and served by crew people who really enjoy being there.
    Plus, they all must be trained to scrub their fingernails before punching in.
    And the girls all have their hair fixed in a manner that eliminates their need to be running hands through it five times per customer order.
    ~ Training , training and more training ! ~

    This just reminded me of a cute story of mine.
    Two summers ago I entered a nearby Mc Donald’s at 10:15 AM for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. The location is in Hilliard, Ohio.
    I remember the details like we all remember where we were when JFK was shot.

    ~ The Story ~
    I placed my order, and as the counter girl began processing it, I noticed that she was CHEWING GUM ! I could not believe my eyes.
    I had been a patron of Mac’s for 50 YEARS and had never, ever saw a gum chewer on site.
    I was the only customer in the lobby, so in a nice way, I called her on it.
    I explained that she was the first and only employee in 50 years to break
    Ray Kroc’s cardinal rule. Her response; ” who’s Ray Kroc ? ”

    I could see that she was searching her brain for an excuse, and she finally said that she had just come off break.
    I wanted so badly to call the manager up front and tell him about it……..
    Not to squeal on the girl, but just to inform him that his store was making BIG HISTORY in my own mind.

    So, no …… I did not ask for the manager. I took my tray and picked out a table while shaking my head to and fro.
    If I had a smart phone, I would have taken a photo of the two of them so I could hang it here in my home office.
    As you can tell, it really was an historical day for me.

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Vince,
    Wow ! What a surprise ; Beef Back-Ribs at Woody’s.
    Please share a bit more. Did you cook them from scratch or did you do some amount of precooking and then just finish off when ordered.
    How much time did they need on the grill ?

    I suppose the entrée came with salad, fries or baked potato along with a half Kaiser roll. Sounds yummmmie ! Two orders please.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ How sad. ~

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Chris also added Beef Back-Ribs to the menu during my tenure. Try cooking that in a lunch rush! I also remember making many of the Cole Slaw Chris describes. We made it in a big stainless steel pail almost every morning ‘fresh.’ Happy New Year everyone! Vince

  • Phil A. says:

    ~ A Special Note for BOTVOLR ~

    I have been asked to inform you that ” Y’all ” is forbidden here.
    This forbidden term is in addition to other forbidden issues we have recently been made aware of : No Cole Slaw …… No Candy Corn.
    Your future comments will be read in a better light I assure you.
    Please do not take offense, but please comply. Thank You !
    Phil A. ( a readers advocate. )

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Unfortunately, I never had a similar position to compare but do have ramblings nevertheless…LOL I was hired despite my being upfront about leaving in about 11ish months per moving on to Grad School in early-mid ’63…i.e. that gave a nice, initial message.
    In ’64, a bearded Guru named Fritz Perls began borrowing the term “Gestalt” to establish his ‘noveau/”in” Therapy 400ish miles up the road in the woods of Big Sur in Esalen. Gestalt basically means The Whole is greater than the Sum of its Parts and, as such, best describes, IMHO and as Marshall alluded to, what made Woody’s a success experience for the Guests and Crews. The A-frame as an eatery gave it a uniqueness to suggest you’re almost on a momentary get-away from everyday life. This was accentuated by being served by Dudes in non-everyday getup of lederhosen; the “picnic” tables, at least at HollyRiv and CC, gave it a fun/casual sense…having a picnic ‘indoors’!; the Monday night Hamburger Steak (Surf’s Up!!!) Special certainly helped to ‘draw’ folks in (given the snaky lines out-the-door starting about 4:45) to explore the weird building and ask about the ‘strangely’ named hamburgers as Folks nudged their trays along fairly quickly after salads, the grill glass, and drinks. Did anyplace else serve burgers on a Kaiser Roll?; have newspapers on a stick? have Bussers joyfully/courtesly cleaning up your picnic mess? I.e. things going beyond the condiment bars. Was there someplace else I could get Thousand Island with crushed peanuts enchancing my burger???? While kids immemorial always glom on to burgers, could Micky D satisfy PV “Dads” with K-bobs or NY Strip to feast on if need be? Maybe it was just luck, but managers had talent choosing who they hired so Shift Supers had it ‘easy’ offering customer-care per guys being in-sync during the ‘rushes’ while having each others backs if need be…we all pulled our weight even if it was only a couple of cents higher, at $1.32, above minimum wage sans the offensive Tip Jar!!!!
    Add in Mr. Woods dropping by: Did I feel intimidated the first time he was standing 2 ft away espying ‘the flow’ just beyond me as I worked the register? Yes, but that was my thing as never felt it again per his congeniality. Ok, maybe burst my bubble: did he ask every lineman to consider going for a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management at the U of Hawaii? Whatever; it was a great run with a great bunch of guys who had manners and valued doing a good job…oooeee if we’d had some Yodlettes!!!

  • Phil A. says:

    As I have been packing up Christmas decorations, a most important factor about Mr. Wood came to mind which needs to be included here.
    Mr. Wood was only 31 years old when the doors to Culver City opened.
    He was a college grad with a degree in economics.
    Mr. Wood had some experience on his own operating a few juice bars
    prior to the SmorgasBurger venture.

    The important factor; Mr. Wood had a partner, Mr.Cramer who was in his mid 50’s when Culver City #1 opened. Mr.Cramer had already experienced huge success as a founding partner of the Mayfair Food Markets.
    When the Mayfair markets were sold to Arden Farms, Mr. Cramer was happy to find a new venture to participate in.

    What I am leading to; Mr. Wood did not come to this Woody’s Grand Opening in 1956 with special business acumen and endowments.
    Mr.Cramer is the guy who had 25 plus years experience dealing with the large staffs needed in a full line supermarket.
    Plus, he dealt with all landlords for new leases, and negotiated with all vendors and suppliers. He also brought his personality to employee relations in all the many departments under the roof of the Mayfair markets.

    My final point: Once the first two Woody’s units were up and running,
    it is MY OPINION that Mr. Cramer became a mentor to Mr. Wood
    regarding everything from Business # 101 to Employee Moral and Relations. Mr. Wood and Mr.Cramer shared adjoining office space
    in Culver City for the next 20 years !

    All of the above came to mind once I remembered that Chris also stated his admiration for Mr.Cramer because of all the mentoring he did with Chris
    during the 1970’s.

    I now think Mr. Cramer was the unidentified ” sparkplug ” in the SmorgasBurger operation.The preceding narrative in no way diminishes
    the talents contributed by Mr. Wood. In fact, it reveals that he continued to be a damn good student.

    So, let’s give a long overdue toast to the memory of Charles Cramer.
    He made his mark with the Mayfair Markets,the Fox Markets and our very own Woody’s SmorgasBurger, Inc.
    I was 20 when I met Mr. Cramer. He was about 65 then with snow white hair and a bright red Chevy Super Sport convertible !
    I thought of him as a soft spoken, reserved grandfather, until I fist saw him swing into the parking lot with that new ragtop. Wire wheels too !

    Well gang, it is my lunch time.
    More later, I am sure.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Congratulations to Marshall Loveday !

    Marshall has just posted the #300th comment on the Woody’s SmorgasBurger Site. #240 on the original and #60 on this sequel.
    Such a wonderful new benchmark. How fitting that Marshall achieves this honor as he obviously was an enthusiastic employee at Westwood Village.
    Chris won honors for #200. I think I will try for the #400 spot !

    For Mark Thorson and all Readers,
    I worked at three different Woody’s units. All on Sepulveda Blvd.
    All of the units shared the very same employee composition which was guys only in the same age group. High school seniors was the age group
    to be hired in as linemen or busboys. Managers were promoted from within at age 21 or 22. So, this age spacing from 17 to 22 was very tight
    and I think this is what brought about the great feelings that crew members developed for each other.
    I think your comparison to the Trader Joe’s staff is perfect.

    Mr.Wood was not in the stores on a regular basis. He left those duties to a general manager. I would say that I saw Mr.Wood in store perhaps once every four months. He would appear at a quiet time of the day for a specific reason, usually related to a maintenance project.
    So, most of my crew members did not even know what Mr. Wood looked like ……. let alone having one on one conversations with him.
    Unit managers of course came to know him quite well from the monthly
    manager meetings held at his office in Culver City.

    When Mr.Wood was in store and saw something that needed to be addressed, he would not speak to it directly. He would discuss the matter with his general manager and then the GM would speak with the manager.

    Regarding employee selection: Unit managers hired and promoted all personnel in their respective units. When a manager left the company, Mr. Wood relied on the advice of his general manager as to who would be selected as the replacement.

    To this day, I would like to hear from Mr. Wood himself as to why he did not hire girls. Perhaps having guys only was his key to Marks question.
    On the other hand, years down the road, Chris Pingel had great success
    when he finally hired his first girl, Susan.

    I am sure my perspective helps somewhat , but yes there is still more
    factors in the equation.
    I look forward to seeing comments from Chris Pingel regarding Mark T.’s

    Once again, nice going Marshall !

    Phil Ankofsi

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Good question, Mark. I spent around 4 years working at Woody’s in Westwood, from the fall of 1968 until some time in 1972, when I tool a full-time day job in L.A. (Also worked at the USC Woody’s for a month or so in ’74 or ’75). I think we all have good memories of Woody’s because it was different. Ralph Wood had a specific vision for Woody’s and each store tried very hard to retain those specifics that made it unique in Southern California: the open flame grill; the meat cooked to order; the value-loaded menu; the build-it-yourself condiment bar; the do it yourself sundaes; the friendly employees; the root beer (NOBODY served root beer except A&W…). I still remember the first time my dad took us to Woody’s in Culver City, back in the late 50’s probably. It was AMAZING…….. certainly no Denny’s or Norm’s or whatever other diner was popular back then. And I COULD FIX MY OWN BURGER HOW I WANTED IT. ……

    Oh. I’ve got a great cole slaw recipe, but in deference to Mark E., I won’t divulge it here. E-mail me at mloveday541@gmail.com if you’re interested.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    You old-time Woody’s guys have been talking about the restaurants for quite some time, without really saying what was the secret of its success. Sure, having good food is important, but what was it about the way the places were managed that gets you guys reminiscing so wonderfully about it? Was it Mr. Wood’s personality? His treatment of employees? His selection of the people to run his operations? Something else?

    I see something like that in Trader Joe’s. Most of these stores are really great, and the people seem to love working there. I can’t say that about any other grocery chain. Somehow, TJ’s management seems to have captured lightning in a bottle, and I’m wondering what is that secret possessed by Woody’s and TJ’s?

  • Phil A. says:

    Dear Readers,
    After reading the above comment by Chris , I feel an obligation to write this short narrative:
    Mark Evanier owns and manages this Woody’s site. Thank you Mark !
    Because this site exists, Chris has been able to reconnect and share with us
    many, many interesting facets of his Woody’s operations. Thanks Chris !

    Since my departure from Woody’s in 1968, I have now learned from Chris
    many of the features he introduced to his stores in later years.
    A partial list ; Bacon , beer, diet drinks, chicken sandwich, salad bars,
    slaw, wine ? , and FRIES ! Chris also installed the first satellite TV monitor
    in El Segundo . ( commercial business . )
    Chris ; please review this list and add things that should be included.

    I am most grateful to both Mark E. and Chris for their time and efforts.
    Without this new knowledge, I could have only guessed on how Woody’s was fairing in the later decades. ( I had relocated East in 71 )
    I thought I would write this ” silver tongued ” note for the benefit of newer
    Readers who started with us on Woody’s ll , rather than Woody’s l .
    Besides learning new things, this site has continued to be a hell of a lot
    of fun.

    All my best,
    Phil A.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Ooopsy…Re Slaw: apparently Chris had a ‘calling’ to got up earlier than I.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    1) Salsa: My initial curiosity was to ask when the “salsa” was added to the condiment bar, i.e. all I remember in ’62-’63 is a silver bowl of plain old ketchup. While I laud Mr. Woods foresight in adding it… moving to the edge, I kinda cringe, provincially/comparatively speaking, to what is being described as ‘salsa’ versus what is salsa in New Mexico. In other words, how can you have salsa without some kind of “heat” in the form of, at the least, jalapenos, or, best, roasted/peeled, chopped green chile (whoa! don’t think that brown Tex-Mex/Coney Island goo, i.e. chili) amongst a mix of diced tomatoes/onion/bell pepper/garlic sans any kind of tomato paste or sauce!!!! (From another perspective, Salsa Dancing, unlike a waltz, is HOT!!!)
    Sorry, haven’t been out & about of late to know if Y’all get it elsewhere, but in NM, you are automatically served a complimentary “ramekin” of salsa with tortilla chips, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/auw9ygb in restaurants serving New Mexican food. Can’t imagine what Y’all will be serving during Super Bowl that Y’all might call Chips n Salsa. As such, I highly recommend you check your super markets for either jars of nationally distribute Sadie’s or El Pinto Salsa of at least Medium, if not Hot, heat!!! (If ya can’t find either, Google to order online!!!) (NB Phil: Sorry about the Reflux Amigo…Y’all will have to pass on all that!!!)
    Outside of NM, maybe AZ, can you Folks order your cheeseburgers at the chains like Mac’s, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. etc with Green Chile? If not….am sooo sorry. Funny how the chains have adapted here to local custom…LOL…er, competition.
    2) Speaking of slaw: are we talking slaw with a “vinagrette” or mayo base. Re the latter, I think my Mom used to add some pinches of sugar to her mayo concoction. Oooeee, some Folks are making Reubens with slaw instead of sauerkraut!!! What’s with that? http://tinyurl.com/pz448dc

  • Chris P. says:

    I the early 80’s we did a test with two kinds of slaw. In our last 2 units (El Segundo #7 & Culver City #1) we offered two types; one was our traditional slaw and the other, which we made ourselves, fresh daily with just oil vinegar, salt and pepper.
    The oil and vinegar type won out the traditional by a mile. Everyone just loved it so, it didn’t take long when we just eliminated traditional all together and continued the oil and vinegar.
    You should all try it for a change. Serve it cold.

  • Phil A. says:

    Well folks ……. yes, I do agree that my choice of word to describe the consistency of the Woody’s salsa was terrible. It certainly should not be used when discussing food items. If my daughter Kate ( editor ) comes across that comment section, I may catch some deserved hell.

    The point I want to convey is that when Woody’s salsa was spooned onto your meat patty, it stayed put. It did not run off and start soaking the bun.
    The level of liquid must be kept to a minimum in our replication recipe.

    It would almost compare to the desert product; Cool Whip.
    When you add a couple of dollops to your Cherry pie ….. it stays.
    It goes nowhere till you take your fork and spread it around.
    I think this is what we need to strive for with our salsa. Am I right ?
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Mark Thorson,

    Yes, I am well aware of the other Marks dislike for slaw. I have become an avid reader of all of his sites. He has such a high level of common sense.
    Anyway, I wrote the short narrative on cole slaw only to give Mark
    a New Years teasing. I did expect a personal rebuff.
    Such fun !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Mark Thorson says:

    Oh, dear. Phil A., you said nice things about slaw. That is forbidden here. Do a search on Mark’s other website for “cole slaw”, and you’ll see what I mean. That, and candy corn.

  • Phil A. says:

    After reading our narratives on the Woody’s salsa, my wife Mary Ann
    suggested that there may be Readers who are wondering why I myself have not stepped up to the plate and replicated the recipe. Fair question.
    About ten years ago, I started suffering from Acid Reflux.
    Two food items cause this distress ; Tomato sauces and bell peppers.
    When we order pizza, it is with very light sauce or none at all.
    Onions started giving me serious stomach distress about the same time.

    So, why take all the components which just about kill me, and mix them together to make a salsa which I could never tolerate.

    BUT …… since I have not come up with a wood working project to get me through this winter season, I will commit to this;
    IF our members here have not replicated the Woody’s recipe by March 1st,
    then I will make the attempt in my home kitchen.
    I would strive to come up with a 2 quart batch recipe so that the end user
    will always be consuming a fresh product.
    That’s the way Mr. Ralph Wood would have it.
    March 1st ……….

    Five degrees below zero here in Dublin , Ohio.
    Praying our furnace holds.
    Phil A.

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