Woody’s Smorgasburger IV

The legendary Woody’s Smorgasburger chain continues to attract so much attention that we can’t contain all its messages in one forum.  Visit the others to read what has been said but post your new comments in this thread.

328 Responses to Woody’s Smorgasburger IV

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Friday ~ two follow ups ~

    UTube features a great video on the Spinning Salad preparation. 3 minutes.

    When Woody’s opened in 1956, Chris Pingel was 10 years old.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Thursday ~ the Spinning salad ~

    In my posting of yesterday I expressed how taken I was with Bob’s comment link to the Lawry’s Spinning Salad. I also promised I would be off the next morning to purchase any ingredients that were not already in house.
    Turned out, I only needed to buy the croutons and Sherry wine.

    Well , Mary and I just finished our dinner which indeed did feature this FABULOUS salad. We made it EXACTLY like the recipe and did not skip out on any ingredient. So often when we are home cooking a new recipe, we are all so tempted to skip a spice or two that is not already in the pantry.
    There are 15 items going into the dressing of the 3 lettuce types.

    The dressing is light and flavorful with such a delightful savory taste.
    We each enjoyed a salad prior to our entrée ( Honey baked ham with mashed sweet potatoes ) and then we each had TWO ADDITIONAL servings of the salad while enjoying the entrée as well. ( the salad was then gone ! )

    Over the past years I have recommended items to top off your burgers and no one has come back to say they tried it. ( sliced green olives )
    Anyway, if you do not try this salad, you will be doing yourself a very big disservice. Just look up ” Lawry’s Spinning Salad ” recipe.

    In the meantime, I must thank Bob for posting the Lawry’s link.
    I know Bob had no idea how big an impact his posting would have, but this is yet another example of the benefits of this site where we can all share.

    Just a note about the recipe; Be sure and make the dressing about 4 hours prior to serving your salad and have it chilling in the fridge.
    This is mentioned in the recipe, but not highlighted to well.

    Now for the interesting comment on Woody’s.
    The year was 1956 ~ Ralph Wood was 31 years old and his Uncle, Mr. Cramer
    was 57 years old when they opened their first store in Culver City.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Wednesday ~ the Spinning Salad ~

    Bob of New Mexico , I cannot thank you enough for enclosing the link to Lawry’s Spinning Salad. I do not know how I will sleep tonight as I will be thinking of all the places I will need to go tomorrow in order to buy all the stuff needed to replicate. Damn the cost.

    My problem has been that I am running into so many places that are serving limp, crappy salads. We have a favorite spot in Michigan that serves a fabulous Creek salad , but they are 200 miles away.

    As time goes by, I find we are better off making a lot of stuff at home instead of enduring the high prices, skimpy ingredients and crappy service.
    ( steaks , enchiladas , tacos , salads and seafood are a few items )
    Now Lawry’s continues to look like the place I would walk in and pay any price for that Prime Rib dinner and salad. The link is beautiful !!

    Now I must tie this in with Woody’s to qualify for an official comment.
    Woody’s was great in the mid 1960’s . All the ingredients were very fresh and the three dressings were top quality as well. The best deal was to buy a large salad which was served in a soup bowl without the hellish Romain leaf.
    From the early 70’s onward, the salad offering became even better because Chris introduced new condiment items plus a full salad bar !
    I missed out on all that. ……. damn.


  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Phil: Per your Sig of “Phil~a lover of really crisp salads~
    I remember dining in a saucer like structure atop a hotel in Kansas City in the ’60s when the Server’s “aide” came by with a napkin upon which precisely lay (or laid?) frozen salad forks to accompany the salad which was then placed down by the Server. Alas, t’was apparently just a fad as have never seen it since. However, as an aficionado apparently, do you freeze your forks for when dining at home? Another question: when having a salad such as a Cobb as your entree, does one, so as not to be gauche, eat it with the “salad” or “dinner” fork? In addition, if also having a soup, which does one eat first? And lastly, do you think it is misleading or a misnomer to call a Chicken Salad or Tuna Salad sandwich a Salad just cuz it has a little chopped up celery in it? (Just a FYI: after the salad, we all shared some Frog Legs as an additional appetizer and, as you probably know, they did taste like chicken!!!!)
    – So…being at an upper pay scale level of Woody’s, did you acquire an affinity for “really crisp salads” by going with others of your ilk (LOL) to dine at Lawry’s on La Cienaga where you were feted from the Spinning Salad Bowl http://tinyurl.com/hsgfnny? (For the life of me, given the many salads I prepared, am I remembering correctly that we asked the Guest if they wanted the beet atop their dressing vs simply plopped it on?! ) Speaking of “White Shirts and Ties”: was that a “distinguishment” started by Woody’s that other places soon followed? In today’s world, would Woody’s be considered a fast food restaurant (why/why not); or a “chain”? If a Guest was having a dinner, i.e. NY Strip or K-Bob, did we go the extra mile and bring their tray out to them or am I thinking we called out their name using a flex-microphone by the register?
    – Lest I’m wrong, I’m thinking most of us started out bussing tables…to be familiar with what went into making us a team…before moving to be a lineman as Glen Campbell would say http://tinyurl.com/pvgtexb. As I don’t remember, was there a protocol to follow, e.g. ya just didn’t boldfacedly clean/scrape off a tray into the cart’s receptacle, e.g. you turned the tray to at least face away from the seated Guests. Your cart needed to be squeeky clean. Today, wiping cloths are apparently soaking in bleach before being used. Was it a plastic or paper liner in the trash receptacle? Etc. One thing that always bugged me whether in a hospital or restaurant, was a maintenance employee swishing an absolutely blackened spaghetti mop over a floor….What-the-Eh was that all about?!

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    OMG Phil! You are really knocking on my brain….i.e. put your thumb just barely atop the side of your index finger. Put this combo about a half inch from the front side of your forehead and “flip/flick’ your index up striking your thumb and forehead! Indeed, while I never prepared what you described, I remember a crew member shaking some white powdery substance out of a package into the water containing the shredded lettuce. I was told it was to either wash off/dissolve or prevent a “rust-coloredness” from forming on the salad lettuce. Beyond that…. I must agree with this Guy!: http://tinyurl.com/pkwgo94

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Saturday 2 ~ Follow up on lettuce ? salad ~

    As I was saying , in 1967 the lettuce arrived precut in plastic bags.
    But this is all I remember. I do not recall if we opened all the plastic bags and then put the lettuce contents in the aluminum bin with water.

    ~ OR ~ did we simply put the bagged lettuce in the fridge and bring it up to the front line for serving
    as needed ?

    I would love to learn the current methods that the restaurants of today use to keep the lettuce cold, fresh and crisp until it is served to the patrons.

    In the days of old when all the venues featured a salad bar, there must have been a good system for preserving the cut lettuce overnight. Yes ?
    ~ OR ~ Did the food handling laws require that it all be thrown out ?

    Phil ~ a lover of really crisp salads ~

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Saturday ~ Overnight lettuce and Romain Leaf preservation ~

    Up until 1966/67 Woody’s opening man had the responsibility for preparing
    the lettuce combo which should get the linemen thru the whole day.
    This involved washing and chopping the iceberg lettuce and whatever else was added. The cut lettuce was then stored in a 36″ x 24″ aluminum tub with some amount of water. I guess the water was to get the lettuce super cold
    before it was scooped out and taken up to the line for serving.

    Then around 66/67 , the lettuce was bought precut, pre washed and packaged in plastic bags.

    Have to run ….. will follow up soon.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Thursday ~ Many years in El Segundo ~

    It looks like the Woody’s in El Segundo was dealt the perfect storm scenario.

    BUT …. having a 42 YEAR run is amazing in anyone’s record book !

    Phil ~ Next up ; Overnight salad preservation . ~

  • Chris Pingel says:

    To our friends of Woodys,
    When the cold war ended, the El Segundo Aerospace industry took a significant hit. We lost a huge number of aerospace employees which was the core of our lunch business, dinner also, because of second shifts and the like. It happened almost overnight. The daytime population in El Segundo, I was told was over 120,000 and the nighttime was around 16,000, not too sure about that, but, that’s the number I remember.
    On top of that, at the very same time, they opened only one block away on the site of the old Leonards Store, a large strip center including a number of new restaurants including a new Sizzler, an El Pollo Loco, a Green Burrito a Chinese and 3 0r 4 more independent restaurants all of which took a bite out of our sales. We did survive, but, from being almost the only game in town to one of many, plus the loss of a significant number of our regular customers it became a real challenge. We did a significant remodel changed the format slightly and carried on. We even started breakfast. After a few years we decided to sell the business since we were involved in another, very popular and profitable concept anyway we decided to sell. It was with heavy heart that this would be the end of an era, but it was time.
    Chris P.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Saturday ~ THE DAY THE BURGERS DIED ~

    We are approaching the early months of the year which corresponds to the time in 2005 when Woody’s El Segundo served up the last SmorgasBurgers.

    I recall the official date was in the month of March, 2005.
    If this is incorrect, I know Chris Pingel will update me.

    The closing occurred after several years of the Pingel family trying new menu items and even introducing an early morning breakfast menu.
    By then there were ” little baby SmorgasBurgers ” for the younger kids as well.
    At some points in time , the dining room featured a big screen TV and video games. New competition had moving in the area for some time with Carl’s Jr., El Pollo Loco and several others.

    So, it now has been 12 years since the Los Angeles area has enjoyed an original Woody’s SmorgasBurger . Amen .

  • Chris Pingel says:

    Yes. I did belong to the Restaurant Association. I didn’t attend all the functions, but, did go to many throughout the years.
    I did sit next to Carl Karcher at one luncheon. We had a nice conversation as I remember.
    He and his wife donated a lot to the Catholic Church.
    Before we left, he gave me one of his business cards, which, on the back, had a printed note,”Good for a free Star hamburger”.
    Chris P.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Well Golly Whiz…sounds like….well in fact, Chris was ‘Dancing as Fast as he Could’ in those days by exploring innovation as much as possible. Alas, I can’t butt heads with his offering “hard data” in terms of sale numbers as I would’ve lost out being then (and now) a Mayo Slaw Guy…LOL

    As to Mz Scudder: OMG! Me/myself/& I would have had a hard time schmoozing with her at a CRA confab let alone with dear Julia…i.e given this: http://thecitizensvoice.net/?p=13812

    Ya know, as a kid getting ready to go off to college, I didn’t realize (back in the late ’50) the nuances of my vocational choice. In later years, it and my naivete came to the fore….do I work for an Org…be it public or private…. or on my own? (What’s that all about?) It was never discussed all the way up in the clouds of the highest Academia!!!! This past week, my G-daughter sent me a note she was frustrated that her “adviser” here at the U of New Mexico told her she could not do a double major of Biological Research and Business Administration. As she so succinctly put it: Hey, I’m the one that is paying Y’all; what’s with that? AAH! This we shall have to pursue.

    Bottom line… kinda: If I love to cook, isn’t that enough to open a restaurant and be a success?

    PLEASE! PLEASE! let us hear your 2 cents for that!!!!
    Shouldn’t or might we the Consumers be involved….let alone helping out lest we want to maintain “quality” eateries? As for selfish me, I do not want my “half gourmet at the least” nighttime suppah….let alone ultimately…. cuisine coming out of a Box!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Wednesday ~ A real Laura ~

    Turns out there was a real Laura Scudders who was a very successful
    business woman in Los Angeles. Besides offering high quality snacks, her company had many innovations to offer her customers ; moved chips from tins to sealed cellophane bags and printed a freshness date on each bag.

    Since most restaurant owners joined the California Restaurant Association, I am now wondering if Chris P. was a member and if so, did he run into Ralph Wood and other notables at such meetings. Just wondering ……..

  • Chris Pingel says:

    We did take out the potato chips as soon as we started fries.
    We ran down the inventory, which wasn’t much, and removed the racks.
    We also removed the macaroni salad soon after because the sales slowed down to a crawl with the fries.
    We sold a hell of a lot of fries, especially at El Segundo #7.
    At first we sold fries similar to McDonald’s but later as an experiment we tried the newly introduced Criss Cut Fries from Lamb Wesson. They were an instant hit so we carried them from then on.
    I was told by the distributor that I was the customer that used the most by far at the time.
    One other note, and, maybe, I’ve told you this before, we tried a new fresh cole slaw using only oil,vinegar, salt and pepper and sold it along with the regular slaw as a test. Our new fresh slaw won by a mile so we took out the regular slaw and continued the new from then on too. We made it fresh every day. We never carried over any product from the day before. Most of the time we would not have any anyway. Food cost on the new slaw was much better too. Fries was a much better food cost as well.
    More later
    Chris P.

  • Evan Zang says:

    Phil you’re right! I can’t wait to see The Founder. With Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman, how could this film be anything less than GREAT!!!


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Monday ~ a dime a bag ~

    This snack may well be the last remaining Woody’s menu item for us to fuss over ; Laura Scudders Potato Chips. The mini bags sold for ten cents and they were very popular since fries were not on site. ( for the first 17 years )
    The self serve dispenser rack was located right near the cash register at #1
    and each customer just unclipped as many bags as desired.

    The chips were always fresh because the driver knew the build/order factor
    for each of his stops.
    The potato and mac salads @ .25 cents were more popular because they were much more filling and made for a nice meal combo.

    Once fries were installed at #1 and #7 in the early 1970’s, I am sure the potato chips were pretty much a sideline item or perhaps even discontinued all together. No matter, no one was going to leave hungry .


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Sunday ~ A correction is in order ~

    At the end of my previous posting, I signed off with a (FYG) .
    I intended a ( FYR) meaning Four Years Running as this is my fourth year anniversary on this site. ( Jan. 11, 2013 )
    This is a long time and a hell of a lot of comments about Woody’s.
    Let’s see what 2017 has to bring.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Saturday ~ A Pastrami SmorgasBurger ???? ~

    My oh my. It must have been a hell of a lot of fun working with Chris in the 70’s and 80’s when he expanded the menu by a 1000 percent.
    I now wonder if Ralph Wood ever came into #1 and # 7 just to see what Chris was up to. That would have been extra fun indeed.

    Well, I see all the major Readers here have passed on my suggestion for a movie about Woody’s to follow up on the current movie ” The Founder “.
    SO BE IT . I have disposed of the notes I had started for the project.
    I know all of you old _ _ _ _ s spend more hours on the keyboard than I do, so I thought we could have a bit of fun to get thru the remaining weeks of winter.

    I guess I will use the time to complete my tax returns and then spend more time on Zillow Real Estate in hopes of finding a new home in Michigan.

    (FYG) on the Rolodex pad.

  • Chris Pingel says:

    When you mentioned the customer with two patties and chili on top that reminded me that we sold that as a chili size, 3 sizes regular, double or a king size. We had fresh onions and yellow chilies as well on our condiment bar.
    These items were introduced in the seventies and eighties at #1 and #7.
    I don’t remember serving burgers with chili in the 60’s.
    We also sold mushroom burgers (Smorgasburgers served with mushrooms and gravy in an oval china plate.
    Also sold pastrami burgers. A smorgasburger with our pastrami on top big seller as well.
    all these came in 3 sizes.
    Chris p.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Whoa Marshall, have you tried Red Lobster’s New England CC, given three locations in Oregon https://www.redlobster.com/locations ? Admittedly, I haven’t in a few years, but ‘rich’ as I remember. In a few minutes I’ll be off to WallyMart and will pick up a can. If anything, Clam Chowder…for unknown reasons, is best slurped up with some Oysterettes http://tinyurl.com/za3u78b !

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    I did develop a liking for the Manhattan Clam Chowder….. hard to find at any restaurant these days.

    I’ll try New England Clam Chowder usually any place that serves it. Lots of restaurants claiming they have the ‘best’ here on the Oregon coast. Can’t say I’ve really found one that stands out above the others.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Wednesday ~ China bowl update ~

    My search for a Woody’s salad /chili bowl has come to an end.
    I did spend a fair amount of time perusing the vintage china sites. No luck.

    I did not even see a plain undecorated bowl in the correct size.
    Too many years have passed, I guess.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Tuesday ~ Some follow ups ………..

    Bob, I feel so bad for seniors who do not want to participate with all this mobile app horse shit. ( I am one ) . I understand McD will be coming on strong very soon with their new ordering system as well.

    I must interject this good news about my nearest McD. It was a company store for 30 plus years and was sold to a multi franchisee.
    Anyway, this guy started serving breakfast items on real china plates with silverware to boot. WOOOOOOOWWWWWW. How delightful !

    Chris P. has told us about his condiment upgrades once he became owner.
    I often think about my favorite SmorgasBurger from the 1960’s and how it would taste with fresh tomato slices, lettuce leaf and FRESH onions.
    Well done Chris !

    I was hoping my movie project featuring the Wood and Pingel families would draw more interest. Even if I find just a little interest, I will proceed to offer a working title and my current casting ideas.
    There remains two great filming locations. The Woody’s stores in El Segundo and Gardena are still in excellent shape.


  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Speaking of staying “fresh” and adaptive in keeping patrons as well as luring new one’s to own’s eatery, just saw this today (love coincidences) of an apparently “in” burger joynt that criss-crosses the country, albeit not all inclusively.
    – Want a FREE CheeseBurger?
    This place is going “APP” (pun intended) to make dining convenient, while having the collateral effect of dehumanizing life and eliminating an employee by supplanting an old fashioned phone call. http://tinyurl.com/h84mbk5

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Dang it! forgot to save an article to pass on from last week re the current/dire struggles nationwide for non fastfood and non pricey dining “chains” are having surviving and how they are scrambling to “revise” their menus to lure customers. Good to read Ralph didn’t rest on his laurels given he explored for example, a variety of soups and chili. (BTW, was he the first or at least on the cusp/crest of a wave, to have a rack of newspapers as a unique amenity?)
    – Whoa! while, per my roots, New England Clam Chowder is preferred over Manhattan, hope it didn’t get that yucky, curdling of scum on the top while sitting for the shortest of times? Imagine the advances of science back then where you just added water to a frozen brick of chili! (But say, hadn’t Arthur Godfrey already told us about the virtues of dry Lipton Noodle Soup or was that just tea?) Alas nowadays, I’m still trying to figure out how to “bring to life” the dozens of boxes of dry/powdered water I bought in the event of a Rapture or Apocalypse! Don’t know about Y’all, but we just closed a Lone Star Steakhouse and an Italian Zio’s that had been around at least 10 years. In a Foodie Blog about my local scene of Mom-Pop type places whose listings may not be all inclusive, he notes we have 34 Vietnamese, 27 Thai, 35 Japanese places besides our 136 everyday places of New Mexican cuisine…did I mention 101 Italians joynts?…in a town of only 500ish thousand also catering to the fastfood folks. A few of our “street corners” are like this http://tinyurl.com/zpduyo8 In view, but not labeled are an Indian, 2 Japanese, a Steakburger, and a Subway, not to mention so so many more a couple of blocks up the roads.
    (As an aside Phil, how lucky to have such an understanding wife who appreciates your appreciating the fine acting of Mz Banks as well. BTW, lest you forgot, Chica Sharrie, whose excellent book that you recommended http://tinyurl.com/h5qa9qq was a thespian at CC High, did some roles in Laguna Beach Little Theater, and is just as, if not more, “cute” today as any Banks… IMHO!)

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Sunday 2 ~ Who wants Chili ?

    I suppose the Woody’s Chili was pretty much a non issue on the Woody’ s menu board but since it was one of the offerings for so many years, it does deserve some recognition. Wendy’s has been serving their chili for 47 years.

    Woody’s chili was made by a local vendor who made and formed the chili into bricks. Each brick weighed about three pounds and looked like a loaf of bread as far as the size goes. There were six or eight bricks packed per box and then refrigerated OR frozen.

    The in store prep consisted of placing the refrigerated or frozen chili brick into the stainless steel pot with some amount of water. A thawing temperature was selected and then monitored throughout the morning until opening time at 11 AM. Adding more water would bring the chili to the proper consistency.

    We had a customer at the El Segundo store who asked for two cooked beef patties placed in a dish and covered with a ladle of chili. Then he wanted two slices of American cheese on top. I suppose he then took his dish over to the condiment bar and mixed in some chopped onions.
    Another item from the secret menu @ 99 cents.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ~ Sunday ~ Let’s go to the movies ! ~

    I see Ray Kroc finally gets his movie ; ” The Founder .” Fine. I am sure Evan and I will be off to see it in our respective towns.

    But hold the phone ……. It now occurs to me that Ralph Wood Jr. should be the subject of a movie also. Besides Mr. Wood , the movie would feature Uncle Charles Cramer, Edwin Fox, and our own Chris Pingel.
    I could be the screen writer and limited investor.

    In the coming days and weeks, I will think about a title and possible actors who could be cast in the leading rolls. I already have Elizabeth Banks selected for the part of Mrs. Barbara Wood.


  • Chris Pingel says:

    I don’t remember at all what chili we used back in the mid sixties but when I ran Woodys starting in early 1970’s after the split I used Chef mate chili and beans made by Carnation. it was absolutely the best out there at the time. we served it with a 4 pack of crackers, more if requested. You could also get all the fresh onions or anything else on our new condiment bar. We expanded the old bar to include lettuce, tomato, fresh onions, yellow chilies along with our regular items, and ,yes, we had our famous tomato salsa, which I ate almost everyday on my, extra rare, king size Swiss burger (KSS) on the Rolodex pad.
    Boy, do I miss those burgers.
    Chris P.

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