If you're a certain age, you might remember a time before chain fast food. A time before menu items were cranked out in a computer-controlled kitchen, before portions were meticulously measured and shaped to provide the highest profit per item and employees were directed to follow scripts when taking your order.
I remember a place in northern Illinois, a red-painted faux-log cabin where the gravel in the parking lot crunched and popped beneath the tires of our family station wagon, and you ate at picnic tables on a concrete slab. It was there I discovered - at age eight - the amazing culinary wonder of Curly Fries.
There aren't too many old school hamburger joints around anymore, but Daglas, in Winnetka in the San Fernando Valley, is still going strong.
It has a great, Googie-style facade, with an expanded-metal screen crowned by bright yellow globe lights, and a sign proclaiming "Every Day is Fry Day!"
There's a small inside dining area, with Formica benches and booths, and the glass-enclosed kitchen and order window looks out over a shaded outdoor patio.
I ordered a cheeseburger with fries. As you can expect, the fries are special here. Cut fresh from real potatoes, with the skins on, they're crisp and tastily seasoned. As you can see, the servings are HUGE!
Like many Southern California drive-ins, the menu includes pastrami sandwiches, served L.A. style on a french roll. We ordered onion rings as a side.
As we sat, a whole spectrum of customers came to the window. There was a group of four teenagers, playing with their cell phones as they ate. A growling and clanking old El Camino pulled in the drive to the back parking lot, and a grizzled, white-haired fellow came to the window for two pastrami sandwiches to go. A woman in a fashionable jacket placed an order at the window. A Latino man wearing a a leather holster for garden pruners on his belt sat at the table and ate his lunch.
The food was filling, greasy, and satisfying.
You can't eat like this everyday, though. As we walked back to the car, the billboard on top of the building provided a startling juxtaposition!