Flakey Jake’s

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In the eighties, there was a war of competing hamburger chains: Fuddrucker’s versus Flakey Jake’s.  I liked them both but slightly preferred the latter, particularly the Flakey Jake’s on the northwest corner of the intersection of Pico and Sepulveda in West Los Angeles.

The premise of both chains was simple.  They sold pretty good hamburgers, a notch above McDonald’s and Burger King at a correspondingly (but not exorbitant) price.  They both had other menu items but you went there for the burgers, which were served on a bun cooked on the premises in their own bakery.  The bakery also made cinnamon buns and other goodies which you could purchase to take home.

One thing I liked about them was the “dress-it-yourself” bar that I first encountered at Woody’s Smorgasburger, which has become the major topic of this site.  You got your burger nude and you carried it over to an area where they had ketchup and mustard and onions and lettuce and tomato and cheese sauces and other toppings.  The hamburgers at Flakey Jake’s were pretty darned good and I ate at the Pico-Sepulveda one often.

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The two chains were in fierce competition to open up new locations across the country — some company-owned, some franchised. In a few cases, they competed head-to-head: There’d be a Flakey Jake’s literally across the street from a Fuddrucker’s.  Fuddrucker’s also sued Flakey Jake’s charging “infringement of trade dress” (copying its format) and then Flakey Jake’s counter-sued Fuddrucker’s charging “restraint of trade” and in ’82, they settled out of court on undisclosed terms.

Around this time, Flakey Jake’s, which had been founded by a Seattle-based seafood restaurant chain, sold out to Frank Carney (co-founder of Pizza Hut) and a group of investors. Apparently, they couldn’t make a go of it. Before long, all the Flakey Jake’s closed…or seem to have closed. Fuddrucker’s, meanwhile, continues to thrive and currently has around 200 outlets across the U.S. — few of them, I’m afraid, in areas where I travel. I’m curious why one chain succeeded and the other didn’t because they were, after all, pretty much the same thing.

10 Responses to Flakey Jake’s

  • Douglass Abramson says:

    I always felt that Flakey Jake’s had the better quality food, but where they out did Fuddrucker’s was at the soda fountain. They not only would make you a flavored Coke, they had malts. Not milkshakes, malts. Fuddrucker’s, on the other hand, has their proprietary mustard. Whoopee. My family used to go to the restaurant on MacArthur Blvd, near South Coast Plaza. That one was in operation until sometime in the late ’80s. The building was still there the last time I drove buy and in the same condition its been in since the Flakey Jake’s closed; empty. The last operational Flakey Jake’s that I knew of was on Katella Ave, about three blocks east of Harbor Blvd. That one limped along until the property was taken over by Anaheim for urban renewal projects in the late ’90s. Since Farrell’s has made its come back, I hold out hope that someone will do the same with Flakey Jake’s. As far as Fuddrucker’s goes Mark, there are several stores between you and San Diego. The most convenient one, though, is the one in Mission Valley; fairly near to The Town and Country.

  • Paul Lorin says:

    I used to go to the Flakey Jakes on Pico in West L.A several times when it opened in 1983, in fact there was a sign posted near the counter that read “Established in 1983″ They had about 20 or so different toppings to choose from, all kinds of melted cheese, onions, pickles and so forth. My Grandfather would take me and my brother there for a treat. Good memories.

  • Dana Gabbard says:

    For about a year we had a Flakey Jake’s in Yakima Washington when I was a teenager in the late-1970s. It was actually just off an off-ramp in the area known as Terrace Heights. Was always busy when my family and I ate there. Then poof it vanished. Loved the condiment bar. For ages the shuttered Anaheim location sat sad and empty.

    For a time some Koo Koo Roo locations offered Fuddruckers burgers and a version of the condiment bar including the Miracle Mile location (on Wilshire near the La Brea tarpits). They eventually dropped the burgers and then the place closed (the only Koo Koo Roo left is on Wilshire in Santa Monica). Ironically now a Counter burger place occupies that spot. Umamiburger, The Habit and 5 Guys are among what seems to be a resurgence of burger chains, some back to basics and others examples of the upscale reinvention model. I should note an acquaintance recently complained of finding bone (more than once) in the patty at the aforementioned Counter location. ICK!

    For us in L.A. the most convenient Fuddruckers locations are in Burbank and Sherman Oaks. Kind of surprised they don’t have any on the westside, Santa Monica or Hollywood area.

  • Sam D says:

    I was a frequent customer at the Pico-Sepulveda Flakey Jakes. I loved the interior design and also found the food to be way better than Fuddruckers. Every time I was there the place seemed to be full or nearly full. I couldn’t understand why it closed.

    I also enjoyed Woody’s Smorgasburger in Culver City. And RJ’s for Ribs in Beverly Hills also had a terrific char broiled “dress-it-yourself” burger. They had a lavish, high quality salad bar where you built your burger.

  • RPS says:

    I remember going to a Flakey Jake’s in Las Vegas, NV. in 1987 0r 1988. I think it was located on Maryland Parkway between Sahara and Desert Inn Road. The burgers there were great and I loved the condiment bar where you could dress up your burger the way you wanted. I am truly sorry they are no longer around because I think they offered a great product!

  • Sherry says:

    Flakey Jake’s was so much better than Fuddrucker’s. I remember dining at the Sepulveda location practically every Sunday night with my family. It was always so crowded and the line was out the door. However, it was worth it. The burgers were delicious and I LOVED the brownies offered at the bakery.

    There are several Fuddrucker’s near me in the Bay Area, but I haven’t been in years because the food isn’t very good.

  • Brian Kelly says:

    Check out these Flakey Jake’s shirts from Hayes and Taylor. They just posted them on their site this week!

    http://hayesandtaylor.com/product/flakey-jakes-2/

  • James SANSON says:

    Where did they go? Was there one in Tempe AZ?

  • Marc Sahr says:

    Used to frequent Flakey Jakes in the late 80′s. A group of us once had a gathering of users – Southern California Sysops Group. This was a loosely knit group of people that ran Electronic Bulletin Boards (BBS) back then. These were precursors to the internet. I met a ex-girl friend and made a few longer term friendship there as well. Am going to one of my friend’s weddings that I met at this particular meeting. But used to go often.

  • Mike says:

    I loved the Flakey Jake’s on Pico and Sepulveda! They also had one in Northridge on Corbin and Nordhoff, where Mimi’s Cafe is now. I ate at that Flakey Jake’s a few times in the late 80′s and very early 90′s after moving to the Valley, and yes, I agree that they were similar to Fuddrucker’s, but better!

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