It was sad when they turned the last outpost of Woody’s Smorgasburger, down on Sepulveda just South of LAX, into an International House of Pancakes. Lo, how the mighty have fallen. In the sixties, there were Woody’s all over California, including a wonderful one in Westwood Village, a block or three from U.C.L.A., where I could often be found between (and once in a while, even during) classes. Woody’s was the first chain I know of where you could get a hamburger and then carry it over to a little self-service counter stocked with ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, salsa, barbecue sauce, etc., and do whatever you wanted to it. Today, there are chains aplenty like Fuddrucker’s that offer this but at the time, it was something rather special.
Woody’s burgers were pretty darn good too, with a nice barbecue flavor…and every Woody’s also had a “make your own sundae” bar: You could get an empty dish at the counter, fill it full of soft-serve vanilla ice cream, then slather it in a diverse selection of syrups and sprinkles and crushed nuts and such. My old comic club buddies and I would practically have a contest to see how much sundae we could get in one dish, building structurally-unsafe vertical arrays, then trying to walk them back to the table and devour the top stories before it all collapsed.
One of the guys once asked if he was allowed to put the toppings from the sundae bar on his burger or vice-versa. When they told him yes, he began speculating on what hot fudge or whipped cream would do to a hamburger, and whether the maraschino cherries would blend with the mustard or if he should leave the mustard off. Each visit to Woody’s, he’d say, “Next time, I’m going to try it,” but he never worked up the courage. Or wanted to spoil a good smorgasburger.