Hamburger America: Eastside Big Tom in Olympia, Washington
Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Eat up!
Big Tom could easily be the most nondescript burger stand in America. If it were not for the large menu on the street side of the building you'd think you had arrived at a construction trailer that had been haphazardly dumped in a parking lot. But the long lines of cars on each side of the structure are a hint that something good is happening inside. Indeed there is. Big Tom daily sells over five-hundred fresh thin-patty wonders to loyal drive-up customers. But that’s not all. Big Tom’s trademarked "Goop" is dispensed here, a salad-type dressing that, in varying forms, is a Pacific Northwest mainstay for burgers.
"Goop is essentially mayo, mustard, pickle relish with a secret salad dressing mixed in," longtime owner Chuck Fritsch told me. "What's the saying? 'If I told you I'd have to kill you'?" he said with a laugh. "It's really not a big secret," he admitted, "But if you are not making it in huge batches it doesn't taste the same." I can see why someone might want to copy the recipe—the taste is addictive. Besides adorning the Big Tom special double-double, Goop is also offered as a dip for the tater tots and fries. What could be more appealing or more American than "tots 'n Goop?"
Chuck, closing in on 50 years at Big Tom, plans eventually to turn the business over to one of his sons, one that literally grew up in the stand. Chuck pointed to a small space between the employee bathroom and slop sink. "We had the crib right there."
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.