Weddington Golf and Tennis Cafe
4141 Whitsett Avenue, Studio City CA 91604 (map); 818-761-3250; weddingtongolfandtennis.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: The burger is just "so so," but sometimes you just gotta have it
Want Fries with That? Yes; they're frozen, crinkle-cut, and pretty tasty
Prices: Cheeseburger, $5.95
Notes: I love Norman, but this Canton-born, short-order cook makes a better chow mein than burgers
Sometimes I choose the burger and sometimes the burger chooses me. That is to say, sometimes I seek out a storied burger at an out of the way spot or high end eatery, and sometimes I just eat one wherever I happen to be. These days, one of the places I often happen to be at is a golf course. Yes, I am that boring. I don't know exactly how it happened, but somewhere along the way, during the extended adolescence I call adulthood, I became obsessed with golf (burgers have always been an obsession). I grew up in apartment in Manhattan, so for me golf courses used to be sad misuses of ballfields. Now I can't go to a baseball game without fantasizing about hitting a nine iron into the bleachers from home plate.
Recently, I was working on my swing at a local driving range that I've been going to for years and realized I'd never tried their quick-eats cafe. I headed in and made short-order of that short-order oversight with a burger and some surprise side dishes at the Wedding Golf & Tennis Cafe in Studio City.
The Weddington facility is an impressive 17-acre swath of land that is home a bunch of tennis courts, a driving range, and even a little nine hole par 3 golf course. What makes it impressive is that it sits in the relatively tony neighborhood of Studio City. There was an attempt to develop the land into high priced condos a few years back, but the community fought to keep the half-century old spot just as it is.
I'm glad it's still around because other than the occasional celebrity showing up for a golf lesson, it feels like small town spot. The walls are wood-paneled and decorated with black and white photos of famous golfers, my favorite being the iconic image of Ben Hogan at the 1950 U.S. Open. And when you want a burger, you go see Norman.
The octogenarian grill man at Weddington Golf & Tennis Cafe is as friendly and smiley as you could wish a person to be. As Norman cooked up my cheeseburger with everything (lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mustard, and may) I learned about him and his food.
Norman was born in the Canton province China and made his way to the United States over fifty years ago in search of a better life. He wound up working in various kitchens in the Los Angeles area until deciding to retire about six years ago. But a life of hard work left him feeling bored, so he decided to take on the cafe at Weddington to pass the time. You can find him there seven days a week cooking up his food.
The eats are mostly traditional American, but when I saw he also has a few Chinese specialties I had to try a few. I added a chicken bowl and BBQ pork chow mein to go with my burger and fries.
Norman gets his sirloin burgers from Costco and, while he crows about the quality, it's fair to say the patty is the weak link here. The bun is a beautiful, spongy commercial and the American cheese is full of fat and—if you get his Swiss American—flavor. The toppings, while run-of-the-mill, are fresh and just right. The overall flavor of the burger is pretty close to backyard standard, but the beef is just too finely ground and lean to make for a great burger.
The fries are crinkle-cut and actually very good. I was taken aback by how crispy the exteriors were against the smooth interior. I had to stop myself from finishing them all because I had to save room for my chicken bowl and chow mein. Norman manages to put together some impressively fresh and good Chinese food from his little golf course kitchen. My chicken bowl was full of fresh veggies and had great flavor and the BBQ pork in my chow mein was Chinatown quality.
Okay, so this isn't a burger that you'd find me recommending people drive out of their way to try, but when it comes to spots like this one, the idea is that you're there to feed another craving. As it happened, my burger obsession was undernourished. You wouldn't find me ordering it during a break from a practice session, but certainly you'd find me bellied up to Norman's counter listening to him to tell another story while I eat something that wasn't my reason for being there.
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