Top Hat Burger Palace

Posted by Brandon |

A burger joint here in Ventura whose claim to fame is the massive indigestion caused by it's chili burgers and that it was the site of a murder where DNA testing was used to prosecute a killer for the first time in California history, is closing later this month, and this brand new citizen couldn't be more upset.

I had driven by Top Hat numerous times and seen it teeming with people but never had an opportunity to stop. So when I heard the bad news this morning in the Ventura County Star I just had to rush down there. I love hole in the wall burger shacks like that. In Olympia we have Eagan's or Big Tom's. In Seattle it's Dick's. In Ventura it's Top Hat.

And the burgers are good. Tasty little nuggets of meat with delicious chili and cheese and good french fries. It's not the best burger I have ever eaten, but the atmosphere and nostalgia is what set Top Hat apart. They have to be the friendliest meat slingers that I have ever met conversing and joking with everybody despite the squalid and cramped working conditions. The customers patiently waited and commiserated despite a long wait due to the larger than average business generated by the article. In general you could just feel the love that everybody feels for Top Hat in this community. On the Star website the topic generated 287 comments. The most I've seen other than that was five.

But the nearly 40 year old landmark is losing it's lease at the end of the month because the developer that owns the property wants to build condos and storefront retail space. Top Hat doesn't want to move into the space citing that it wouldn't be the same. And the rent would likely double or triple and Top Hat would be priced out. Instead the space will probably house a bistro that will serve $15 tapas or $25 entrees and at least two wine bars following the yuppie trends in downtown Ventura.

Sadly we must say so long to the Top Hat. Historic downtown Ventura, modest working people and even this brand new citizen will really miss you.