February 13, 2010

Halter's College Inn - Home of the Halter's Ham and Hi-Fi Steak Sandwiches

Halter's College Inn
Grandma's Hamburger Stand

This is where I spent my summers and weekends in the sixties. Named the College Inn as it was across the street from Valley College in Van Nuys, CA. My grandparents lived in a house in the back. This was my first place of employment. I started helping out as a very young girl. I used to stand on an orange crate and work the counter when it was busy. This was at the very beginning of the fast food revolution. Former German delicatessen owners in Ohio, when we all moved to the west, they purchased this little restaurant. Their food was purchased and prepared by them personally. My grandfather would bake hams and prepare sauces and salads all day Sunday for the week ahead. The fast food was beginning to creep in though, notice the "Corny Dog" sign. I remember that being a new food that was usually only something you ate at the county fair. (It was made fresh at the fair too, not prepared somewhere else to be eaten weeks later.)

My grandfather was a hard working cook and he loved food. His food was usually made with old fashioned ingredients including real butter and animal fat. He used the gelatin from the hams he baked as a secret ingredient on his hamburgers. He would brush some of the melted gelatin on the burgers before they were placed on the bun. That was his 'secret' ingredient. He loved sweets, ice cream, and pastries. They served fresh ice cream until they bought a new, fancy machine that made soft ice cream. Ice cream sundaes were at reach any time you wanted, we all like it. The fast food systems were creeping in. I remember watching as they bulldozed the houses on either side of their restaurant and a Baskin Robbins and a Taco Tio building next door, Der Wienersnitchel on the other side. And he never wanted us to go that new McDonald's place down the road. His love of too much of the wrong kind of food killed him, he had diabetes and died of coronary disease. I think he was only 52 years old. This is one of my main motivators to paying attention to what I put in my body. I have already passed that age and so far have avoided diabetes. The same is not true for most of my younger brothers and sisters.

After he died in 1969 some weirdos, as my parents called them, bought the place and made it one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Van Nuys. They painted signs all over that said "Eat Plants, Not Animals." I don't think they were so weird.

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