23641 Rockfield Blvd.
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Four years into this blog, and there are still some restaurants that I am surprised we have not been to yet. I do have my reasons for forgetting about The Hat. They are located right across the street from one of my favorite fast food style Mexican restaurants, Albatros. That is another restaurant that we have not blogged about. I kind of feel like I am slacking here. When I reach the corner of Rockfield and Center Drive, I almost always veer into the Albatros parking lot, lured by the thoughts of carne asada fries. The Hat usually goes ignored by us, not because it is bad, but because the carne asada fries are just too powerful to overcome.
This trip was different though. I had a new purpose. As I often do, I was talking about food places with some of my coworkers. One of the beer reps just happened to be walking by when we were talking and mentioned The Hat. He told me that I had to try their chili cheese fries with pastrami on top of them. For the rest of that day I could think of nothing else, least of all the work that I needed to get done. I pretty much just let the place burn down that day. It seemed like forever until Katie got off of work, so we could head over to The Hat for dinner, even though it was only about an hour and a half. I was really excited.
The Hat has been around since 1951. That is 62 years for you math deficient people like me. I had to get out a calculator just to make sure I got the the math right on this one. That is a very long time in the restaurant business. Almost ancient. For some perspective, back in 1951, Truman was President, I Love Lucy debuted on TV, and the United Nations opened its doors in New York. That's a crazy long time ago.
My parents both grew up in Southern California, and my Mom had some of her younger years in Alhambra, right near where the original Hat still operates. Today there are 10 locations of The Hat restaurants, with two OC locations. The other OC outpost is in Brea, right near the Brea Mall.
We got to this South OC restaurant at about 6PM on a Wednesday evening. Throughout our visit there was a steady stream of customers walking through the door. The restaurant is very well lit, and they really keep it cleaner than I imagined it would be. Oldies music plays over the speakers, and your order is taken at the counter. When you number is called, your food is ready. One thing I am always amazed at on visits here, is all the different condiment packets that they offer. It is not too often that you see thousand island dressing coming out of ketchup style packets. They have tons of them, just like at Chick-fil-A, which is another restaurant I have not eaten at in a long time.
Our food came out rather quickly, and before we get to what brought us here, lets take a look at Katie's sandwich, the Pastrami Dip ($8.59 with cheese). This is the sandwich that made The Hat world famous. Okay, maybe not world famous, but semi-famous. I can't imagine kids in Gambia dreaming about the day that they can come to the US and have this pastrami sandwich, but you get the point. Back to this sandwich though. It is dipped in what I guess to be, the pastrami au jus, but I am not sure. It is not dunked like the French dips at Philipee's, but it does get a little moisture on the bun and meat. It comes with light mustard and pickles, but I am sure you could get this without if you asked for it that way. The pastrami is really piled onto the sandwich. Katie took a good deal of it off, just so she could make the sandwich more manageable. She liked the pastrami here, but with so much, the salt really became the dominate force here. The pastrami was not too fatty or greasy, which she was thankful for. She would definitely get this sandwich again.
Yes, there actually is a burger patty buried under all that pastrami. This Pastrami Burger ($7.99) was my choice for dinner on this night. Keep in mind that we still had more to come at this point. This pastrami burger was overwhelming, even for me. This burger comes with single patty, sliced cheese, lettuce, tomato, and enough pastrami to feed a small country. The beef and cheese really got lost here. I almost could not taste it. I really liked the pastrami that was on this. It was sliced on the thinner side, with a nice meaty taste to it. I would probably skip the burger portion of this sandwich on my next trip to The Hat though. It really became unnecessary with the overwhelming flavor of the pastrami.
Now, the real reason we came to The Hat, the Chili Cheese Fries with Pastrami ($7.99). This is really the only thing we should have ordered. If you have ever been to The Hat, you know that they give you an abundance of fries. Even a small order of fries can feed three people. The two pictures above do not even show the massiveness of this order of fries. Placed on a drink tray, we had enough for both of us, and then brought half home for my roommate Rob. He could only manage to eat another fourth of the fries. The fries are topped with a meaty, and well spiced chili, grated cheese, and lots of shredded pastrami. Something about the pastrami on top of this mound really elevated this from normal chili cheese fries. The thickness of the fries actually helped here, by holding more of the toppings. It has been two weeks since we came here, and I have thought of these fries often.
Our trip to The Hat was truly a gut busting experience. We should have just split the chili cheese fries and been done with it. The rest of the meal was good, but the serving sizes are so big here, it really overwhelmed us. This is not the best pastrami you are going to have, but it is better than average, and about on par with Togo's in my opinion. The prices are a tad on the high side, but with the amount of food you are getting, you will have enough for two meals. I'm really glad that we finally blogged about The Hat, and I look forward to going back again for those chili cheese fries.
Out of five thermometers, (because thermometers have mercury in them, and mercury was used by hat makers back in the day, thus making the hatters crazy or mad), five being best to zero being worst, The Hat gets three thermometers.
For more information about The Hat, click here to go to their website: http://www.thehat.com/index.htm