By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
It's the SuperTarget circle of life, and it moves us all.
I hadn't intended to spend any money here. Instead, I leave having dropped $188. I am content in this realization, because I know that anywhere else I would have spent $195-$198, easy. And though I really didn't need a six-pack of toothpaste or a cool, framed piece of brown wood that can hold up to eight photos of me and my friends, I can't say I'm unhappy that I now own them. Ditto The Darjeeling Limited on DVD.
I love this place. — Adam Cayton-Holland
4500 East Alameda Avenue, Glendale
Gunther Toody's sits atop a hill, a beacon of air-conditioned respite where Alameda and Leetsdale split. At night, this retro-themed diner is a neon-encased monument channeling the good times and great oldies of yesteryear. At lunchtime, it's a veritable enclave of retirees and beleaguered soccer moms toting around their toddlers.
Making our way into a wobbly, teal-green booth festooned with metallic coat hangers jutting out from the end caps, we sit beneath a framed print of venerated wiseacres Moe, Curly and Larry, who themselves are flanked by a pair of after-market, novelty-store tchotchkes, tin plaques the size of license plates bearing the Tootsie Pop and Hershey's logos. Just beneath them sits a miniature, antique Seebury Wall-o-Matic jukebox, just twenty-five cents a play. I drop a quarter in to see if it works. It doesn't. Just for show, this one.
We settle for the endless stream of forgotten yet classic songs such as "Cool Jerk" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" that waft in through the speakers. A waitress saunters over to our table and takes our drink orders. Over her shoulder, I notice a pair of headlights belonging to a vintage Corvair, just a few shades brighter than the booth we're in, staring us down. The car is mounted above a mammoth square-shaped bar, which itself is encircled with chrome bar stools with bright-red metalflake toppers.
At the edge of the bar, two men clad in denim shorts and T-shirts sit huddled over laptops. One of them must have stock in the joint, as he just showed himself behind the bar. Just a few stools down is a cluster of curtain climbers, one of whom is in obvious need of a fresh diaper.
Just then, the waitress returns with our drinks. Coke. Sprite. Diet Coke. Root beer shake with frozen yogurt subbing for the ice cream. After a few minutes of deliberation, we settle on a burger, no onions or tomatoes, and two plates of fries, one doused in chili and the other Elvis style, with gravy and cheese. Before the drinks are emptied, the food arrives. Flipping open the bun, I notice that there's bacon where there shouldn't be, along with tomatoes. Somewhat alarmed by the presence of the tomatoes, given the recent salmonella scare — and, well, because I'm kind of paranoid like that — I alert the waitress to the mistake. She asks me if I'd like for her to "let them know?"
Uh, yeah. Pshaw.
After a few minutes, she returns to retrieve my plate, explaining that she grabbed the wrong burger. More time passes, and still no burger. When she comes back around, I ask, somewhat tersely, "So, are you bringing me another burger, then, or what?" She tells me, "They're cooking it." Fair enough. By the time the plate arrives, I'm no longer hungry, and my family has already finished eating.
It's cool, though. In fact, it's part of the charm. If I wanted impeccable service, I'd go to one of those fancy-pants places with names you can't pronounce and food I wouldn't eat on a dare, the kind where you're still hungry after you eat. The waitstaff at this joint is clearly trying to evoke a bygone era, when carhops were gum-popping smart alecks. They're purposefully over-the-top, donning bowling shirts and enough flair to give Spencer's inadequacy issues. And they're supposed to be a little surly.
Once, we even had a waiter plop down in the booth next to us as we decided what to order. And you know what? That approach works for me. Coupled with the neon glow of the red and green fluorescents on the deco-style furnishings and reflecting off the glass bricks, it's easy to feel like the past fifty years never happened.
Sure, it's campy. It's supposed to be. — Dave Herrera
Surplus Tools & Commodities
1411 West Alameda Avenue
The stretch of Alameda west of the railroad tracks and east of Federal is a hardened industrial zone, a string of small repair shops, carnicerías and used-car lots, too gritty for the yuppification happening elsewhere on the avenue. This is the last stand of family businesses and old-school entrepreneurs, and the hardiest of them all is Surplus Tools.
Surplus has been operating on Alameda since the 1940s. Its founder, William Cox, started by selling war-surplus materials out of his car. Although Cox originally had a partner, the business has now been in his family for three generations and has grown into a one-stop shop for all kinds of used and remaindered hardware, doodads and tools, tools, tools. If you're on the hunt for auto hose clamps, cotter pin pullers, decommissioned grenades, obscure plumbing fittings, a horsehair brush, ball bearings of various calibers, ax handles, files, an Osama bin Laden target for shooting practice, tarps, wire, cable, wheels, casters — even, perhaps, the elusive rubber baby buggy bumpers — this is the place to go.