Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Burbank closed its doors Sunday after 62 years of serving countless hot dogs, hamburgers and mugs of cold beer. Its most recent owner, Leona Gardner, said she’ll remember fondly the staff and customers who made the hole-in-the-wall restaurant such a vibrant and unique place.
What are some of the favorite memories you have at Papoo’s Hot Dog Show?
“We had a 70th birthday party here for Tim Hawkins, who we call the mayor of Toluca Lake. It was just wonderful. The place was crammed with almost 90 people. It was so sweet. And we’ve had other birthday parties here for locals. The parties were really special. And the staff is superior. Loyal, self-starters, monitor themselves. I’m here only half of the time. Each and every one of them has been a friend, a hard worker and they love Papoo’s.”
Did you have many celebrities come in?
“All the time. Like Hilary Duff. We would protect her from the paparazzi by chasing them away, blocking the windows, lowering the blinds. Other restaurants would call them and say that they’re coming and we did exactly the opposite. And one day, Chachi [actor Scott Baio] came in. And he sat down at the counter ... and we had just started serving our new hot dog. I didn’t know who he was. And I’m looking at him eating this hot dog and I said, “How do you like the dog?” And he didn’t say anything. So I yelled back, “How do you like the dog?” And he said, “Are you talking to me?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m talking to you.” (Chuckles) And he said, “I love this hot dog.” So I went over and we were talking about Papoo’s and he was giving me advice on what to do and Maria [a well-known Papoo’s waitress] was just busting a gut because she knew I didn’t know who I was talking to. And he became a regular.”
What was your most popular hot dog?
“I think the most popular hot dog was the bacon cheese dog. Also, we had a very odd hot dog, which we called the Show Dog. It was spinach, bacon, Swiss cheese and onion rings on top. Very unusual. And either you loved it or hated it and we had people who came in very regularly and had to have it.”
What happened that made you decide to close?
“There are a number of things. The renovations were really the last straw. But we did get a letter from Burbank — after being notified by the health department — that said our hood was no longer in compliance. The letter said that statute in 1964 when the hood was put in was in violation because the [deep fryer] underneath it was a few inches bigger than it should be. Once you rip that out, you have to redo the kitchen. And we need to redo the roof. Really, there’s a lot of renovation that should be done here and I’m not in a position to do it right now.”
What will you miss the most about Papoo’s?
“It sounds trite, but my employees and our patrons. There are so many people who came in every day or at least three times a week. This really was like “Cheers.” Half the people would walk through the door, the cook would see them and their food would be on the grill before they sat down.”