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Dirty, dingy and a genuine greasy spoon, I was excited by the prospect of eating at Carney’s. I frequently drove by what I thought was their only location in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard, as I would return home from the Henry Fonda or Amoeba. I never set aside time to check out the yellow Pacific Railroad Express passenger train repurposed as an eatery, always writing rain checks for a later date. Recently I made an unexpected trip to their second eatery in an unfamiliar location at the suggestion of a friend.

In Studio City, on Ventura Boulevard, a yellow doppelganger beckoned us. We were grabbing dinner before heading out to a friend’s birthday party. We thought it would be a good idea to eat something before the upcoming suds so we were looking to load up on a hefty burger and fries.

The elongated diner was packed. Unbeknownst to both of us, Carney’s seemed to specialize in hot dogs and chili, as much as burgers, judging by the number of people we passed in the narrow corridor indulging in said foods. Only there for burgers, we decided not to miss out on the fast-moving chili fries and split a side.

Though few existed, we managed an open table, and waited patiently for our dinner, mulling over the surreal hot dog lust that none of us shared—I guess I would’ve had a blog… A short while later our numbers were called; I picked up some banana peppers and the two cardboard trays, two-handing them to the table. An initial scan of the foods in my grip, left me relieved that we had split our side. With copious amounts of chili drowning the thin-cut fries, and an unsettling amount of American cheese melting slowly; we had plenty on our plates to contend with without factoring in the ample side.

The burgers looked appetizing, folded neatly in their white smocks, the sandwiches were bursting with a fresh ring of tomato, pristine iceberg lettuce, diced white onions and some pickles. There was a healthy glisten to the patty and neat smear to the ketchup that lay under it. For a busy place they paid attention to detail and nailed the little things. The sandwich didn’t back down upon first taste, there was a lot of flavor from the added quartet of vegetables (pickles included). The patty was seasoned in the expected manner and Carney’s was coming out ahead of my initial read of this iconic eatery.

The chili fries proved too much for me. They were lathered in an excess of cheese that was not thoroughly melted, or incorporated, but, I don’t put much emphasis on sides—I am eating for the main attraction. The eatery was also not the cleanest, showing the wear of quickly revolving patrons over the ages… but again those criticisms were not the main focus of my visit. The burger was a cut above many of the other highly touted burger joints in LA and the addition of banana peppers helped put the finishing touches on a nice dinner—even though the scorch they bring drowns out the burger a little, I wouldn’t eat a banana pepper with a burger I didn’t like!

Save for the distance, and possibly the chili fries, everything seemed to be in order at Carney’s. If it were closer to my dwelling I could entertain a repeat visit but alas it is a trek, though I was happy to have made it at least once. We were in good shape for the night’s festivities and I had finally clued in to the charm of that mysterious yellow train.

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