President Obama probably ate there when he was Undergrad Obama, with a fondness for the mustardy Julio Burger. Kareem-Abdul Jabbar would literally duck in for a bacon cheeseburger, then duck out the back. Elmer Dills came and loved it when he was insulted.
I'm talking about The Bucket, the burger joint that has been gracing, or greasing, Eagle Rock Boulevard since 1935. It was shuttered for a couple months this year. Now, it's Dee Dee's Dive, with former owner Dee Dee Baca back in charge.
I got a history lesson on the restaurant from Baca. It was opened as a malt shop in 1935. Then, sometime in the 1960s, it became The Bucket, and Julio Maeso took it over.
Late SoCal restaurant reviewer Elmer Dills gave you a hint of Julio's character in his Hamburger Guide, along with a B rating:
Owner Julio Maeso is a true character and known for his steady stream of insults to his guests. The burger he makes looks like the Empire State Building when finished and his "special secret sauce" will be all over you by the time you finish.
Dee Dee says Julio cut off Dills' tie, and Dills loved it. He treated other people worse. "If you came in and you ordered french fries and a cheeseburger and a regular Coke and you were overweight, you were gonna get a Tab and no cheese and no fries. And he got away with it. I can't do that now."
The Bucket changed hands many times, including once by Dee Dee and her brother, Ivan. Then it was sold to George Eckley. As Damon Gambuto wrote for A Hamburger Today back in 2009, Eckley dispensed with Julio's schtick, but the burgers weren't great:
The meat is delivered fresh daily and is hand formed into the substantial eight-ounce patties. Moments after it hits the grill I see the problem: The cook squeezes a mighty helping of Worcestershire sauce over the patty and then follows it up with a layer of garlic powder so thick that the entire top of the burger is white. My eyes go wide as the patty goes from white to orange as a layer of seasoned salt obscures the garlic powder. Then the cook proceeds to poke the patty, releasing the fat. My hopes go up in smoke.
Eckley is holding on to the beer and wine license and the name The Bucket, hence the name change. Dee Dee explains: "The thing about it is, the owners after Julio have all been kids from the community. Richard Alatorre, Eddie Cienfuegos, myself, my brother, Ivan. All of us born and raised in Eagle Rock. It's been a community thing. That's why I had to come back."
Dee Dee has brightened up and de-greased the place and added rock 'n' roll decor. She's hoping for the same community support that has kept the little burger joint going for almost 80 years.
The Bucket is at 4541 Eagle Rock Blvd. and is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.