by Eric Cocoletzi
Frank Theodoropoulos has been slinging hash at Lucky Guy’s Burgers for 33 years, but as of January 30th he’s putting down his spatula and turning off the grill for the last time. He came to the U.S. in 1967 from a town in Greece known as Kakovatos, a coastal town in Southwestern Greece. This explains why he serves a mean Gyro (pronounced YEE-ro). I’ve had around ten of those suckers and they always hit the spot.
When Frank purchased the soon to be Santa Ana landmark, it was already called Lucky Guy’s Burgers and it came with a 20 year lease. When that ran it’s course in 2000, a few more years we’re tacked on, one by one, but during the last year and a half Frank has been negotiating with the owner of the property to stay. Patience has been expelled from negotiations and now the owner wants the place for himself. Frank says he’s pretty sure it will remain a restaurant, but that the new owner won’t keep the name.
“Lucky Guy’s” is located on Main and Chestnut, a neighborhood that has seen its ups and downs, according to Frank. “The neighborhood was busy. The corners and bus stops were always full with 10 to 15 people waiting, 5 to 10 people coming out of the bus,”said Frank. “Now things have changed. After September 11…we got hurt. A lot of people moved and they went to other places, but now I see some new faces here. I don’t know if it’s the good food or maybe the Santanero ad helped too. You never know [laughs]. But the fact is, tomorrow [January 30th] is the last day.”
It must be hard to let go of everything that you’ve been familiar with for over thirty years, especially something that has allowed you to get to know so many faces. But after negotiating for a year he’s gotten used to the idea of no longer owning the restaurant. And it wasn’t the typical rent increase so many evil property owners are infamous for, it was that the property owner tried to make him pay for improvements and make the restaurant be in compliance with the American Disabilities Act and many other things, according to Frank. So he refused because he didn’t feel he was going to gain anything. He was finally given 30 days to vacate the premises.
So what does Frank plan on doing? He says he’s going to retire and stay busy enjoying the sport of hunting. He’s an avid fowl hunter and on occasion will gun down a deer or a bear. Speaking of bears, Frank also likes to eat bear meat. “It tastes good,” says Frank.
On his last day at the restaurant he says he has nothing special planned. He plans on doing the “same old thing”. Cooking Huevos Rancheros for breakfast and making delicious burgers side by side with his cooks during lunch and dinner, like he’s always done. That is one thing that I will always respect about him. He actually cooked and didn’t just sit and bark orders and if you were lucky enough to have him make you a gyro, you could tell that he truly loved what he did.
Lucky Guy’s Burgers will be missed by many and Frank wanted to give his sincere thanks to his customers:
“Thank you very much for supporting me for all these years and I’m sorry that I won’t be able to stay and serve them. I’ve been giving the best service…the food especially, was the best.”
Are you going to miss Santa Ana?
“After all these years, how could you not?”
If you decide to pay your last respects to this great burger joint, I recommend the gyros. They’re a mixture of lamb and beef wrapped in a pita with red onions, tomatoes and a tasty tzatziki sauce. 5 bucks!!
Lucky Guy’s Burgers
401 S. Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701