My childhood experience with the near-eternal Twohey’s in Alhambra was mostly visual. We had family friends in Montebello, and on the way home, Twohey’s was a landmark we kids didn’t want to miss. For decades, Twohey’s sported a large neon sign of a weeping man with a clothespin on his nose. “Twohey’s,” said the sign, and then, if memory serves, something like “Home of the Stinko” or “Home of the Little Stinko.”
“There’s the Little Stinko, girls,” my mother would call out.
The sign was an endless source of amusement and speculation. Who would ever want to eat something called the Stinko? Who would want to eat anything that made you cry? Only adults, we decided. Only adults would eat a Stinko food. No self-respecting child would come anywhere near such a thing.
Twohey’s originally opened in Pasadena in 1943, but moved a decade later to its present location at the intersection of Huntington Drive and Atlantic Boulevard in Alhambra. The story goes that Jack Twohey overheard a woman exclaim “Oh, stinko!” when her companion was served a hamburger dressed with a thick slice of onion and pickles. Twohey promptly trademarked the Stinko Burger, clothespin and tears logo.
My family and I didn’t merely enjoy the sign; we also occasionally ate at Twohey’s. Until the mid-’70s, Twohey’s had car hops. We’d sit in our green, big-finned 1957 Chevy station wagon and eat cheeseburgers (no onion, thanks!), great onion rings, and shakes.
The sign is gone — although the man with the clothespin on his nose has moved inside, where he features prominently in the mural over the kitchen. Outside, after a 1997 renovation, Twohey’s metamorphosed from a child’s visual delight into a heartbreakingly ordinary-looking coffee shop.
It was as an adult that I discovered some of Twohey’s other virtues. Going there with a group of recovering alcoholics, who can usually sniff out the best sources for sugar shock anywhere, I was turned on to Twohey’s amazing hot-fudge sundaes — you get to chose between bittersweet or hot fudge. In fact Twohey’s has some of the best soda-fountain service and coffee-shop baked desserts around. Ever feel like genuine freshly made Boston cream pie? Peach cobbler? Lemon meringue pie? Grape-Nut custard?
Just a few years ago, a fellow restaurant critic insisted I try a Twohey’s “Frosted” — a unique and delicious ice cream shake flavored with fresh lime, lemon or orange juice and blended with a good shot of soda water, a small, subtle touch that is responsible for creating the ineffable “frosted” effect. Another subtle invention is Tanya’s orange French toast — a bit of o.j. in the batter transforms the old breakfast standby.
The Stinko Burger is still on the menu and served with French fries. I still have yet to eat one.
Even without its amazing signage, it’s no surprise that Twohey’s is still thriving after all these years. 1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 284-7387.