Hawkins House of Burgers Has Been Serving L.A. for over 80 years
Breaking bread is the most unifying act between friends and loved ones, and in the Hawkins household, those moments were shared between 14 children who James and Elsie Hawkins shared together.
According to the baby of the family, now a leader in operations, Cynthia Hawkins said, “The Hawkins family have proudly been an institution in Watts / Willowbrook for over 80 years.” She continued, “For years being a beacon of light for the community, providing free meals to our neighbors when the need arises. We believe that it is incumbent upon us to offer a helping hand to our neighbors and we are honored to do so, following the tradition.”
The journey began in the late 1930s, located at 11603½ South Slater Street, in Los Angeles California. The Hawkins House of Burgers reflects the growth in the culture and the rich flavor of the community. Creative innovations like the “Whipper Burger,” a double burger with pastrami and hotlink on a brioche bun, are found on the same menu as the more traditional options like the Salmon Croquette Dinner.
There is such a breath within the selected items to choose from with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Hawkins House of Burgers leaves a window open for creativity with the “Build you Burger your way!” and “Make any item a combo.”
Such creativity came from within the Hawkins family according to Cynthia. One of the brothers, Elton, comes up with the mixology of the burgers that are on the menu. She said, “Every item that he has thought of has been our best sellers.” This includes, “The Leaning Tower of Watts” and the “Farmer Otis Burrito.” Cynthia explained the first bite into these burgers feels like “the first time a kid goes to Disneyland,” a magical moment with an explosion of happy emotions running through the body.
When asked to pick her favorite item off the menu, Cynthia said, “There are so many delicious dishes that our customers crave for, that it’s hard to choose!” She continued, “We have the best fried chicken this side of the Mississippi! The applewood bacon with cheeseburgers that customers die for! Catfish that make you wanna’ holla! Strawberry lemonade that customers drool for and Chicken and Waffles that are second to none!” She ended with explaining the mission of the Hawkins family is to cater to the needs of the community, and that includes the needs of comfort from a hardy meal.
Father of 14 children, James Henry Hawkins, made sure to install these words and base the Hawkins legacy on this motto, “Take care of your community and they will always take care of you!” The children between James and Elsie Hawkins include Ola, Thelma, Katheryn, Rosie, Maesoa, Mattie, Alberta, James Jr., Yancey, Newton, Otis, Eugene, Elton, and Cynthia.
Hawkins House of Burgers looks for ways to include the community. The produce used in their dishes are locally sourced and bought on a daily schedule to guarantee freshness. With close attention to detail, the veggies are examined and only the best are used in the dishes. Cynthia stated, “Hawkins never cut corners on the product that is served to our patrons.”
What sets Hawkins House of Burgers apart from a lot of other burger joints is the commitment and love for the community. Cynthia shared that the well-being of the collective culture will always be “the bottom line.” That philosophy has been passed down through the Hawkins line, as Yancey Hawkins, Cynthia’s grandfather, built the establishment in the late 1930s.
She shared memories of her grandparents setting up chairs and tables outside to feed the neighborhood at no cost. James “Papa” Hawkins gave away 1,000 turkeys and hams and designed a local garden for Watts / Willowbrook residents to pick produce from at no charge. The love for the residents in their neighborhood is the core ingredient to Hawkins success in the hospitality industry.
The community is a part of every step that goes into making the Hawkins Burger, one can taste the rich history that reflects the unity of breaking bread in the community. Hawkins House of Burgers can be found on Postmates, Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats. One can find their menu at the Hawkins Burgers website. Much love and peaceful thoughts go to the siblings who passed: Thelma, Alberta, Yancey, and Otis. Their legacy, alongside the Hawkins philosophy of loving the community through nutrition, will continue living, through every passing generation to come.
This story has been updated with new information and images.