‘Eater Eats Under $9

Where I ate: The Hat, 23641 Rockfield Blvd, Lake Forest
What I ate: Chili Cheese Fries
What it cost me: $4.73

The Hat is the home of the “World Famous Pastrami.” Thinly sliced pastrami is layered and stacked onto a soft French bread roll, topped with mustard and pickles. The pastrami is so thin and so soft that it makes you wonder how so much flavor can possibly be packed into these slices. This sandwich, which is served hot, is the largest advertised item on the menu:

“Pastrami Dip $6.99” is boldly written in large white font.

However, though I encourage you to try this hot button treat on another trip to this restaurant, my focus in this column is not the pastrami. Along with various types of hot and cold sandwiches, hot dogs and a variety of different hamburgers and sides, The Hat is probably better known for its massive serving of chili cheese fries.

The chili cheese fries here are as enormous as they are delicious. The serving size is colossal. Fries overflow from the tray that they are served in, and even the hungriest of stomachs would have a hard time putting all these fries away. Large cut fries are smothered in chili and shredded cheddar cheese is layered and melted on the chili, along with chopped onions.

On a busy day, the restaurant is packed with hungry people. The inviting light wood interior gives this diner a unique feeling, with its brown cushioned seats and wood panel walls. The light-blue clad workers happily great you as you read the extensive menu that covers the back wall behind the cashier. The middle section of the counter is covered in an impressive display of 16 condiment towers of ketchup, mustard, Thousand Island ranch dressing, salt and pepper. The wall of individual sized packets is a convenient source of unlimited condiments.

The Hat is an excellent destination if you’re in the mood for classic American food. The prices are reasonable, especially considering the hearty portions you are given. Just two exits down from the Irvine Spectrum, you are bound to leave The Hat with a happy stomach. Be forewarned, however, that it will take more than one person to conquer the enormity of The Hat’s chili cheese fries.