Please note – this review was written somewhere in 2011, so details may have changed, burgers may taste worse/better and we recommend double-checking location details before making a visit.
Is there a better holiday than the 4th of July? Once every year we all get to embrace our inner ‘mericans and celebrate the anniversary of our country being all like, “awww naw you didn’t, King!” by eating too much food, drinking enough beer to blind an Irishman and enjoying the warm weather. Not that we have much in the way of seasons here in San Francisco. I know most of the country is experiencing a heat wave, in exchange for spending months and months buried under snow and having to wear layer after layer of sweaters, coats and wool hats. Instead, we San Francisco residents get to enjoy mostly mild, pleasant weather, in our Faustian bargain in which one day God/Xenu/Oprah will smite us all with an Earthquake or by eliminating Asian noodle restaurants from our food sources. But in the meantime, yours truly got all up in that 4th holiday and ate my weight in wieners over the course of about four days, and I haven’t been able to say that since I went through a very confusing period in college around the time I discovered Morrissey. But I avoided burgers. Most of our crew even attended a barbecue prior to the 4th in which burgers were served, and while Chris went for one of the burgers, cooked to a delicious tartare-esque temperature, I stayed away – opting instead to wait for our review location.
It was difficult to conjure up the next location, because our prior review was a Sadness Parade consisting of nothing but hungover clowns and half-assed floats from banks. For a brief moment we even considered just ending the whole thing, because not only was our last review the very first time we had overwhelmingly negative things to say about burgers (gasp! ye gods!) but it made us question our very faith in humanity. As we entered into that somber conversation, Joe brought up that he was considering walking the Earth solving mysteries as he hunted for his lost half-brother. George said he was thinking about becoming a backup singer for Lionel Richie, because “Hello” is his jam, yo. And Chris and James thought it was finally time to get back to their lifestyle of being street hustlers, attracting gentleman callers with nothing but a smile and a sly look on the street corner.
But we couldn’t throw in the towel that easily. This intrepid crew of burger crusaders knew it was time to pull up our bloomers, march back into the flames of burgerdition and prove once again that the world was safe for truth, justice and the right to put both bacon AND a fried egg on a hamburger. So we looked around to find a spot that would help to reaffirm our hopes for humanity, with just a few bits of criteria: (a) it could be nowhere near a Barney’s, (b) it had to be very different from Barney’s and (c) Barney’s can suck it. That last one isn’t really criteria of any kind, but this is our list and we’ll make it however we want. It was with those aspirations of greatness that our crew decided upon Big Mouth Burgers, located at 24th and Valencia in the Mission area of San Francisco. They do have a second location in San Bruno, and the place has a decent word-of-mouth. But not a single one of us had tried the place. Even yours truly, who finds himself somewhat frequently on the hunt for tasty food in the Mission area after crushing many cups of ye olde Pabst Blue. But in my defense, there’s a pretty great cheesesteak restaurant next door which always lured my inebriated tastebuds in prior to making it into Big Mouth.
But with all of our merry band ready to go, we brushed our hands off like Popeye after proving violence solves everything and walked into Big Mouth in search of some tasty eats. Right off the bat the mood in Big Mouth was different from Barney’s – mostly, they seemed happy to see customers. In fact, we were greeted like conquering heroes by the staff, and only three of us were wearing viking helmets. It’s a pretty easygoing setup for the joint, which is ideal for lunch or fueling up before heading out to the bars. You walk in, order and pay at the counter and then grab a seat while they cook your burger, practically right in front of you.
Big Mouth has a few specialty burgers on their menu, including one called “The Hangover” – but, more on that later. You can also build your own burger from their list of ingredients, including a choice of bun. They do a standard 1/2 pound patty, which we – and our aortas – salute them for. And while they do not grind their meat on the premises daily, we were told by the staff they order fresh meat daily. And they DO handle their fries in-house daily. Already, things were looking up. We all made our selection and waited with bated breath, in the hopes of Big Mouth hitting a home run into our heart-holes.
Big Mouth isn’t going to win any awards for Best Decor, but it is a pleasant little burger joint with some personality, which we’ll take any day over well-scrubbed shiny newness and trendy signs on the bathrooms. Sodas come in cans, they have a couple of beers on tap and the decorations on the wall were probably showing their age when Reagan made the transition from complacent, bewilderingly-popular governor to complacent, bewilderingly-popular President.
Toppings on the table are the basicest basic to ever basic: ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper. What kind of ketchup and mustard? No idea, nor did it prove to be much of a deterrent to enjoying our meals.
The Big Mouth kitchen is almost completely in the same room as the dining area, so you can hear – and watch, if you’re so inclined – them make your food. This isn’t something I’m always necessarily excited about, since it seems to pop up mostly at places like Taco Bell or Subway, which usually means you’re either eating a chalupa while hungover all by your lonesome, or watching an angry philosphy major throw together your Cold Cut Combo on a lunch break. But not so with Big Mouth…their cooks know their way around a burger, fries and onion rings.
Speaking of, onion rings! Barney’s didn’t have any, and we were all getting perilously low on our blood levels of battered-and-fried vegetables. We always order them wherever we can, but this time we didn’t even discuss it beforehand and we ended up getting somewhere in the realm of 73 orders. They use a beer batter on their rings and serve them with a tiny tub of Ranch dressing, but they don’t really need the extra creamy “oomph” to your cholesterol. Very tasty onion rings, with no complaints. Before we could get all the rings crammed into our crammy-holes, our food began to arrive en masse. Lay back and enjoy, because we’re about to ravish you with hot meat between buns.
For George’s momentous return to the flock, he went hellbent for leather and got…his usual! Hooray for routine! George got his standard regular burger, cooked medium-rare. Big Mouth does their burgers medium-rare as the standard, another point in their favor and what most of us prefer, although you can order it cooked however you want. The burgers come with lettuce, onions, pickles and tomato on the side for you to compile as you see fit and come with an order of their fries.
Gaylord James got the regular Big Mouth Burger, topped with swiss cheese, their spicy chipotle mayo and bacon. A word on Big Mouth’s bacon – you go, Big Mouth. This place has their bacon prep down cold, and they throw quite a bit of it at you. The bacon is crispy without being overly fried and flavorful without taking over the burger. Plus, there’s a ton of it. Personally I haven’t enjoyed bacon on a burger this much since our very first review at Pearl’s Deluxe, way back in the summer of 1912.
Marci ordered up a Big Mouth Burger as well, and opted to go with the spicy chipotle and some barbecue sauce for her toppings. She went with the wheat bun too, just to give it a try.
Joe ordered the wheat bun for his Big Mouth Burger too – then negated any good that may have done by topping it with pepperjack cheese, spicy chipotle and the sweet porky goodness of Big Mouth’s bacon.
Leila…well, Leila was our special little girl on this trip. When she looked at the menu, she didn’t understand that “The Californian” didn’t actually come with meat. What it does come with is eggplant, red and green peppers and red onions marinated in rosemary and olive oil and grilled with provolone cheese on a foccacia bun with pesto sauce. Leila opted out of the eggplant and went with mushrooms instead, but when it came to the table and she realized there was no meat, she made a sad face like a kid who was just told they couldn’t get into the sandbox because somebody had made a boom-boom.
Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a tasty sandwich – it was. Now, associates have asked if they can tag along on a burger trip, and if it’s okay if they order a turkey burger or – blegh – a veggie burger. And we always respond the same way – you go to hell with your turkey burger or veggie burger. If you want to order that, you go hang out with the San Francisco vegan loser blog, where you can judge meals based on how much karmic damage you did or how much it warmed your heart chakra. This is about burgers made from cows, and the more hopes and dreams the cows had prior to being turned into burgers the better. But Leila won’t be kicked out…yet. If you know Leila, you know nothing made her more disappointed than seeing that tray come out without a meat patty on it. She stopped just shy of tears, but then asked me for a strip of bacon from my burger to add to her meal, so she could avoid going without any meat whatsoever. And speaking of my burger…Chris and I both decided to dream the impossible dream and to soar with the eagles for this one. We both got The Hangover, Big Mouth’s specialty burger that takes the others, slaps it around and makes it want to order body-building courses from the back of a comic book.
Sit right back and I’ll tell you a tale, kiddies. Take a half-pound burger. Then top it with some American cheese, the most kickass of cheeses. Then throw a fried egg on top of that, cooked sunny-side up but not too runny. Then slather the bun with the spicy chipotle mayo, for a little extra richness and creaminess. Then take it to the limit and show nature who’s boss by throwing three fat strips of bacon on top.
It’s hard to tell if we were all enjoying our burgers so much because they were totally awesome, or if we were just overjoyed to not be eating at Barney’s…but I’m going to give Big Mouth the benefit of the doubt, because these were some hellaciously solid burgers.
Beefriffic Dreams Of Meatness: once again, they do not grind their meat in-house, but they do order fresh every day and handform their patties themselves. Their grill crew is also well-versed in the art of beef-karate, as they were cooked perfectly to order for the whole gang.
These weren’t the bestest, most amazing burgers we’ve eaten – but Big Mouth has no shame in their game. This is as formidable – and tasty – a lunch burger as we’ve seen, and for plenty of bang for your buck. The Hangover comes in at $9.75, and then comes with fries – and that’s the priciest burger on the menu. For a price like that a gentleman can take out his lady escort for a bite, and still have plenty left over for two glasses of brandy and a horse carriage ride to the clock tower. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Beef Score: 36 hooves out of 42.
Carbs carbs carbs: you can’t go wrong with a place that chops up their own fries, and Big Mouth certainly does it well. Chris got a glimpse into their backroom where all the chopping takes place, and it was a welcome change from the usual backroom situation Chris finds himself in – large men in leather bodysuits dancing to techno music with right-wing propaganda on the walls. Instead, it was a haven of potatoness, where wishes turn into rainbows prior to inspiring naptime in the tummies of all who venture nearby.
The onion rings are also tasty – the beer batter is flavorful but still retains the oniony goodness that inspires your lovers to plant sloppy kiss after sloppy kiss on you. They serve the rings with the Ranch dressing mini-tub, but it’s not really necessary unless you’re, like, totally into ranch, brah. Both the rings and fries get high marks…
Golden Brown Till We Die – Final Carb Score: 11 jiggly chins out of 14.
Overall Motif-Ness: Big Mouth Burger has that somewhat-crammed feeling of a nice local joint you could imagine swinging by regularly if you lived in that neighborhood. It’s not huge or polished to a shiny perfection, but it is welcoming and warm and pleasant, which was aided by the nice reception we got when we walked in.
All the burgers also come served on a small-ish silver pizza pan with the yellow paper, which really helps to make you feel like Lord Dionysus upon your sofa of meat.Big Mouth isn’t a First Date kind of place, unless you’re starting an awesome relationship with somebody you met at an Iron Maiden concert in the beer line who was punching another dude in the face for cutting in front of them. If that’s the case, head over to Big Mouth to carb up before you go get gnarly at a Gwar show and see who can get covered in more fake blood before being sacrificed to the Sex Worm. And if you are familiar with any of that, let me say hello to those fellow miscreants who wasted their youth. But for those who never got bodyslammed by a 330-lb. hairy and shirtless mechanic at a concert where most of the lyrics involved hobbits and wizards, you’ll want to take a date there when you’re at that magical period a few months in, when you no longer pretend the other one doesn’t fart or have an illogical fear of zebras or whatever weird stuff people come up with nowadays. I have no idea anymore; I’ve been married for nearly three years and we’re just perfecting the body-grooves in our bed and learning how to master pretending how to look like we’re listening. Decor el Amor: 77 spatulas out of 91. Look Upon Me, And Know Thy Future: as always, it’s important to note how a place makes you feel after eating it. Because we’ve said multiple times that this is a really solid lunch spot – but they are serving half-pound burgers, and nothing can make an afternoon of work less tolerable than having a gestating 1/2 lb. of meat inside your tummy, summoning you to plant your face on your desk to see if beef-sweat can finish that spreadsheet in time for the annual report while you catch a few z’s. A good contingent of our gang did the smart thing and cut their burgers in half prior to their first bites. Yours truly decided the Hangover required more dedication, and therefore went for it like a champion. And I was enjoying myself so much that I present to you the Worst Picture Ever for the Burger Blog thus far, and that’s saying a lot considering James always looks like a goon…
About 20 minutes after finishing The Hangover, I could feel the desire to sleep washing over me like the waves of constricted blood flowing out of my heart valves. I could probably have seen that coming, but the burger was so tasty I couldn’t help myself. Chris had the same experience with his, and everybody that finished their burger reported similar results. Those who cut it in half (and Leila, who chose poorly) had no such issues. If you’ve got stuff to do and you’re not a competitive eater, chop it in half. I would imagine that if I walked in around 9 p.m. with a belly full of booze (aka “happy juice”) it wouldn’t be such a devastating blow to the nervous system, but you’ll probably be better served by planning on taking out a doggy bag. That said, the meat didn’t make anybody feel bad – just sleepy. It was just so tasty we couldn’t help ourselves, and we paid the price because of it.
Wreckx-N-Effect – Final Aftermath Score: 54 Tummy ‘splosions out of 66.
Final Awesomesessment: Damir (pictured with George above) welcomed us with open arms. We all found stuff we enjoyed on the menu and the food was cooked just how we wanted it. We all laughed and had fun and really enjoyed our meal and we did it all for a pretty cheap price. Big Mouth isn’t the greatest burger you’ll ever eat, but you will have no regrets for stopping by to sample their wares. In fact, I’ve been craving another of those Hangover burgers ever since, and I’ll be back soon to scratch that itch. Big Mouth gets a TOTALLY RECOMMENDED from the Burger Blog. Thanks to the whole crew for the tasty meal. You restored our faith in not only burgers, but in mankind. With this trip we are once again renewed in our quest to eat our way through every burger we can get our greasy, sloppy hands on. And seriously – if you’re going for the first time I would totally get the Hangover. Both Chris and I were happy campers, even if it did hit me like the Sandman with a gallon of Nyquil.
With that, so closes our 11th review. Thanks to our readers, and if you enjoy the Burger Blog you can also join us via our other locations on the intertubes, where we post even more nonsense just for the heck of it. And hey – tell your friends! We’d appreciate it, and why not share the gift of ways to waste time with those you love?
Facebook!Twitter!And ladies and gents, stay tuned. Our next review will be one for the ages, as we have something special planned that we can’t wait to show you. We’re totally pumped for what’s coming, and it’s going to be an epic entry in a blog series that we think stands as the most epic of burger blogs on the web. It’s going to be awesome.