Big Mouth endures.
I first got a burger there, on 24th near Valencia, 22 years ago, and I remember thinking, “that’s a good burger.” For a number of years afterward, I would get one at least two or three times a month. I was never disappointed.
For various reasons, mostly bad, I haven’t been to Big Mouth for a few years. While waiting for GrubHub (about an hour, which seems excessive), I became anxious and began pacing nervously around the house. What if my burger memory was failing? What if I had confused Big Mouth burgers with another burger from my foggy past? Or, worse: What if Big Mouth had lost it — whatever “it” is, or was?
When the bag arrived, I went straight for the fries.
In 2000, Big Mouth fries were voted Best Fries in San Francisco by me and my two daughters. They were thick-cut, fresh-tasting, crowd-pleasing fries. Greasy but not too greasy. Salty but not too salty. Big Mouth claims to hand-cut their fries daily which may have something to do with it.
The fries in 2020 were more on the soggy side of existence. No doubt they had once been hot and hearty, but by the time GrubHub dumped them off, they had lost much of their warmth and vitality.
And yet they held up. They didn’t shrivel or hang their head. They were proud Big Mouth fries, still with a taste, echoes of that fresh hand-cut taste they had long ago.
The best thing to do, from the fries’ point of view, would be pick-up, not delivery. Pick up a burger and fries and eat across the street on the church stairs or go over to Juri Commons. You can pick at the fries on the way over while they’re still hot. Well worth it.
And the burger?
The burger looked — and tasted — just like it did 22 years ago. They claim to use a ground chuck that lacks the hormones, antibiotics, and other chemical delights floating around most of our contemporary American burgerworld.
At a half pound, it’s thick. I ordered medium rare and got medium. Which was OK: not juicy, but not dry. A solid burger. Not a foreign or exotic burger, not a wagyu burger, more like the burger next door. A burger you can depend on to watch a game or a British detective series. A burger you can Zoom with friends and family. A burger to leave you sated, but not stuffed.
I got my burger on a whole wheat bun. About midway through, the bread and meat had melded into one which enhanced the chewing and taste experience.
I was raised by a couple of serious carnivores who didn’t believe in diluting beef with plant life, so I put the lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles on the side. All were relatively fresh, and the lettuce, especially, had more than a simple ornamental presence to it. These were no shrinking vegetables.
Julian, next time you spend some quality time with the cops, tell them to pick up a burger and fries from Big Mouth before their burger budget gets defunded. —MR
Regarding Big Mouth, I feel much the same way the respected Dr. Annie Luetkemeyer, Professor of infectious disease at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, felt in late May about Trump’s favorite coronavirus treatment, hydroxychloroquine: “There really isn’t that much to say.”
I’m not saying you’re peddling a dubious treatment for a burger hankering in Big Mouth. But does Big Mouth do the job? I don’t need any further randomized control studies to say, with confidence, only kind of.
Though I don’t have a 22-year history with the burger joint on 24th and Valencia, I have gone there many times — first on the recommendation of, yes, one of your daughters. I wasn’t blown away. And yet, I keep going back.
Because Big Mouth is … there. You’re right, it is the Burger Next Door. It delivers a solid burger in a pinch if you live in the Mission, don’t want to pay a premium and need something to graze on while watching British detective shows (or whatever gets you excited these days).
First of all, the french fries are of the darker variety that seem as though the fry cook heated up cold fries by just throwing them back into the deep frier. I’m not sure if this is true, but that’s how they taste. They were fine, and actually I ate all of them — of course, with help from some Papalote habañero salsa.
The burger does have one thing going for it: It’s big. But the patty is precisely where it fails. While plentiful, I’ve always thought Big Mouth’s beef has that frozen-until-cooked taste and, as snobs like to say, “mouthfeel.”
Furthermore, the lettuce tasted old, and the burger came with too many raw red onions. And the bun, actually quite fresh, seemed to struggle to contain everything.
Despite some of Big Mouth’s deficiencies, it does serve a clean burger — not too greasy and not too heavy, especially for its size. I might add that it did provide some good cheese paper at the end (an oft-overlooked burger metric), as I was able to pull some delectable globs of melted swiss from the burger’s wrapper after I was done.
There’s no question I’ll keep going back to Big Mouth. But, you know, only because it’s there, sitting next door.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new kid on the block — World of Noodles — and, yes, they’re sellin’ burgers. See you there. —JM
Earlier skirmishes with burgers.
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