Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Big Mouth Burgers, San Bruno

Big Mouth Burgers holds a special place in my heart.

Sorry, story time.  It is about "B Night".

Many years ago, I commuted regularly, on a shuttle that dropped me off at 24th & Mission in San Francisco.  Right in front of Big Mouth Burgers.  My group of co-workers/friends and I quickly established a tradition of going to get burgers on Monday nights.  We eventually expanded to include Papalote, for burritos, also right near the shuttle stop.  And thus, "B Night" was born.  Let's just say, I ate a lot of burgers back then.

I stopped commuting years ago though, and B Night ended as family obligations took over, and folks moved away.

Fast forward to 2016.  I hadn't been to Big Mouth in many years.  But I was attending a conference in San Bruno, directly across the street from a Big Mouth location (I had no idea that they had multiple locations.  Maybe they didn't back in the day?)  When the inevitable question of "where does this big group of people go to eat?" came up, the answer was clear to me, even though I had never visited that Big Mouth location.

It was a very similar experience to the one I remembered in the Mission.  Order at a register, take a number, seat yourself at the simple wooden tables.  Standard condiments and thin, cheap napkins on the tables in dispensers.  Our group was able to sit together by pulling some tables together, which brought back so many fond memories of doing the same in the mission location.

The menu seems to have expanded, or maybe I just didn't pay attention before.  Along with the standard burgers, with a slew of toppings and suggested creations, there were a number of vegetarian options (including a falafel burger), seafood options (a salmon burger, or fish and chips), salads, cheesesteaks, and more.  Sides also seem to have expanded.  I remembered the fries, cole slaw, and baked beans, but they also have sweet potato fries, garlic fries, cheese fries, and onion rings.  Drinks are basic soft drinks, beer, and milkshakes.

The food was fine, but not particularly notable in any way.  It was freshly prepared, served in a timely fashion, and our group of 6 was served all at once, even though we had an assortment of items.  Staff were friendly, the establishment clean.  A very solid choice, but, not mindblowing in any way.

For me though, it was nostalgia.
Vanilla Milkshake. $4.95.
Burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  That is my trifecta.  Not beer.   Milkshakes.

And Big Mouth is known to make a quality shake, using Mitchell's ice cream.  Unfortunately, I was not really thrilled by my choices: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or mango.  I wanted ... mint chocolate chip.  Oreo.  Just something more interesting.  I'd normally just pass given the mediocre options, but I was really craving a shake, so, vanilla it was (I don't usually like strawberry, I didn't want the caffeine from chocolate, and mango didn't sound great).

The milkshake was huge.  I'm pretty convinced it had more than a pint of ice cream in it.  It came in the huge metal cup, with a frosted glass with straw and spoon alongside.  Points for the frosted glass, and points for generous quantity.

The shake was far too thick to suck up when it arrived, which left me frustrated.  I kept wanting to drink some, but couldn't.  At least it didn't melt too quickly, I always hate it when my hot food arrives, I focus on that, and then discover that I have a totally melted milkshake.

Anyway, once it became drinkable it was just a very rich, thick shake.  Plain.  Not particularly vanilla-y.  Boring.

Overall, this was a disappointment, but it really was a crazy amount of Mitchell's ice cream for the price, and could easily serve 2-3 people.
Kid's Menu: Small Mouth Burger with Blue Cheese. $6.95. Sub Onion Rings ($1).
A regular burger at Big Mouth is a full half pound.  Add on a serving of fries, and a milkshake, and, well, it is just too much.  My ground of friends and I always ordered Small Mouth burgers instead, from the kid's menu, and even though it says for ages 10 and under, no one has ever questioned us.

The Small Mouth burger, like the regular Big Mouth Burger, is served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles on the side to add on as you wish.  The lettuce was fresh and crisp, but the tomatoes weren't ripe, and the pickles not juicy or flavorful.  Not the best toppings.

The bun was nicely toasted, although a generic boring bun.  The beef patty was decently quality, but cooked well done, and with the small patty size, this made it fairly flavorless and dry.

The burger?  Not memorable in any way.

Burgers normally come with fries, but you can upgrade your fries to garlic fries, cheese fries, chili cheese fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings for $1 more.  Or to baked beans or coleslaw for no charge.  I used to always get fries, or sometimes coleslaw, but I read great things about the rings, so went for them this time.

The onion rings were good, clearly freshly fried.  Assorted sizes.  A bit greasy, but not too bad.  The batter didn't fall off.  Rings come with a side of ranch dressing, which is usually a great combination, but, this ranch wasn't particularly good.

Overall, freshly prepared food, but nothing notable.
Chili Cheese Fries.
One of my dining companions opted to upgrade to chili cheese fries.  I tried a couple while waiting for mine to arrive.

The fries were thick cut fries, as I remembered from Big Mouth.  Fresh, a bit greasy, just like the onion rings.

The glowing cheese sauce wasn't very flavorful though, and quite a let down.  I think the plain fries were better.
Kid's Menu: Golden Nuggets $5.95, Sub Sweet Potato Fries $1).
I don't entirely know why,  but one diner decided he wanted chicken nuggets.  At a place known for their burgers.  I understand ordering a cheese steak perhaps, or even trying one of the veggie or fish options, but ... chicken nuggets?

Anyway, I didn't try the nuggets, but I did help myself to most of the sweet potato fries (subbed out for regular fries).  And a generous pile of fries they were.

The fries were much like the regular fries and the onion rings - freshly fried, piping hot, slightly greasy but not overwhelming.  They came in assorted sizes and thicknesses, and I liked the contrast of the thicker fluffy ones and the thinner crispy ones.  The sweet potato flavor was decent.

The sweet potato fries come with a "special" dipping sauce, the lighter color sauce on the right.  I couldn't ever figure out what it was.  It wasn't a honey mustard as I was hoping (my favorite with sweet potato fries).  It tasted a bit like BBQ, except that the chicken nuggets came with BBQ (the darker sauce), and these sauces were quite different.  (Side note: I really didn't like the BBQ sauce, not with the fries, not with the onion rings.  I love BBQ sauce, but this was too sweet and not complex and just not for me).  I didn't like this special sauce with the fries, but I ended up liking it with the onion rings, particularly compared to the ranch.
Pesto, Sundried Tomato Spread, Caper Aioli, Olive Tapanade.
I was pretty unsatisfied with my dipping sauces, always a key element of a meal for me, so I scanned the menu board looking at the other sauces, and went up to order one.  I saw sundried tomato aioli listed, and asked for aioli, thinking it would be great for my fries.  The worker asked which aioli I wanted.  I was confused, as there was only one kind, and said "the sundried tomato?"  She offered that they had caper aioli too.  I said either one was fine, as I really just wanted aioli of any sort.

I assumed she'd just grab a little thing of aioli and hand it over, but instead, she went over to talk to the kitchen, and then went to do other things.  I sat back down, kinda thinking that I wasn't going to get anything, and also wondering if I should be paying for it?  I think sauces were normally $1?  A few minutes later though, she came over with a platter of sauces!  Most weren't appropriate for dipping things, and were more suited for spreads for the burgers, but it was a nice gesture, and of course I tried them all.

The sundried tomato spread, the tapanade, and the pesto were all very flavorful, but they were thick and not really right for dipping.  They would all compliment burgers well I'm sure.

The caper aioli was great though.  I mean, it was mayo with capers, so slightly salty and briny, and right up my alley.  The sweet potato fries were much better when dipped in it.

My favorite bites were sweet potato fries in aioli, followed closely by the onion rings in special sauce.
Big Mouth Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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