Henry Cram and Justin Cram work for KCET and love burgers. This is their story.
The second day of The Oinkster's Burger Week paid tribute to the Southern-California-born international food chain, Bob's Big Boy, a restaurant synonymous with mid-century diner culture: neon signs, classic cars, and Hollywood celebrities. Bob's Big Boy was the first to put a third piece of bun between two patties (30 years before McDonald's created the Big Mac) thus creating the Double-Decker hamburger, AKA The Big Boy. The Oinkster's tribute to the Double-Decker, aptly titled "Niño Grande," is two beef patties, triple bun, American cheese, "Big Boy" relish, mayo, and shredded lettuce.
The Oinkster's Niño Grande
The line at The Oinkster was beginning to wrap around the building when we arrived. We added fries to our order and found a place to sit outside. Beneath the umbrellas on the patio, patrons were already chowing down, content and grinning.
Our burgers arrived. Unlike the Oink-O-Nator, these patties were not freakishly huge. The lettuce was verdant and crunchy, and the buns (all three pieces) were toasted and warm. It was the burger joint version of the diner classic. It wore its hat to the side, its shirt untucked, and had a gangster lean. This beef had attitude: it was pink and hand-formed and topped with melted American cheese. Yum.
The Double-Decker is very similar to McDonalds' Big Mac (see the Oinkster tribute), save for the sauce. While the Big Mac has a Thousand Island-like "special sauce," The Big Boy has "big boy" sauce, a combo of ketchup and relish that is more sweet and tangy. We made very quick work of the burgers.
The fries were perfectly cooked and served with The Oinkster's garlic aioli. Those disappeared quickly too. We sat for a while, preparing ourselves for a second dinner, when we were asked if we wanted more of anything. We couldn't help but snort-laugh as we cleared the table and headed to Bob's Big Boy.
Bob's Big Boy: The Double-Decker
We are fortunate to work right down the street from the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy location, built in 1949. Their iconic mascot with his big, doughy eyes, rip-curl cowlick, and red and white checkered overalls greeted us at the door, a double-decker burger held proudly above his head.
The Beatles ate there once in 1965. We asked the hosts to point out the booth. They were happy to do so. They also showed us a plaque commemorating the occasion.
The atmosphere at Bob's is great. Mid-century architecture, devoted and friendly staff and the occasional celebrity make it a fun place for family dinners and first dates. We were seated instantly and given menus. We didn't even need to open them. We're easy.
The burger was surprisingly symmetrical. Its sesame seed bun was lightly toasted and generously smeared with big boy sauce. The yellow cheese slice was delicately draped in place, only slightly melted. Everything fit; it looked gorgeous.
It tasted liked it looked. Every ingredient was purposeful and had a voice; textures had clarity. The beef was okay; cooked all the way through and the patties were thin and disturbingly identical to each other, but it all tasted so good. We felt a renewed appreciation for the burger.
The verdict: we have to celebrate Bob's Big Boy along with The Oinkster on this one. The tribute burger was great because it put The Oinkster's twist on a true classic. As if Quentin Tarantino remade Gone With The Wind. Bob's Big Boy wins because The Oinkster gave us a new appreciation for the history of the classic Double-Decker. And really, that's what burger week is all about.
Words by Henry, photos by Justin.