Brute burger force for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
If the current crop of gourmet burgers is built on finesse (hand-crafted ketchups and house-cured pickles), then the colossal creations of Big Mike’s in Bellflower are things of brute force. These aren’t burgers that land in your stomach with intestinal indifference—they sock you in the gut by the third or fourth bite. Burgers at Big Mike’s are ungainly mountains of meat in the truest American sense, sandwiches super-sized to skyscraping heights that bludgeon you into acceptance and, eventually, bliss.
The signature Big Mike burger will make you tremble: a fat, hand-formed patty wedged into a tower of lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickle and onion that’s capped by a hot link. To make the burger a bit more manageable, the hot link is split in half and splayed out on the grill to allow for easy assembly. There are certainly more graceful burgers in the world, sophisticated sandwiches that subscribe to the tenets of modern gourmet cooking, but Big Mike’s is about raw power. And between the steak-sized patty and the spicy snap of the hot link, the signature burger capably delivers.
Still, Big Mike’s doesn’t stop there. Above the wall-mounted menu are a couple of faded posters pitting a double Big Mike burger against a pitiful-looking Big Mac. It’s no contest: the double Big Mike (all the accoutrements of the singular Big Mike multiplied by two) simply shames its fast-food competition. And it’s even more daunting in real life, the literal pinnacle of the restaurant’s burger-building. If you have the courage to take one on—the double burger will draw all the attention in the restaurant’s white-walled, white-tabled and white-chaired interior—know that it’s too much for any one human to handle and should probably be served with some kind of stomach-insuring waiver.
Other burger variations abound at Big Mike’s as well. Counting those that are simply double versions of base burgers, there are over a dozen options. Standard choices like bacon cheeseburgers and turkey burgers are offered, but so are pastrami burgers and Friday-friendly fish burgers.
Given its location—carved out of a Clark Avenue corner in an unremarkable stretch of town that’s equally industrial and residential—it’s unsurprising that Big Mike’s expands its appeal by offering more than just burgers. Breakfast is considered (catfish and eggs, omelets and pancakes are all available), but Big Mike’s expends the most energy on its barbecue.
Short of some armored edifice belching out smoke behind the counter, Big Mike’s has all the trappings of barbecue joint. The dinner menu is positively Southern, including ribs, fried chicken, pork chops, beef oxtails and more. Sides follow suit with the likes of mac and cheese, potato salad, sweet candied yams and baked beans. Should you want to skip the burgers at Big Mike’s (a decision advisable only once you’ve slogged through at least one Big Mike burger), the restaurant provides a number of compelling, meaty alternatives.
Despite its versatility, Big Mike’s is clearly no place for those unwilling to stretch their stomachs. It is, however, a haven for those trying to eek out the most meat per dollar. And by that metric, it’s no wonder Big Mike’s has handily survived more than a dozen years. It helps, too, that the restaurant also happens to have a light heart and probably the best slogan going: “Seven days without a Big Mike’s burger makes one weak.” With the restaurant’s hours allowing for Sunday service, that’s especially fitting: on the seventh day, there’s no rest for or from Big Mike’s.
BIG MIKE’S 17845 S CLARK AVE | BELLFLOWER 90706 | 562.866.6967 | OPEN MON-SAT 10AM-9PM | SUN 10AM-7PM | FOOD FOR TWO $10-20