447 West Hildebrand
(by the railroad tracks near San Pedro)
Last Spring, I went to the Big Bob's Burgers on Harry Wurzbach and found it interestingly unimpressive. Soon after, the restaurant moved to the edge of my own neighbourhood, and the owner sent me a comment through this blog (which, it appears, I didn't publish, and deleted; I don't remember why) asking me to try the new location. Today, my friend Rick and I did just that, making it a point to order the same meal we had gotten at the old location (except that I passed on the fried Twinkie.)
The first difference I noted was in the pricing. The cheeseburger combo was still $6.50, but now it consists of the burger and a drink, whereas last time it included fries. Our total bill this time was about the same without the fried Twinkie as it was last May. (The Twinkie is now four cents more, but, like, who cares?)
The second difference was the service. This time it was fine. Businesslike. Efficient. Last time it was particularly good, and we felt welcomed in a way that we didn't feel today. Today, we were just customers.
The new location seems larger than the old one, and naturally has not had time yet to acquire the slightly grungy patina of age (also known, in some circles, as "character"), but the staff seems to be making a good start. I noticed unswept floors by the cash register, by the drinks stand, and by our table, and the chairs had not been wiped when the tables were bussed. If this had been the tail end of the lunch rush I would overlook that, expecting that it would be dealt with when the staff was less harried; but this was before the rush had begun. There was no excuse for the lax housekeeping.
The food itself was improved from before. Not so much the burgers, which were both large and very well dressed, with soft and tasty buns; but both burgers still lack that very desirable grilled flavour that is the first requisite to separate the ordinary from the extraordinary. The onion rings, which were good last time, were excellent today: large, crispy, fried in clean, hot oil to the right degree of doneness. The serving size might have been smaller than last time, but given that, before, we had to leave some of them on the table, that wasn't a problem. The fries showed the biggest improvement, mainly because they, too, were fried in clean oil. They are hand cut, with the peelings on, and so there are substantial differences in texture depending on how close to the outside of the 'tater a particular fry was, but they were generally more satisfying than before. They still had a dusting of seasoned salt on them, but not enough, on this occasion, to displease. I note, though, that many of the fries were fragments, indicating that they were from the dregs of a fryer basket that had seen some rough treatment.
Big Bob's Burgers is okay; just okay. But in this neighbourhood, if people want a really good burger, they will think first of Chris Madrid's (Lord knows why), and second of Daddy Macky's, both of which are a few blocks away, on Blanco. I don't doubt that Big Bob's can survive here, but if its owner wants to prosper, I think he really needs to up his game.