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There's a couple of reasons why Biggie's Burgers doesn't get the countywide love it deserves. Most important is its location: in the terra incognita of South El Camino Real in San Clemente, a stretch most OCers only visit if they get off the northbound 5, trying to escape traffic. Even if they drive by, said commuters probably overlook the place, as it stands in a former Taco Bell (the old faux-adobe type), elevated just above street level, with a small, constantly full parking lot. And in a burger era in which bulky is better, these no-frills steamed hams are downright Luddite.
Oh, Biggie's hawks a Kingburger that has made some noise in OC foodie circles, a three-patty beast worth its seven-bucks-and-change price. But whether you get that or just a single patty, Biggie's knows why Americans love burgers in the first place: simplicity. All it offers is an egg bun, shredded lettuce, a never-frozen patty, onions, some secret sauce and tomatoes. Ketchup? To taste, with bottles from Dana Point's excellent Kickin' Ketchup to add heat. Sides? Nothing crazier than curly fries, although the onion straws are as wispy as fried air. The rest of the menu? Hot dogs, a couple of salads, sandwiches and a veggie/chicken/turkey option for the patties. To wash everything down? Soda or a milkshake.
People aren't going to drive down from Yorba Linda for the basics—which is too bad. Because Biggie's Burgers is one of the best mom-and-pop non-chain burgers in Orange County, San Clemente's best-kept secret after the Red Fox Lounge. Locals have loved it for nearly 25 years now—weekends are a wonderful mix of retirees sitting at the counter, cyclists asking strangers to keep an eye on their fixies, families and construction workers. Tales of customers placing memorable orders—Marines calling in from Iraq just before they come back home, surfers taking more than 100 to San Onofre—are the stuff of San Clemente legend. We might not love Biggie's enough, and it's our damn loss: The owners are scheduled to open a second branch in San Diego this fall. Damn it!
Biggie's Burgers, 1017 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 492-9182; www.biggiesburgers.com.