I will admit I was skeptical of GD Bro Burger. First of all, I've eaten a lot of burgers, and there's honestly not a lot of space to innovate between two buns. Second — and the guys behind GD Bro know it — the trademark red bun that adorns all of their burgers kind of looks like a gimmick.
But the truck just made it on the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race and the Afters guys have cosigned the restaurant by investing, so last Thursday night, I figured 'heck, why not' and made the trip to the friends and family soft open at the old Toro Burger spot in Santa Ana, where GD Bro Burger's new brick and mortar is now operational.
First things first: The wait was and will be long, and like I said in the first Milky Bun review, it's probably not worth it if you have to stand in line for longer than half an hour.
That being said, the food at GD Bro is genuinely good. If you're looking for hip multicultural-chic burgers, the ones at GD Bros are comfortably some of the best you can get. The team behind the restaurant actually put some thought into their food construction, unlike some other hip burger spots (ahem, Umami), and it really shows.
GD Bro's main distinguisher from other shacks is their wonderfully crimson burger bun. The bun worried me the most, because to get this kind of color in bread, you often bake at a lower temperature to prevent too much browning. This makes the bread pretty, but unfortunately can also dry it out. I'm pleased to report that, thanks in part to a higher than average fat content, GD Bro's brioche-type red burger buns aren't dry at all. They're wonderfully pliant, soft and airy, like biting into a freshly fluffed pillow.
The fat in the buns works double duty. In addition to keeping the texture wonderful, it also keeps the bun from dissolving under the weight of wet toppings and juicy meat, my personal pet peeve when it comes to burgers (again, ahem, Umami).
Right now, on menu you can get six different burgers. If you can't see them in the picture up there, head on over to their website, where five of 'em are listed. The one missing is the KBBQ poutine burger. I've only tasted two of them, and my general consensus so far is that the flavors work, the ingredients are fresh, the sauces are saucy, and everything is more or less tasty.
The toppings are where the burgers get their identity. GD Bro puts everything in their burgers, from fried mozzarella sticks on their Italian Stallion to kettle-cooked potato chips on their All-American and full on kalbi poutine on their KBBQ poutine burger, and it works. Because the buns are so hearty, everything more or less stays in place, and that's helped even more by the fact that many of the toppings aren't even toppings — they're bottomings. (For a crash course on bottomings and how they can help a burger out, check out this Serious Eats article on recreating the Whooper). Of course, pieces of flair can't do too much without a good base on sit on, so let's talk about the beef.
GD Bro uses a rougher grind for their beef and forms their patties a little looser, which is awesome, because you get a very good amount of beef flavor. The patties are huge too, much thicker than almost anywhere else in OC save for maybe Slater's. It's a worthy base for everything else to sit on, though it's not my absolutely favorite (That honor goes to Mick's, who was present at the opening).
All in all, the burgers at GD Bro are as good of an $8 – $11 burger as you're going to get. If that's what you're craving, you'll be pretty happy. Give 'em a few weeks to get the kinks in service worked out and for the lines to die down, and there's no reason GD can't become a new OC favorite.
2321 E 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705