Long Beach Lunch: GD Bro Burger

My grandma always told me not to eat any food that was an unnatural color, which for most of my childhood eliminated the joy that comes with squeezing bright turquoise Go-Gurt out of a plastic tube or diving headfirst into a bag of multicolored sour gummies. So it was with some trepidation that I first bit into a surprisingly yummy pillowy crimson raspberry hamburger bun last year—you know, those lightly grilled brioche ones that surround Orange County’s most Instagrammable takes on ‘Murican comfort food, available exclusively at GD Bro Burger.

But the gimmicky bun with a delicious purpose would have been the least of my nona’s nontraditional food worries at GD Bro. What would she say about the slurry of thoughtfully crafted ingredients nesting between the neon dough, especially that of the Italian Stallion, named in honor of our Sicilian heritage? Not only is there a coarsely ground beef patty (natch), but toppings included spinach (instead of lettuce), mozzarella sticks (instead of sliced cheese), pizza sauce (instead of barbecue sauce), pepperoni and ranch (because why not??). Another option, the Juan & Only, uses a chunk of meat stuffed with jalapeño cream cheese (instead of tomatoes, there’s pico de gallo). The Hang Loose has grilled pineapple pepperjack cheese and something called only “boss sauce.”
Since my first experience with pizza heaven in burger form at the GD Bro food truck early last year, the ultra-hip burger business has expanded, first into Great Food Truck Race glory (where it won third place), then onto its first brick and mortar in SanTana. In February, a second location opened in a strip mall in a Food 4 Less parking lot the unlikely food destination of Signal Hill, a city entirely circumscribed within the freeway-adjacent part of Long Beach.

Like Halal Guys before it, GD Bro was probably trying to capitalize on the fact that Long Beach is technically within L.A. County, hoping the droves of social media-savvy Los Angeles food-chasers—who always seem more than willing to drive and stand in lines from downtown to Santa Monica—would come farther down south for the chance to try OC’s flavor-shock burger lords. But Long Beach doesn’t work that way and (like Halal Guys), after the initial few days of long lines, the GD Bro in Signal Hill has reverted back to mellower lunch rushes.

Which is all well and good for us locals, who are loving the chance to make another food experience that’s worth the hype just a normal part of Long Beach’s food scene. The GD Bro team even created a special burger exclusively for the Signal Hill location: a fried chicken sandwich from the gods topped with honey Sriracha and cole slaw called the Bojangoals’.  (And when that Catholic grandma guilt is too much to bear, just get your burger on a buttery golden bun instead.)
You can also still order some of GD Bro’s famous sides—like the fork-busting French fry casseroles based on the burgers (Italian Stallion becomes Pizza Fries and the Juan & Only becomes Consuela Fries)—and wash it down with a Popeye lemonade (more spinach!) or one of their signature red velvet milkshakes. Eat it all inside under the wall of screaming hashtags meant to declare the sheer decadence of what you are consuming (#everydayischeatday #theydontwantyoutoeat #pattygirthmatters). Or take a chance on the sunny side patio, where a bobbing pumpjack silently pulls oil from underground in plain view of everything—a soothing reminder that red raspberry hamburger buns aren't just for Orange County anymore.

1798 E. Willow St., Signal Hill, (562) 595-5059; gdbroburger.com

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