Polaroids of over-stuffed customers hang proudly below a hand-written sign that reads “Belly Buster Hall of Fame” on the wall of Big Daddy’s Burgers in Duluth. Big Daddy’s doesn’t have the national recognition of In-N-Out Burger, but the ideals of owner Doug Gonhue are the same — fresh, not frozen, patties of beef.
Since opening in March of 2001, Big Daddy’s has been independently owned; the Culver’s franchise, which uses fresh not frozen meat, has yet to move into Big Daddy territory. (The closest Culver’s are in Superior, WI and Two Harbors.)
The Belly Buster ($15), Big Daddy’s largest burger, weighs in at over a pound. It sports two half-pound patties topped with bacon, ham, pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, and sautéed onions. It isn’t as epic as the double patty Supreme Burger at The Nook in St. Paul, but in Duluth the closest rival is the Gallybuster at the Anchor Bar in Superior.
If you are not in the mood for busting your belly, there is the signature Big Daddy Burger ($9) — it’s a half-pound patty served on an oversize English muffin with sautéed mushrooms and onions, pepper jack cheese, and guacamole. The pepper jack adds a mild spice that is balanced with the guacamole. The burger is cooked to a medium temperature with a slight char on the outside. The freshness of the meat is noticed in the size and shape of the patty. Unlike frozen patties which are typically uniform in shape for saving space in a freezer, the Big Daddy’s patties come in all different shapes. The result is a burger that is always different with a homemade feel and texture.
BBQ sauce made in house has contributed to the reputation of the BBQ Bacon Burger ($7.49). The ⅓-pound burger comes with two slices of bacon and cheddar cheese on a burger bun. The BBQ sauce has a molasses like sweetness a subtle savory balance.
Big Daddy’s Burgers isn’t in the heart of downtown and the atmosphere can’t compete with the antique-laden walls of the Anchor Bar. It is a stark, cold, and quiet restaurant that brings you back because the burgers are always fresh.
Big Daddy’s Burgers
2828 Piedmont Ave
Duluth, MN 55811
OWNER: Doug Gonhue