Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Do you know what Don Day’s Wife did when I met her? She was one of three sizzlingly hot-looking women, dressed in the tightest of bustières and highest of heels, who were the background singers for Aerospark.
And when she came in on the chorus with “Borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn to be wiiiiiiiiiiiiiild”, I was absolutely ready to “fire all of my guns at once and explode into space”.
I loved the movie Easy Rider when it came out. I remember doing a Jack Nicholson on the back of my friend Dutch’s Honda 750. I remember him saying, “Let’s ton it across the Skyway Bridge.”
“Tonning, that’s 100 mph, isn’t it?”, I answered. “Wow, can we?”
I was absolutely terrified. As I took my hands off the cold chrome bars on each side of me and, for the first (and last) time in my life, put my arms around a full grown man’s waist from behind, I decided I would never own a bike. And though Easy Rider hasn’t weathered well, those choppers have. I guess some people like to look at horses. I like to look at horsepower.
Arvin Kagan may be a lot like me. Arvin owns Fat Boy’s, the San Miguel de Allende restaurant and bar that is, in many ways, a tribute to the pleasures of the motorcycle. Yet in all the years I’ve known Arvin Kagan, I’ve never seen him in the saddle of a bike.
“I did ride”, Arvin told me. “That bike hanging from the ceiling was mine. But it’s been six years and now, yes, I guess I just like to look at them. These days, I’m a mortal.”
There are a lot of bikes to look at at Fat Boy’s. At least 100. Some of them full-size. Most of them miniatures. They reinforce the reputation of Arvin Kagan as a “character”. And that’s in a town overflowing with “characters”.
Arvin looks like a cross between Jerry Garcia and an Old Testament prophet. The biblical reference is apropos because one of his handles is “San Arvino, patron saint of the shiftless”. The stories of Arvin “the character” are endless but I think his construction of the world’s largest goose in Colonia Allende, a building that even Antonio Gaudi would consider weird, might be the summit.
Fat Boy’s is the third restaurant that Arvin Kagan has been associated with since I’ve been eating my way through San Miguel de Allende. The first, Romano’s, may have been the most successful restaurant ever in this town if “tough to get a table” was the measurement standard. The second, Hansen’s, moved the focus a little more from Italian to red meat. It was another successful restaurant if well-prepared food was the measurement standard but it never had the crowds that packed Romano’s. Its biggest and perhaps only problem was real estate. Hansen’s was an awkward building in the wrong part of town.
Fat Boy’s is in Colonia Allende, a San Miguel neighbourhood that, like Hansen’s, some would say is out-of-the-way, others would say is up-and-coming. It’s an ambitious project, a very ambitious project if you speculate how much was spent to launch it. And this time, Arvin Kagan is riding solo, no partners, no one on the back or in the sidecar.
Two weeks ago was my first time in Fat Boy’s. It took only a few minutes to realize that an out of the way location wasn’t the only thing Fat Boy’s had in common with Hansen’s. Hansen’s made a fine burger and, within a few minutes, three different people told me that Fat Boy’s had the best burger in town. Within a few minutes more I decided it was time to call a meeting of The Gentlemen Who Lunch. There was a need to see if this patty of meat and all that surrounded it really were the best in San Miguel de Allende.
The following Thursday, eleven committed carnivores met for lunch. We would check out Fat Boy’s version of America’s favorite eating-out food. We’d see if it really deserved the superlatives.
There are two burgers on Fat Boy’s menu. Arvin Kagan had told me the one called The Fat Boy was the one he’s most proud of. The servers who look like they should be on the back of hogs not waiting tables (and brought the words “eye candy” to at least one of the guy’s lips) seconded the recommendation and we were on.
There are not many choices to make when you order The Fat Boy. The burger automatically comes with sauteed onions on top and raw onions, lettuce, a slice of tomato and pickles on the side. The only decision necessary is how you want it done, with medium the strong suggestion and medium rare the only suggested exception. I don’t think any of the guys would have risked the words well done coming out of their mouth.
No chance for bacon or cheese you may be thinking. There’s a reason. The meat mix for the patty is not 100% beef. About 20% of the grind is pork. From the belly. And it adds not only taste but contributes to the juiciness. And the cheese? Chunks of American are included in the patty.
I decided not to ask what was in the spicing. Definitely salt and pepper. Maybe some garlic powder. But nothing else that I could detect.
The patty was big, 250 grams, over half a pound. The kind that you cut in half. The kind that has you leaning over the table to keep the juices off your lap. The kind that means you better come to Fat Boy’s hungry.
The bun that the patty is inserted in is simple. Very white bread except for the sesame seeds. Nothing that’s going to fight with the pleasures of the meat. And I think that’s what most people want in a bun.
Fries are automatic with your burger order at Fat Boy’s because a burger without fries is like (make up your own simile please, mine are all too clichéd). They’re cut to the traditional and perfect French frites size. They’re obviously twice fried. They’re heavily seasoned, which may mean too salty for some, but ideal for me. They can be dipped in a fine chipotle mayo that arrives at the table in a Heineken six-pack box along with the more conventional condiments.
I didn’t ask the gentlemen who lunch to rate the fries but, on that first visit to Fat Boy’s the week before, I can tell you what Don Day’s Wife said. Something along the lines of “I can’t think of any better, can you?”
And the Fat Boy burger? How did it rate with us so-called gentlemen.
As mentioned, there were eleven of us. And it was time for the game. The question was a fastball, straight down the middle. Did you just eat the best burger ever in San Miguel de Allende? Except for one little curve and that was, if it wasn’t the best burger in town, you have to tell us where to find it.
Two hands went up very quickly, one of them mine. Then three more. Then, a little bit more slowly, two more. Then, finally, after some more thought, the rest of the arms were raised. We’d voted on a few things over the years, but other than the question of whether there was time for one more drink, we’d never been unanimous.
Fat Boy’s does have the best burger in San Miguel.
Post election, we talked about the other burgers that went through our minds as we were raising our hands. We thought it important that we include some honorable mentions. There were three. The Restaurant and its sister fast food place Birdie’s received two of the votes. The third, La Frontera, was a bit of a surprise at first but not after we considered the cost.
We talked a little about how those three restaurant’s burgers were all significantly less in price and how, at $209, Fat Boy’s has probably the biggest price tag in town. But still worth it? We weren’t in total agreement, especially considering that out of the way location for some, but we all thought we’d be back, at least once in a while.
One more thing. You can’t eat and run when you visit Fat Boy’s. Because as much as it’s a bar and restaurant, Fat Boy’s is a museum, a gallery.
Inside, not only are there those motorcycles, there are motorcycle helmets, motorcycle patches, motorcycle signs, a collection of pewter cars, an entire case for those with a foot fetish, and more.
“It took me two months on eBay”, Arvin Kagan told me, “day and night, night and day.”
Outside, there are two different bean bag toss courts, an arm wrestling table, a strongman mallet and bell and, coming soon, according to Arvin, a mechanical bull.
Oh, please don’t let me have too many beers at Fat Boy’s. Oh, please don’t encourage me to get on that bull. Just feed me San Miguel’s best burger and tell me to “get your motor runnin’…”.
Fat Boy’s is located at Cinco de Mayo #5 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Telephone 415 121 5005. The restaurant is open on Thursday from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 1:00 pm to 2:00 am, and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm.