“Wimpy: “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
There are a lot of juicy burgers in San Miguel. Fat Boy’s. Don Lupe. Bovine. Birdie’s. Hank’s. Berlin. But that’s only six. There are seven days in a week. And a lot of people lately have been telling me about a fairly new burger joint that I should run not walk to.
I’ve never done a top ten list of my favorite things to eat. Maybe I’m afraid of hurting some dish’s feelings. But I am, absolutely, 100% sure, no doubt about it, that a hamburger would be on that list. It’s such a simple dish. Just a piece of ground meat between two slices of bread. So simple but so good.
John Ledsome hails from Asheville, North Carolina. Big John is what they call him but, after losing 65 pounds, these days he’s more of a Long Tall John. John is an almost lifelong burger maker. In Asheville, he ran a place called AJ’s. In San Miguel, he runs a place called Big John’s Munch Box and, except for a small nod to barbecued pork, Big John’s is almost all about hamburgers and hot dogs.
Mark Tamiso and I checked out the restaurant last week.
AJ’s was a big restaurant. It sat about 100 people. Big John’s seats less than a quarter of that. It’s a comfy, cozy, warm and friendly place and John Ledsome is a warm and friendly guy. Who loves talking burgers.
“They’re all sirloin”, said John, “I have it ground to order at a butcher around the corner. The butcher adds the appropriate amount of fat. It’s about an 80/20 ratio when it’s finished.”
John Ledsome makes his patties to order as well. They come in two sizes, 4 ounces and 8 ounces. Now the perfect burger for me has a 6 ounce patty and, after I did my Goldilocks and Three Bears spiel, John had no problem customizing one that was just right for me.
“You’re the customer”, said John.
As he shapes the patty, John spices it with some dry seasonings and one secret ingredient. I took a guess at what it was. I guessed very wrong. Despite my more pronounced proboscis, ex-chef Mark took a deep sniff and guessed it right on. Let me know if you win the challenge.
The burger patty and a generous amount of pregrilled onions go into a conventional, non-stick frypan on a four burner propane stove and, at John’s suggestion, the meat is cooked to medium well.
“I’d like a big grill…and a smoker…but you’ve got to walk before you run”, said John about his restaurant’s humble beginnings in Colonia San Antonio.
The bun is a very conventional white sesame seed that the restaurant sources from Panaderia La Buena Vida. John lightly toasts it before wrapping it around the goodies in what Mark Tamiso called “a perfect meat to bun ratio”.
In addition to onions, the burger is served with a choice of cheese, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard and I asked John to make our decision for us based upon what he thought showed off his burger best.
“That would be everything”, said John and the quantity he chose was appropriate, with all of the condiments taking second place to the meat.
And how was the burger? Beefy and juicy, the kind that requires at least a couple of pauses for finger licking.
“It’s a sloppy burger but most people want a sloppy burger. Though it does cost me a pile in napkins”, said John.
So is Big John’s the best burger in town? Well that depends on a few things: where you live, how formal or friendly you want your surroundings and how much you want to pay. Big John’s prices their four ounce burger at $75 and their eight ounce at $125 which I think is very fair.
I mentioned six good San Miguel burgers earlier. Let me change that to seven.
Big John’s Munch Box is located at Refugio Sur #2, in Colonia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open from Monday to Friday, Noon to 8:00 pm; Saturday: Noon to 4:00 pm.