UPDATE: Big Belly Burger is now permanently closed, its owners having all died of heart attacks.
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BIG BELLY. A name that inspires confidence. That delights the senses. Thrills the imagination! Big. Belly. Kind of… kind of sexy, yeah?
…okay no. It’s a terrible name. But clearly Big Belly Burger is not concerned with appearances! APPEARANCES ARE DUMB. I can understand that. For example, I have a giant beard, and sometimes when I eat ‘violently’ (which is more often than not), I get stuff in my beard. “Stuff” includes, but is not limited to: barbecue sauce, salad dressing, Brunswick stew, chip crumbs, cereal, honey, marshmallow fluff, and beans. But appearances be damned! That just means I have a meal for later! Score. So I can understand the simplicities of a place called Fat Belly’s. Or whatever this place is called.
Belly’s, in Brandon, is your average sports bar/grill type joint. The walls and ceilings are plastered with television after television, encouraging interest in SPORTS and other such ENTERTAINMENTS. Which I do not care for. But it’s that kinda place. It would probably feel very awkward without them, actually. Imagine sitting at the bar, lodged between two anonymous ‘bellies’, with nothing in front of you but a bartender and your beer. What would you do then? Talk to those dudes?? Nuh-uh. No. I refuse. Quasi-erotic shake weight commercial it is.
In addition to televisions, there are a few arcade machines (including Nicktoons racing!) strewn about the premises. The service here is friendly and welcoming. While we were there, we were treated to the sweet symphony of power tool drilling, as construction or repairs of some sort were taking place. The server seemed pretty apologetic about that. But it’s not like it was peak dining hours (Tuesday before lunch), so I guess it was as good a time as any to do that sort of thing.
We doubled up on appetizers, due to gluttony. First up was the fried pickles. I pretty much have to order this wherever it’s offered, because they are all that and a bag of chimps. These were no exception. Not over battered, but just enough to mostly cover the chips. The batter itself was nice, akin to something you’d find on a good onion ring. They were served with ranch, the perfect accompaniment. If you’ve never had these, do yourself a favor and try them out.
And wings, of course. Wings! These particular wings, ordered medium, were nothing special. They offer a few other sauces/styles, including lemon pepper (my favorite Wingstop wings are lemon pepper), but we had to go with the standard for this first meeting. As I said, they were pretty standard wings. Average size. Pretty good sauce. Fried the same way you’ll find at bars across the country. Not bad by any means, but ordinary.
And of course we had to have burgers. They do have other dishes at Smelly Belly, like chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches, but the burger is in the name! What else would you go with?
Okay, so I went a little crazy with the burger. After warding off the temptation of the “hot & spicy” burger (which features a spicy chipotle sauce), I went ahead and got the classic Big Belly Burger, and then added on: 1. Cheese. 2. Bacon. 3. Sauteed mushrooms. 4. Chili. Yes. YES. YES!
The standard burger comes with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. Also mayo. I took off the mayo and added my toppings (specifying monterey jack as my cheese of choice), in a sad, desperate attempt to recreate the mythic Ghetto Burger. My friend and I had gone up to Atlanta last year, and were lucky enough to try that delicious monstrosity, and ever since I’ve been jonesing (yeah, jonesing. problem?) for another chili burger with anywhere near its greatness. Now, that’s setting the bar very high, so it doesn’t mean much to say that I did not reach that goal here. But I did enjoy this mess that I had brought upon myself.
The major player in Big Bella’s Burgers is the meat. I don’t know if it’s the meat they use, or the love they put into it, but it’s damn fine beef. Not the best beef I’ve ever had, but damn fine. I got mine medium rare, and maybe should have gone with rare, but the beef was still tender and juicy. The standard toppings were all pretty good. The bacon was kind of lost among the other toppings, which was a bit sad, but it still was present. The cheese was awesome, and the mushrooms were quite good too. The chili, however, the crux of my creation, was where I felt let down. It didn’t have a very strong flavor at all; in fact, what I got from it mostly was saltiness. But it was satisfyingly messy, and I am still able to taste its light flavor in my beard and moustache.
Something interesting to note: I had a few bites left after the meal, so I took that bit of burger with me (along with the fries (which were pretty average) and some wings). After letting it sit around for about seven hours, unrefrigerated, I dug right back into it. Somehow, over the course of cooling and congealing, the flavor became much more cohesive, and the cold burger/chili/cheese amalgam was much tastier than I remember it being for lunch. FIGURE THAT ONE OUT, SCIENCE!
All in all, it was a very pleasant visit, and pretty good food for a sports grill. The atmosphere was typical for that sort of place, although they do cater to families (kids eat free on Tuesdays?). Good meat. Get the burgers.
They also appear to have a Bad Bellies™ Breggar Challenge, which I may end up taking on. Only time will tell.
OH SHIT AND THEIR WEBSITE HAS A GUESTBOOK!! YESSSS! SIGN THAT SHIT!
UPDATE: I took the challenge. Or maybe… the challenge took me? View it here.