For John Bower, owner of the Blind Donkey—one of the city’s most respected watering holes—building a relationship with the community has proven to be a most rewarding experience. And that, in turn, has always prompted him to want to do something more.
Specifically, a full-on restaurant.
“We’ve had a presence here for five-and-a-half years and we’ve always wanted to both expand our presence in Long Beach and dive more deeply into food,” Bower said. “With my little dive into food [with Thunderbird], we’re ready to create a food-centric space.”
Enter Burger Daddy, the restaurant that will be taking over the space that sits above the Blind Donkey in the northeast corner of the historic Broadlind building, a space that has been riddled with bad operators and great ideas (like Sipology) and good operators but bad ideas (like its most recent tenant, Linden Public).
Thunderbird, Bower’s Brentwood bar, brought in longtime friend and New York Chef Justin Farmer to oversee a complete but nonetheless minimal TexMex menu. With that project just passing its first-year anniversary this past October, Bower and Farmer are ready to move full-force to focus on Burger Daddy.
The space revolves around two main things: session-able brews and a minimal, straight-forward menu. We’re talking beers, burgers and fries. No salads. No chicken, though there will be multiple vegan options. No appetizers.
The most distinguishing factor about the food revolves around Farmer’s recent visit to Japan and his discovery of katsu burger street food. A spinoff of katsu sando—Japan’s version of a fried chicken sandwich—the katsu burger has a beef patty covered in panko bread crumbs before being deep-fried.“Justin asked me if he could create his version of this burger, this burger that he called the best he’s ever had,” Bower said. “And, of course, I had to let him do it. I understand there might be naysayers, especially with burgers. So, we understand that there are going to be some people asking for a salad or asking for chicken fingers but we’re going to do our best sticking to our guns because we know we offer up a solid project.”
Burger Daddy’s menu—seven burgers, two of which are vegan, and two different types of fries, regular and togarashi-spiced—has five katsu-style burgers, including a patty that is stuffed with cheese and onion before being breaded and fried. That one is known as the Jucy Lucy. Jucy, with no “i.”
“I’ve loved this building ever since we found the bar downstairs,” Bower said. “One of the coolest things I’ve heard is that it used to be a formal speakeasy, like, a real speakeasy. And adding to that story, there is apparently a tunnel that connects the Blind Donkey over to the basement of the Lafayette, but I’ve found no way to prove that. That being said, it’s important for us to connect Burger Daddy somehow to the Donkey.”
That connection will be done through a custom-designed kiosk where patrons at the Blind Donkey can walk up to the touchscreen, type in their order, and continue drinking at the bar until their food is delivered. Using the graphic design work of Candice Moore from agency:void, old-school cigar dispensers acted as the inspiration behind the overall design of kiosk, leading to its full build-out as seen above.
“I know I’ve only been here five years,” Bower said. “But if I’ve learned anything about Long Beach, it is that this city appreciates authenticity and an honest effort on a level that other cities don’t even begin to approach. I am confident we’re doing that. I’m super proud of the menu and I hope our clientele feels the same.”
With health permits approved and sanctioned, Burger Daddy will begin test serving their burgers in the coming days at The Blind Donkey before formally opening its doors in the coming weeks.
Burger Daddy is located at 149 Linden Ave.
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