In Good Taste: Biggie’s Burgers stays true to its founder; poised to begin third year in Pacific Beach

Biggie's cheesburger, fries and chocolate shake
(Jack Gates)

Restaurant trends in Pacific Beach come and go as quickly as an ocean wave. “But we want to keep it simple,” Biggie’s Burgers operations manager Marlon Guerra told PB Monthly. “We have an old-fashioned hamburger joint that’s family-friendly. We have a vintage vibe. That’s what the founder wanted and we’re staying true to the founder’s philosophy.” Staying true to the no-frills past.

Guerra runs Biggie’s Burgers on Mission Boulevard near Emerald Street. It opened in March 2018 and has had a culinary cult following ever since.

“Great burgers. Great shakes. That’s what we showcase. A hand-made fresh beef patty, seared two-and-a-half minutes on each side. Lettuce, chopped onions, pickles, mayo and mustard or whatever the customer wants. Toasted buns. Hand-crafted thick shakes. Fries, onion rings. But no alcohol. We stick with being old-timey and family friendly. That’s what the founder instilled in me,” said the 34-year-old Guerra.

Biggie’s founder, Richard Brown, opened the original Biggie’s in San Clemente in 1991. It’s still a burger staple there. Brown taught Guerra the burger business.

“It was all about consistency, customer service, having an old-school burger stand where families could eat and have a good time,” Guerra said.

Brown was ex-military and wanted to expand to San Diego. When Brown opened Biggie’s in PB, Guerra was tapped to take it over.

“Unfortunately, Brown died of pancreatic cancer in October 2018 at age 80, not long after the PB branch opened. He was more than a mentor, he was like a grandpa to me,” Guerra said. “Brown even talked about Biggie’s on his death bed.” He told Guerra: “Don’t change anything.” Guerra has never forgotten those words.

Biggie’s operations manager Marlon Guerra
(Jack Gates)

Many customers ask Guerra how the Biggie’s name originated.

“That was Brown’s idea, too,” Guerra recalled. “In the beginning, Brown would use a now older expression. ‘Want a burger? No biggie. ‘Want a shake?’ No biggie. It’s like saying ‘No Problem’ in today’s lingo. Biggie stuck.”

So did the idea of ordering at the counter and having your food brought to your table. “Kind of like an indoor car-hop,” Guerra pointed out.

The operations manager has made tweaks to keep Biggie’s even more family-friendly. He added hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken tenders and ice-cream cones. And it wouldn’t be California without a vegetarian burger, and Biggie’s has that, too.

“We do a good tourist business, but more and more locals become repeat customers once they get hooked on our old-fashioned cheeseburgers,” Guerra said. “Biggie’s has found a home in PB. We even have a huge wall mural of the PB boardwalk with all the recognizable characters, like Slo-Mo.”

And the 1950s tunes and doo-wop songs emanating from the speakers? “That was the music Brown liked,” Guerra said, “so it stayed, too.”

It’s a blast from the past. For the present.

— (858) 263-4433.