Dick Mondell’s Burgers & Fries, a new drive-thru burger restaurant, recently opened at the beginning of December, occupying a long vacant space at 412 SW 4th Avenue. It’s very much a part of the continued revitalization of the immediate area, namely with the budding 4th Avenue Food Park. No, Dick Mondell is not a real person, and yes, the menu is littered with teenage jokes about the male anatomy. While calling their signature burger the “Big Dick”, asking customers if they’d like “Dick Sauce”, and stamping their bags with “Bag of Dicks” can be viewed as marketing genius, or uncomfortable and in poor taste, there’s no arguing the food is legit.
I’ve heard some people refer to this as the “gentrified” local burger drive-thru, a hipster interpretation of local stalwarts like Mac’s, Sandwich Inn, and Bev’s Better Burgers. You can expect to spend at least $10 here upwards to $17 for a burger, side, and shake. While yes, the prices are higher ($8 for an 8 ounce “Big Dick”) and the paint is a bit shinier, to dismiss it as a “gentrified drive-thru burger joint” would be doing your tastebuds a tremendous disservice.
First of all, the co-owners are legit, having both attended the CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not the government). They’ve put together a menu that offers more diverse options than other local drive-thrus, including a chicken burger and two vegetarian options (the excellent “Impossible” burger that is close in taste to a beef burger, and a house-made veggie burger). A gluten-free salad option with your choice of meat or plant-based patty is also available.
They’ve also taken tremendous care in sourcing their ingredients, with much of it coming from the surrounding areas. The two 4-ounce beef patties in the “Original Big Dick” burger comes from area cattle farms, the shakes and ice cream cookie sandwiches are made using dairy from Wainwright Dairy & Creamery in Live Oak (all natural, hormone free), while the cookies and coffee come from just across the street at Baker Baker and Opus Coffee respectively. All of this means you’ll be paying a premium, but also getting a better product.
But it’s not just the ingredients and pedigree that has Dick Mondell’s rolling. The kitchen has skills to match as well. Both my…uh…”Big Dick” and “Impossible” burgers were seasoned and cooked perfectly pink, juicy, and nestled between hot buttered soft buns that didn’t fall apart or turn soggy. The quality of the beef does not necessitate much seasoning, so I appreciate the restraint to let that natural beefy flavor do its thang. A burger is definitely a food where the individual ingredients should be allowed to shine, free of embellishments and gimmicks. Otherwise, you end up with triple bacon mega ultra cheesy tower explosion onion flavortown bomb burgers or just a salty mess.
I appreciate that Dick Mondell’s sticks to the roots with quality, traditional burgers in this aspect. Their burger comes with just lettuce, pickles, onion, and Dick Sauce (mayo, mustard, ketchup). But of course, no one will judge you if you add pickled jalapenos or bacon to your burger. Me? I prefer a simple cheeseburger with good meat, American cheese, and buttered buns. That’s it.
There are a few gripes I have with the place though. For one, the drive-thru lane is far too small and the location of the entrance causes short lines of 3-4 cars to regularly spill onto SW 4th Avenue, impeding traffic. The limited seating (4 metal benches) have no shade and will essentially turn into frying pans in the summer. Parking can be difficult as street parking requires a neighborhood decal at all times, and there is limited space in the 4th Avenue Food Park lot across the street. But none of this is more offending than the French fries. For as much emphasis on quality placed on most things on the menu, the fries are the weakest link. A burger this good deserves fresh cut and properly double fried French fries, not the same out-of-the-bag ones I get at Wednesday Night Test & Tunes at the ol’ Gainesville Raceway. Come on guys.
All that being said, this burger is up there with Public & General and Blue Gill as the best in town. If you do go, be sure to get one of their fantastic ice cream shakes to go with it (I recommend the coffee shake). They are currently open 11 AM to 11 PM every day of the week, with plans to extend into late night hours later on.