College alums sizzle onto PB burger scene
by FRANK SABATINI, Jr.
Apr 03, 2014 | 2348 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Longtime friends Mickey Mance and Robert Gregorio purchased the lease to open Buddies Burgers at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue. The duo originally opened a Buddies Burgers in the College Area.
Longtime friends Mickey Mance and Robert Gregorio purchased the lease to open Buddies Burgers at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue. The duo originally opened a Buddies Burgers in the College Area.
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From mustard-yellow walls to ketchup-red, the lively burger joint in Pacific Beach that was Fatburger for 15 years is now under different ownership, greeting visitors with a new look and an evolving menu.

Longtime friends Mickey Mance and Robert Gregorio purchased the lease in October to open their second location of Buddies Burgers, which they originally launched in the College Area while attending San Diego State University. Based on its continued success, they decided to test their seasoned beef patties and house-made condiments on a wider demographic.

“We see a lot more families come in here compared to our college location,” said Mance, revealing that an enhanced kid’s menu will roll out by early April.

The eatery’s late-night patronage is also greater in Pacific Beach because of the number of nearby bars. As a result, specialty items like pastrami burgers and new hot-dog options will soon materialize between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re still throwing around ideas,” said Mance, who recently partnered with several bar operators to further promote the business.

Also unique to the Pacific Beach location is the hot-selling Sandy Eggo burger topped with bacon, avocado and a fried egg, not to mention a few salads like the chicken Cobb, the Southwest and steak with blue cheese.

The stand-bys include a variety of quarter-pound beef patties flavored with “special seasonings.” For those with iron-clad stomachs, the burgers are available in double and triple versions. Turkey, veggie and spicy black-bean burgers also comprise the list, along with spiral-cut hot dogs, grilled sandwiches, fries and onion rings.

As any aficionado will attest, no burger is complete without some type of oozy secret sauce. Mance said the recipe used at Buddies originates from Gregorio’s home kitchen.

“We tried a bunch of different recipes from friends who went to culinary school. But we ended up throwing something together ourselves, sitting there stirring things in bowls,” he said, revealing only that their savory sauce is ketchup-based.

Mance and Gregorio also taste-tested “tons of hamburger patties” from different meat companies when searching for a purveyor before opening their first location three years ago.

“Nothing stood out to us at first,” he said.

Thanks to a recommendation by Mance’s father, who runs a deli in Hermosa Beach, they eventually turned to K&M Meat Company, which was founded in Los Angeles more than 40 years ago by Polish immigrants.

“We immediately tasted the difference and knew this was good-quality beef,” said Mance.

The flat-grilled burgers and their fresh garnishments ultimately end up tucked inside classic rolls from Puritan Bakery, also in the Los Angeles area.

Prior to opening the doors in Pacific Beach, the space underwent extensive remodeling. Old ceiling tiles were replaced. New flooring was installed, as well as flat-screen televisions. All the kitchen equipment was upgraded and interior walls took on splashes of red.

“We had been looking for an additional location for a while, and when this popped up at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue, we knew it was a great location,” said Mance.

— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press) and has written food and feature articles for more than two decades. He was a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune and has since covered the culinary scene extensively for NBC, Pacific San Diego magazine, San Diego Downtown News, San Diego Uptown News, Gay San Diego and Living in Style Magazine. He can be reached at fsabatini@san.rr.com.

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