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A cheeseburger topped with pickles, sauce, and caramelized onions from Heavy Handed.
Heavy Handed’s signature short-rib double cheeseburger.

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A Pop-Up Heavyweight Comes Out Swinging With Saucy Burgers at Its First Brick-and-Mortar

Heavy Handed brings short-rib cheeseburgers, beef-tallow fries, and soft serve to Main Street in Santa Monica

“It’s just a really big funhouse,” Danny Gordon says of the brand-new Heavy Handed burger window painted the brand’s fetching shade of goldenrod at 2912 Main Street in Santa Monica. The location once housed another burger vendor, then became the Japanese takeout spot Edobox, before Gordon and his business partner and childhood friend Max Miller took it over to open their first brick-and-mortar location after two-plus years of pop-ups. Heavy Handed debuts this Friday, October 21 on the highly walkable stretch of Santa Monica, which has experienced a restaurant renaissance of late.

Heavy Handed launched in the deep pandemic days of April 2020, holding its first pop-up on the driveway of Gordon’s Mar Vista home. A year and countless pop-ups later, the Valley natives rolled out a food truck that parked at places like the Brig in Venice. Heavy Handed quickly built a following, especially on the Westside, for its not-completely-smashed, juicy short-rib patties topped with American cheese, caramelized onions, tangy secret-recipe “heavy” sauce, and house-made bread and butter pickles, all on a potato bun, as well as its crisp fries cooked in beef tallow.

A burger, fries, and a side of sauce in a yellow takeout box with burger and french fry illustrations, from Heavy Handed.
A combo in one of Heavy Handed’s specially designed to-go boxes.
A burger window and patio seating at Heavy Handed.
Heavy Handed’s burger window and patio.
A colorful mural depicting a robot holding a burger truck at Heavy Handed.
A custom mural by local artist DJ Neff.

At the new shop, outfitted with 65 seats spread between a front patio and a covered parklet, Gordon and Miller aren’t reinventing the wheel. They’re offering their signature cheeseburger a la carte in single-, double-, or triple-patty constructions, or in combos with fries and a soft drink (with the option to upgrade to beer or wine). “Heavy” fries, a heaping basket of fries topped with cheese, pickles, signature sauce, and caramelized onions, that were once a secret item now have a place on the regular menu.

“The burger is the same, the fries are the same. From the beginning, we’ve had no substitutions, because it tastes the best that way,” Gordon says. “We make what people love, and we do so unapologetically.”

What is new at the brick-and-mortar? For one, Straus Creamery soft serve that’s so thick it withstands melting; it’s offered in vanilla, chocolate, and swirl cones with the option of dipping in chocolate, butterscotch, or rainbow sprinkles. Gordon and Miller also culled together a selection of draft and canned beers, as well as a compact list of natural wines.

Two men in black t-shirts stand in front of a burger window at Heavy Handed.
Danny Gordon and Max Miller.

On the beer side, the pair is especially excited to have a few selections from Cellarmaker; Heavy Handed is the only spot in Los Angeles to carry cans from the extremely small-batch, San Francisco-based brewer. The easy-drinking wine list features some familiar names, like Las Jaras and Stolpman. All of the wines, even the reds, are served chilled (“You’re near the beach, which lends itself to chilled wines,” Miller says). Also on offer is a $100 bottle of extra-brut Champagne, from the French producer Vadin-Plateau. “The bottle of Champagne really speaks to our brand and that we just want people to have a great time,” Miller says. “It’s both a celebration and a comical juxtaposition.”

Overall, the space is purposefully playful. The stand’s oversized, illuminated menu, emblazoned with cartoon-like drawings, is reminiscent of a fast-food drive-thru, while one of the walls surrounding the patio is painted with a mural by local artist DJ Neff. It depicts a giant robot, operated by Gordon and Miller, holding the Heavy Handed burger truck. Various Easter eggs that nod to Heavy Handed’s history, such as the Brig’s iconic boxer logo, can be found sprinkled throughout the mural as well.

A basket of loaded fries, a cheeseburger, and a glass of IPA next to the can at Heavy Handed.
“Heavy” fries, a burger, and a Cellarmaker IPA.
Chocolate-and-vanilla swirl ice cream in a cone at Heavy Handed.
Straus Creamery soft serve.
A red-and-yellos neon sign with the letters “HH” at Heavy Handed.
One of the spot’s neon signs.

“The larger-than-life, light-up menu is reminiscent of going to In-N-Out with your family, or of having burgers by the beach,” Miller says, adding that the pair owes a lot to the people who have stuck with them throughout their two-plus years of business. “The same people from the pop-up came to the food truck and now will come see us here. It’s a huge celebration for all of us.” Gordon adds, “We’re a pandemic-born business; a lot of businesses weren’t as fortunate. We’re very humbled and honored to have made it through because of our loyal customers. This all happened very quickly at an unprecedented time.”

This Friday, Heavy Handed will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight. Starting Saturday, the shop will kick off regular hours: Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Heavy Handed will be closed on Mondays.

Heavy Handed

2912 Main Street, , CA 90405 Visit Website
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