Bad Larry Burger Club is a newish burger pop-up in Austin courtesy of Matthew Bolick, one of the co-owners of Eater Austin restaurant of the year 2018 Better Half. Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing measures, he implemented a nifty way of serving up the burgers: each order is dropped through a homemade chute.
The pop-up only serves one thing: well-crafted smash burgers. Bolick compares his burgers to the classic double burger available from McDonald’s. Along with smashed double meat and double cheese, there are pickle slices, onions, mustard, and ketchup. He’s using Martin’s potato rolls as buns, pickles from far southeast Austin restaurant the Pickle House, and beef from Austin ranch K&C Cattle Co.
Before actually starting Bad Larry Burger Club in 2019, Bolick and his now-wife hosted monthly burger and beer parties in 2016. They had lived on Larry Lane in Cherrywood, and a friend often referred to the burgers as “bad Larrys,” hence the eventual name.
He was loosely using the parties as a way to develop the burger for Better Half (which hadn’t opened yet), using the “shitty free Weber grill” that business partner Matt Wright gave him. “Many hammered nights and lots of burgers were had over the years,” Bolick says. (Chef Rich Reimbolt joined the team later to create Better’s burger.)
When the couple got married, they received a higher-quality Blackstone flattop grill for their wedding. That’s when Bolick started making smash burgers, and it was “all I wanted to do,” he says. He continued to throw burger parties, and people kept telling him that he should actually sell the burgers to the public. Thus Bad Larry Burger Club began in 2019.
The first pop-up was held at his other spot, downtown bar Little Brother, that August. “It was not well attended,” he admits, “so, naturally, I kept doing ’em.” He sold burgers at bike races, and through pop-ups at his other restaurants, including Better Half and East Austin coffee shop and beer bar Brew & Brew.
When the pandemic began in March, Bolick still hosted these pop-ups, but from his own driveway. In order to safely serve customers, he would place the burgers onto a remote-controlled dump truck toy and drive the orders over to people. As the pop-up grew bigger, he switched to the chute, which he fashioned out of a gutter. Using black tape, he spelled out “We Give a Chute” on one side and “Bad Larry Burger Club” on the other. He would package the burgers and then place the package into the chute, sliding the order down to the customer.
Other mitigation measures include timed pickup slots, requiring that customers wear masks, and making customers wait in a social-distanced line while picking up orders.
Bad Larry’s most recent pop-up happened over the weekend at East Austin smoked meats spot La Barbecue. (“Ali [Clem] and LeAnn [Mueller] loved them,” says Bolick of the burgers, “so they asked me to smash some at their place.”) When preorders went live several days before the actual pop-up on Saturday, everything sold out within five minutes.
At first, it was just Bolick cooking the burgers, during which he contributed funds raised toward the Little Brother tip pool. Now he’s working with two other Little Brother employees, Travis and James. The Bad Larry Burger Club shifts are part of their regular paid work lineup, and they receive all tips. (“Luckily, things have picked up at the shop,” Bolick says of Little Brother. “We have such a great crew.”) There are about 200 burgers per pop-up.
The next Bad Larry Burger Club pop-up, at East Austin bar and restaurant the Cavalier, was going to take place on Wednesday, September 9, but it’s being rescheduled because of of a rain forecast. Instead, it will be held on Sunday, September 20, with preorders available the day before. Updates and future pop-ups will be announced on the Instagram account.
Bolick also shared some updated information for that forthcoming South Congress location of Little Brother, which will only serve coffee and kolaches, the latter from Better Half pastry chef Lindsay O’Rourke out of boutique Maufrais. This also means there is no booze involved, unlike at its Rainey Street counterpart. When Little Brother South Congress opens in a couple of weeks, it will only work as a walk-up window with daytime hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Update, September 8, 9:33 a.m.: This article, originally published on August 25, has been updated to reflect Bad Larry’s rescheduled forthcoming pop-up.