Mick's Karma Bar
2010 Main St.
Irvine, CA 92614
I am willing to bet that there is not a restaurant in OC that has not been helped by social media more than Mick's Karma Bar. Social media has been blamed for a lot of things. Social unrest, inducing procrastination, invasion of privacy, and becoming a substitute for actual interactions, real face to face time. I have a feeling that Mick, from Mick's Karma Bar does not have anything but love for social networking sites.
Mick opened his business at the bottom of a large office building complex in Irvine. Started as a juice/wrap driven restaurant, Mick's was susceptible to the boons and busts of the business world, more than he should have been, due to his location. He told us that entire business's just disappeared from the office buildings during the recession. He lost a good majority of his customers, chunks at a time. Luckily, he had a burger on his menu that would change his business forever, the Karma Burger.
Well it was not actually called a hamburger at the start. Mick called it a Steak Hache, which is French for ground steak. A customer told him to change the name to burger, because Americans like hamburgers. From that point on people started to take notice of the burgers at Mick's. The on-line buzz started, and has not stopped yet. Mick's has been reviewed on Yelp over six hundred times, and gets 4.5 stars with all those reviews. Almost 90 percent of people on Urbanspoon like Mick's. I read a lot of OC food bloggers and almost all of them have reviewed this place, and loved it. So I knew it was just a matter of time before we made it to Mick's, and that time finally was now.
Mick's can be a little hard to find. There is very little signage for this restaurant. It is easier looking for the parking structure off of Main Street, the same one you would use to park at for McCormick and Schmick's or El Torito. Park towards the back, in the visitors area on the first level. Follow the signs to Kitima, and then walk past it, and turn the corner to the left, then you will be at Mick's.
It was a Saturday night around seven when we arrived at the sleepy high rise complex that is home to Mick's. It is not hard to imagine that this area would be quite crowded during regular business hours. The night we were here it was evident that a lot of social media had driven a good stream of people to Mick's. The restaurant is not a big place. They have limited counter seating, a few small tables inside, and the majority of seating is at patio tables outside, among the large art sculptures that I was trying to make sense of. The menu is written on chalkboards behind the ordering station. The menu is not huge. Five burgers, two wraps, and a fish taco are offered, but it is the burgers that have brought us here, so after ordering we grab a table outside and what for the burgers to be brought out.
The first burger was Katie's selection, the Patty Melt ($8.75 combo price). This burger comes with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, Gruyere cheese and mayo. I am used to Patty Melts being served on rye, but this one used a very sturdy, almost wheat bun. Katie liked the thickness of the onions, and felt the burger really resembled a fresh, backyard style burger. The patty was one of the juiciest ones she has had in a long while. The combo came with fries and a drink. The fries here are fine, as far as steak fries go. The real star for Katie was the Strawberry Basil Lemonade. She liked that the basil cut the usual sweetness of the lemonade. It was refreshing, without being overly sweet.
The burger that caught my eye right away on the menu was the Habanero Karma Burger ($8.75 as a combo). This one came with chili's, garlic mayo, queso fresco, and all the usual hamburger accompaniments. Like Katie, the first thing I noticed here was the bun. It was very sturdy, without being too bready. The produce was good, but I did get rid of some of the lettuce. The queso fresco was an interesting choice for this burger. It kind of had the texture of cottage cheese, but I did not seem to mind it. It added a nice mellow flavor to counteract the heat from the chili spread. The chili spread was not outrageously hot, but did make my tongue tingle a bit. Mick brought me a little extra, so I could add another layer to my burger. Even with all the other components of this burger going on, the meat was still the star of the show. You can tell it is made fresh, as the meat had a backyard BBQ quality to it. Not over seasoned, but not bland by any means. A high quality burger.
Yes, I ordered two hamburgers. I also needed to try their signature Karma Burger, with bacon added ($6.50). Along with the thick cut bacon, this burger came with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and their Karma sauce. The sauce is kind of like a very mild thousand island. It adds just enough flavor to avoid being intrusive. This burger was good, but lacked the big time flavor of the habanero burger that I ate first. Still a solid burger, and one that I look forward to enjoying again.
Since I got an extra burger, I indulged Katie by allowing her to get an extra drink. She chose the Purple Palmer ($3.25), a concoction of pomegranate juice, hibiscus/cranberry iced tea, and then topped with lemonade. Katie liked this drink, but was way more into the strawberry and basil lemonade. She liked the fruitiness of this, and felt it was pretty refreshing.
After eating at Mick's I can now see what all the hype was about. These are some pretty solid burgers. They are some of the freshest burgers we have had in a restaurant. You can sense the care and craftsmanship that goes into each burger. Is this the best burger I have had? No, but it is one of cleanest that I have eaten. Even after devouring two of these burgers, I did not feel overly full, and I think that is due to the fresh ingredients and the quality at Mick's. Mick took plenty of time to talk with us about his background, his business, and finding out about us. He is a real solid individual that loves what he does, and is very passionate about it. He may give credit to the Karma Burger for helping save his business, but his personality and people skills also has to factor into his success. We really enjoyed our burgers at this unusual spot, but our conversation with Mick was equally as good. This is a must try burger.
Out of five apples, (because one of my favorite songs, Instant Karma by John Lennon was released by Apple Records in 1970), five being best to zero being worst, Mick's Karma Bar gets 3.5 apples.
For more information on Mick's Karma Bar, click here: http://www.oftendining.com/restaurant_info/order.php?store_id=2151&oid=1