In January, Lawrence Longo sat down at a table in Connie and Ted’s, opened the camera on his phone and hit record. “It’s 2018 and I’m gonna be the L.A. burger king,” he says straight to the lens, then tackles the restaurant’s Hook Burger. His verdict? “Don’t come and get the seafood, come and get the burger.”
It’s been a meaty year for Longo. While he’s professionally known as a partner in the forthcoming Burgers Never Say Die pop-up–turned–restaurant and the entrepreneur behind the app Off the Menu Club, he’s become more recognizable as “the guy who eats a burger every day.” There’s good reason for that.
Longo’s 20,000-plus Instagram followers tune in to his @bigshot account and watch live as he eats his way through L.A.’s food scene, where he scores notable, cult-classic and audience-recommended burgers on a points scale and provides a breakdown of every patty between buns that crosses his path. He’s tried the slider at Doheny Room. He’s ordered the off-menu burger with tofu buns at Matsuhisa. He’s eaten three separate burgers at Umami, the lamb burger at Badmaash and the Meatzilla burger that’s sandwiched between pizza buns. Longo’s eaten his way through stalwarts like Pie ’N Burger and Canter’s, as well as newer options like the stacks from Trois Familia, Malibu Burger Co. and 189 by Dominique Ansel.
“I basically looked at everyone’s list, from the L.A. Times list to [Time Out’s] list, asked everybody, always on my social media, and people are actively telling me, ’You’ve gotta try this burger,’” Longo says. “Like last night, somebody told me I had to go to Boneyard [Bistro] and try the OMG burger. It was awful. But maybe the chef wasn’t there, maybe the buns were stale that week—there are so many things that factor into it.”
To critique all of these factors he started his project with a 100-point scoring system, but in March switched to what he calls his “Burgometer”: a five-tier scale that summarizes exactly how much a customer would eat or how far they should drive. One bite, at the lowest end, “means you can’t even; you’re spitting that burger out,” he explains. Two bites is OK, nothing special. Three bites is decent, a burger you’d finish if you were hungry. Four bites is very good, a meal you’d crave once a month or would drive 20-plus minutes to get. And a five-biter—of which Longo says he’s found only five or so in the city thus far—is a burger you’d wait hours to eat. Most restaurants, he shares, make between a three- and a four-bite burger.
For those worried about his health, take a number. Longo is married to celebrity fitness trainer Astrid Swan, who’s been helping the professional eater stay in shape (it doesn’t hurt that they’ve got a gym in their home). In addition to taking Swan’s classes, Longo plays hockey three times a week and does Crossfit. He’s also had to change his burger-a-day schedule.
“At the beginning of the year I was doing one a day, sometimes more than one a day, and I was gaining way too much weight and I was feeling unhealthy,” says Longo, whose current burger count (as of the time of publishing) is 327. To adjust, he now picks one day of the week to try five burgers, often only taking a bite or two of each—unless it’s great. Then, he can’t help himself from finishing the whole thing. “I love burgers,” he says, “I actively do, and you have to, or it’s torture. And I’m not getting paid.”
What began simply via Instagram’s “stories” feature moved to the social media platform’s “TV” program, where each review now includes a title screen and video editing. As the year’s worn on and he’s been revamping his production, Longo is thinking ahead to 2019: Next year, he’ll be compiling a written compendium and something like his own top 25 list, while considering other avenues to shop his series. He’s also toying with an entirely new food-a-day project, maybe pizza or tacos.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll do next,” he says, joking, “I told my wife I’m gonna eat a salad every day next year.”