Big Man Burger Stand

Chowing down on a Sasebo Burger in its birthplace

By Mandy Bartok    - 2 min read

I love Japanese cuisine just as much as the next gal, but every now and again this born and bred American just has a hankering for a hamburger. While up in Sasebo this past weekend, I decided to assuage my craving and seek out one of the city’s famous patties.

Sasebo is considered the home of the burger, the port of entry for this now-ubiquitous beef sandwich. When Americans moved into the Sasebo Naval Base in the 1950s, they brought with them their own culinary traditions. Chefs out in town soon learned the new recipes and the Sasebo Burger was born.

Not all Sasebo Burgers are created equal. Most start with a juicy 100% beef patty (American- sized, it’s important to note) but the choice of toppings diverges wildly. Lettuce, tomato and onions are a standard choice but only a portion of the patties come topped with cheese and many are more likely to be slathered in mayonnaise. Some shops even top theirs with an egg and bacon, a true protein power meal.

For our burger experience, we picked one of Sasebo’s best-known joints, Big Man. This small corner shop has been in the business for decades and was even featured on the NHK program Waratte Itomo. Despite it being a Friday evening, the shop was fairly empty. That was a good thing, since the tiny premises only hold about a dozen seats. Banish any notions of these burgers being “fast food”; it took a good ten minutes for our order to go from griddle to table. Not being a burger connoisseur, I can’t claim with utter certainty that these are Japan’s best beef patties, but I can proclaim them pretty darn good. My husband tried the famous bacon and egg burger, while I went with the slightly more unconventional steak burger with thick slices of marinated beef. It was juicy and slathered with just the right amount of mayonnaise on a perfectly toasted bun with lettuce and onions.

I’m not about to make this my every evening meal, but if you happen to be passing through Sasebo town, don’t pass up the opportunity to taste a Japanese burger in its birthplace.

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Mandy Bartok

Mandy Bartok @mandy.bartok

Japan resident for 9 years, with time spent in Okinawa, Kumamoto and Tokyo. 

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Lester Goh 4 years ago
Hmmm, any kind soul has updates on new Kanto/Kansai/Chubu branches of this eatery? It looks awesome, but a trip to Kyushu isn't in the cards anytime soon.
Lester Goh 4 years ago
Thanks Mandy, I'll be sure to check it out now!
Jerome Lee 4 years ago
That bacon and egg burger looks intensely amazing! Anything with bacon is always great anyway because....well, bacon.
Mandy Bartok Author 4 years ago
Lol! You and your love of bacon would be well catered to at Big Man, Jerome. :)
Mandy Bartok Author 6 years ago
Wouter, I know it's a bit out of the way for a visit, but if you ARE ever in Sasebo, stop in the tourist office and get their "burger map". It has at least a dozen restaurants on it that serve Sasebo Burgers. Bon appetit indeed! :)
Wouter Thielen 6 years ago
Yum! There used to be a Sasebo burger shop here in Roppongi, Tokyo, but last I heard it is gone. I remember seeing it when I walked the street, and now I regret not trying it while I had the chance!

I would love to try the Sasebo burger sometime...