Monday, March 07, 2011

Mick's Karma Bar - Irvine

Michael Schepers is Austrian and Dutch. Megan, his wife, is Persian. They lived in England for a while. Then they moved to America and now own a Thai restaurant in Irvine called Kitima. They bought the place from a Thai family around a decade ago. Next door, at a coffee and juice counter they've called Mick’s Karma Bar, they make a fine burger from meat they grind themselves.

So who is Mick? Well, that’s just the nickname an Australian friend gave him. It stuck. I admit, “Mick’s” has a nicer ring to it than if it was “Mike’s Karma Bar”.

You’ll hear their story yourself when you sit at the counter as it will be Michael or Megan who’ll serve you. The counter, actually, is the only place to sit. Or more accurately, it’s the only place you want to sit, for as good as the burger is, their hospitality is even better. During our conversation, we found out we knew a few of the same people. A neighbor of theirs used to be a co-worker of mine. We shook our heads in wonderment. It is indeed a small world.

The burger, made in the same kitchen that produces the beef panang next door, comes from the same sirloin. They tested out other cuts, Michael said, but found sirloin worked best. He’s right. It’s probably one of the leanest burgers I’ve had, but it’s still beefy, smoky and satisfies as a good burger should. In every bite, sauces and juices mingle, the bread soaking in it, but never turning soggy.

If you asked me to make you a burger, this is what it would taste like. Just like Mick’s, I’d form the patty to order just before grilling. Just like Mick’s, I’d use a leaf lettuce instead of iceberg, red onion instead of brown. And I’d find a bun that has some integrity in the crust, the way their brioche bun does.

Yet, there’s still some mystery to this burger. The “karma sauce” they’ve spread onto the bottom bun is not unlike the secret sauce other places guard as if we didn’t know it’s actually Thousand Island. This one isn’t Thousand Island, but it aims for the same sweet spot. There’s just a slight suggestion of spice. You see the red flecks, but it doesn't overpower. And there’s a little bit of shredded cabbage involved, which is worked into the mix to contribute additional texture.

Alone, the burger is $5.50. The price is just right for a burger this size and this caliber. For a few bucks more (a total of $8.75) comes an icy glass of refillable Coke (or any soft drink of your choice) and a pile of properly fried-to-golden steak fries. Should you devour your lunch and leave no speck left like I did, the need for dinner will be eliminated.

What I like most about this burger is how it doesn’t really fit any existing burger categories. It’s not fast food. It’s not The Counter. It isn’t over-hyped like Charlie Palmer's DG Burger or retails dangerously close to the $10 price tag like theirs does. Most of all, it seems unique to here. It’s burger made for you by a guy another guy nicknamed Mick.

Mick's Karma Bar
2010 Main St # 165
Irvine, CA 92614-7267
(949) 851-6316

Hapa J's - San Clemente


At 10:29 PM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

Is this in the lobby of one of the office buildings? If so, where do I park?

At 3:47 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


It's actually in the courtyard where the lake and fountains are. Park in the structure as you would if you were to go to McCormick and Schmick's, but instead of walking towards it to the right, head the opposite the direction to the left. Follow the signs for Kitima and bring your parking stub to get validated.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

wow..Kitima, I used to go there back when I worked in the Irvine area years ago. Cool that it stil lives today, was pretty good food!
Will need to check out the Karma Bar, that burger sounds "worthy" of a visit.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Madison said...

Nice write up. I am intrigued that it is in a category all it's own. Plus, I've never been to Kitima, so this could be a twofer.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Madison said...

I hear that you are taking part in the "Final Pho"! Looking forward to the breakdown.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I've actually never been to Kitima. Funny enough, long ago a friend and I were intent on finding it and wasn't able to since it was effectively hidden from the street. This was way before The Schepers bought it. I do need to try Kitima one of these days though.


Yes, I wouldn't lump them into The Counter or DG Burger or even Fatburger. Don't get me wrong, I love 'em all...this one is different, and actually cheaper than The Counter and DG.

And yes! Final Pho will be fuuuun!

At 12:00 PM, Blogger papa said...

Great food, great people, great conversation! Try the fish taco!


At 9:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Agreed! Heard about that fish taco. Might try that next.


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