Beloved San Jose burger joint set to close
The Burger Pit Manager Jody Millermon (left) has worked at the San Jose restaurant for the last 30 years. She served Chris and Melissa Barrow their dinner on Oct. 20, 2023. Photo by Ben Irwin.

    A Blossom Hill burger joint that has been a go-to since before fast food was even a thing is calling it quits.

    The Burger Pit, a South Bay staple since the 1950s, will close its doors for good next April, according to co-owner Paul Berger. He’s been working the grill and serving the eatery’s half-pound signature steerburger at the Blossom Hill location for more than 50 years. Over the decades, Berger built a loyal customer base and workforce, some of whom have worked at the eatery for more than 20 years, he said.

    Berger, 75, said many of the regulars are seniors.

    “It’s just amazing to me how many people come in here and eat every day or every other day, and eat the same thing every day,” Berger told San José Spotlight. “I appreciate all the years and the nice things people have said.”

    Berger’s late father, Al, and his three partners started the local burger enterprise in 1953 with a drive-in that soon turned into three burger bars, two of which are still standing at First and Goodyear streets and Fourth and Julian streets. The first Burger Pit restaurant opened in 1956 in Cupertino.

    A long line of customers wait to order dinner at The Burger Pit on Blossom Hill Road. Photo by Ben Irwin.

    “We were before McDonald’s, before Burger King, everybody,” Berger said. “And (my father and his three partners) made quite a success out of it. Ten burgers for a dollar.”

    A dispute over the lease has ended The Burger Pit’s long run in South San Jose, Berger said. The restaurant has been out of compliance with city’s building code for years and he expects the building to be demolished and replaced with new development. Berger said if he were younger he’d consider moving to a new location, but he’s resigned to the fate of his beloved restaurant shuttering.

    “Everyone wants to buy a piece of this (place),” Berger said, as he pointed to the empty walls where framed pictures once hung. “Half the pictures are gone … people want to buy anything that was at The Burger Pit. I’m selling Burger Pit T-shirts and coffee mugs (and) we ran out. We sold 288 of them in 10 days.”

    Three generations of Cathy McKeever’s family have come to The Burger Pit every week, where her high school friend Jody Millermon, the eatery’s manager, has worked for the last 30 years. McKeever said she has been coming since the place opened.

    “I love their baked potatoes,” McKeever told San José Spotlight. “(I love) the atmosphere … the best part is coming to see Jody.”

    Three generations of Cathy McKeever’s family have been coming to The Burger Pit every week. McKeever’s (right) said she has been eating here since it opened. Photo Ben Irwin.

    Rod Stuart said he and his wife have been coming to The Burger Pit since the 1960s.

    “I usually get the steerburger and my wife gets the flat iron steak,” Stuart told San José Spotlight. “(We) like to come here to relax and enjoy (our meal), plus they have good french fries … I’d like to see it stay.”

    The Burger Pit’s famous half-pound steerburger is part of a menu that has long since expanded to include other diner foods, including sought-after secret recipes for homemade chili and blue cheese dressing that Berger isn’t ready to divulge.

    “I have two incredible recipes that people have been dying to buy from me,” Berger said. “I tell them, ‘I’m going to put the recipe in that little drawer in (my coffin)’ and I say, ‘You’re going to have to dig me up to get it.’”

    Contact Ben at [email protected] or follow @B1rwin on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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