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Jan 28, 2007 07:28 AM

I Know the Hamburger Thing In SF Has Been Done To Death

But I have a very specific question. I'm looking for great San Francisco hamburgers, but not fancy ones like Zuni. My favorite burger of all time is at Val's in Hayward--I've been there 6 times, and 4 times it was awesome, and 2 times it was pretty good. Everyone I've taken there has been blown away, fortunately we went on the awesome nights and not on the pretty good nights. I just came back from Michigan, where I tried the burger at Miller's Bar in Dearborn, which was thick and meaty and delicious and rated one of the best in the country (in that GQ list), and we thought it was great. But we didn't think it was as good as Val's.

So, my question is, where are the non-fancy burgers in SF that are as good as Val's? Meaning, if you haven't been to Val's, or if you've been there and didn't like it, you probably aren't a good person to answer this question.


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  1. Mo's on Grant Avenue in North Beach.

    1. Try Joe's Cable Car. I've been going there since I was in high school in the late sixties. It's still owned by the same guy. Joe's Cable Car starts with 100% U.S.D.A. federally inspected choice ribeye and chuck steaks. The steaks are trimmed down to as little as 6 - 8% fat and are estimated at 30 calories per ounce, about as much as fish and chicken. Then the steaks are ground fresh daily at Joe's open-view butcher corner for viewers to witness. You can choose from 4, 6, and 8 ounces TRUE SERVING WEIGHT!

      If you want an original, high quality hamburger... Joe's is the place in San Francisco.

      Go to:

      7 Replies
      1. re: dunn.sanfrancisco

        I live in the neighborhood and have stopped going to Joe's Cable Car even though the hamburgers are very good (but not great) because they are ridiculously expensive and the side dishes are mediocre at best.

        1. re: Nancy Berry

          So, i need to chime in here, because i like Joe's Cable Car a lot. I need to preface this with a bit of background: for a long time my favorite place was Bill's in the Outer Richmond, but their fries and onion rings leave little to be desired. What made Bill's so good was their milkshakes and their burgers. Bill's is pretty pricey but the burger comes with fries, which makes it easier to stomach.

          Now, having said that, i prefer these days to go to Joe's for two reasons: the burgers are noticeably tastier and less salty and the fries and onion rings surpass Bill's by a long shot. The only down fall is that next to Bill's, their shakes suck.

          So, it's a trade off. I personally think you can't have a good burger meal without a shake, but i also think that a good burger is defined by the fries it comes with. so i will take superior fries and a pricey burger with no shake, over a just ok burgers and fries with a superior shake.

          The only other place i will mention for a good burger is Bullshead in West Portal. i can't vouch for the one in the castro, but the one in west portal makes excellent burgers with either cow or buffallo or turkey (?) meat. I almost always order a steak when i go there, but R always get's the burger everytime and it is phenomenal and huge. more huge than phenomenal, but they have a real gas fire grill like mo's, so the burgers get good char....

          None of these places are going to be "cheap cheap" the burgers average around 8-10 dollars depending on toppings and size.

          Good luck.

          1. re: jupiter

            I also much prefer to have a shake with a burger. I am very picky when it comes to shakes, and I think the Joe's shakes are superb. Absolutely the best shake I've had in SF (which isn't a huge amount, but I've had them at most of the burger places). I always get chocolate.

            1. re: Atomica

              Well, I never have shakes with burgers (maybe it's my Jewish upbringing -- nonkosher at that -- but I can't stand the taste of milk with meat meals -- cheese, yes -- milk, no.) I'll admit that Joe's shakes are excellent, and that their hamburgers are very good, but I can't bring myself to spend over $10 for a plain 6 oz. hamburger (plus 60 cents per slice of cheese and about 2 bucks for a small order of fries.) By the time you get the full order, you've spent over $15 for one person -- that's pretty outrageous. And everything is extra. If you want grilled onions on your burger, that's an extra 80 cents. It can really add up. It got to be way too expensive to take my family there.

              1. re: Nancy Berry

                Holy cow ... you weren't kidding ... potentially $8.50 for a 4oz burger!

                I went to Joe'sCC a few years ago and remember it was
                "decent but expensive" but I didnt remember it being that extreme.

                According to the downloadable menu at:

                The "plain" burger is 4oz/6oz/8oz -> $8/$10.25/$11.50 [if that is pre-tax
                price, then: $8.60/$11/$12.50] ... no cheese, no fries!

                The shake prices arent even on the menu ... "if you have to ask" ...

                1. re: psb

                  Was in the neighborhood and decided to try it out. I got a bacon burger, "upgraded" to a 6 oz, and added sharp cheddar. I also got a side of small fries. Out the door $17.20. It was a truly delicious burger, but unjustifiably expensive. Definitely worth $10, but not worth $17.20.

                2. re: Nancy Berry

                  I should have mentioned that we almost never eat at Joe's even though it's a very short drive away. If it were just a bit cheaper, we'd be there more often. The prices are ridiculous.

                  As for shakes with burgers, it's the sweet/salty thing. I can't even really taste cheese on a burger. For me it adds nothing.

        2. Try the Bullshead on Ulloa, right next to the West Portal Muni station. It's not a fancy place, but they do their meat right. It's not quite the bargain it was 2-3 years ago, but then, what is? They do a top-notch 1/3-pound burger that comes with great fries (golden brown and delicious) for around $7-8 bucks. Or you can get a 1/3-lb buffalo burger for about $9, also w/ fries. One tip: if you like your burger medium rare, order it medium--they tend to cook things a little on the rare side (which is preferable to the alternative, imo). They also have pretty nice steaks, which start just under $20 and go up from there. I think the New York strip is now about $23.

          1. I propose the Wagyu beef burgers at Brickhouse on Brannan near 3rd.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Chowsmurf

              Agreed, Brickhouse burgers are the best beef.
              Also, across the street the sports bar makes a decent burger and homemade fries.

              1. re: Trippingby

                I'd have to respectfully differ - in large part because the bun was not up to par last time I tried their burger.

                In the best of all possible worlds, a burger would:
                1. Have a good, lean, hand-made patty grilled with just a little char on the edges
                2. Have a kaiser roll or other top-quality bun

            2. what about the burger at Zeitgeist? Can you get a better bbq'd burger and beer in town?