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Feb 14, 2008 02:52 PM

Best Burgers in the Bay?

I was just in a debate with a friend - the topic: hamburgers. Not the $25 foie gras stuffed kind, the real burger. The one that drips down your hands because the chef/griddle cook isn't afraid to serve it medium rare.

The debate was between Vals in Hayward/Castro Valley and Phyllis' in San Rafael.

What are other great burger places in the Bay Area - recommendations? We're going to do a tour to resolve our dispute.

Also - opinions anyone? What is the importance of the bun in burger satisfaction? One of us said it was all about the meat and the condiments; the other one of believes that the most important part of the burger (after the perfectly cooked meat) is the bun.


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  1. IMHO, VAL's all the way.....very consistent, flashback to the 50's, always crowded after all these years, right on the border btwn hayward/cv easy access from I-580, if only they took reservations, and credit cards, oh, and they need to be open 7 days a week, currently closed on mondays. parking always sucks too.

    4 Replies
    1. re: someyoungguyy

      The only subjects as contentious are hot dogs, BBQ and bread. Here are a few relatively recent posts and Search can find you many more.

      1. re: wolfe

        You forgot burritos...then the Mission burrito debate starts.

      2. re: someyoungguyy

        Are you saying they are now open Sundays?

      3. At the bottom of Redwood Road in Oakland (below Merrit College) is a shopping center and I think the place is called Sparky's. Not huge but a tasty burger, nice charbroiled taste with nice red onion, lettuce, and tomato. Great burger and excellent double blanched from scratch crispy french fries.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rcspott

          Ooooh, good tip. What style are the fries: skinny, medium or thick?

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            medium, depending on who is cooking they may be slightly underdone, if you see fries coming out a little pale and want more color, just ask.

        2. Slow Club in SF makes a delicious burger with carmelized onions - all quality ingredients.

          1. OK, since you got specific ...

            Phyllis' is a place I want to like but just don't. Some previous Phyllis' discussions link in these place records

            What is it you like about Phyllis'? Have you tried the burger at all locations? How do they compare?

            I haven't tried Val's yet but there was a good post recently that was linked in this place record.

            My own personal classic burger favorite is Bullshead in SF ... juicy classic burger. I don't remember the condiments but it is all about the meat here.

            If you are into condiments there's Kirk's in Palo Alto and Clark's in Sunnyvale which have big condiment bars. Both burgers are char-grilled, a major plus in my book.

            My last visit to Kirk's didn't live up to my memories of it. However, IMO, it is better than Phyllis's

            So in the South Bay, Clark's remains my gold standard for the classic char-grilled burger with condiments

            I recently had a nice basic burger at Bear Naked Burger. Not a place I'd go out of my way for but above average in the Bay Area. Warning ... it comes on a ciabatta bun ... but it just works. They also cook it nicely to order. It comes with a small green salad ... ask for the dressing on the side.

            Someone whose food opinion I respect really like's Al's Big Burger in El Cerrito a lot.

            Part of the reason was someone he called 'burger guy' who in his opinion was a master at grilling the burger. Burger guy opened his own place in Richmond called Pup Hut (well, Pup Hut was there a while, but he bought it)

            I can't say if it is frou-frou or not, but I am intrigued by the burgers on the menu at the newly opened Stark's Steakhouse in Santa Rosa. Your condiment loving friend might like this. Some of the 20 extra condiments are frou-frou, but the burger sounds classic, so you could ignore those.

            I posted your question about the condiment/bun issue on the General Board where you might get a broader discussion and hopefully a resolution to the question.

            Anyway, the burger tour sounds like fun. Hope you report back on your results.

            1. Best burger I've had recently was at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley. If you order medium rare, that's what you get. Juicy. Really beefy taste, maybe they used some trimmings from dry-aged. Great bun (better than they used to have). Beef, bun, salt, perfect.

              I used to love Oola's burger but on my last visit it was just OK.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Oh yes, agreed. My two favorite bugers are Cafe Rouge and Slow Club.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I went back to Oola again last week and the burger was as good as ever. I think they just overcooked the meat the previous time.