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Best burger in Berkeley?

I'd be curious what you all think. Pretty obvious where to find good pizza in Berkeley, but not so clear where to enjoy red-meat bliss.

I can only think of only one place I've had a really good burger: T-Rex (both versions). The new Meridian Sports Cafe on University has a decent one, as does Barney's on Shattuck.

Is there anywhere you'd recommend?

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  1. I liked Rocky's for a good burger and good fries.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5565...
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2269...

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    Rocky's Hamburgers & Cheese Steaks
    2929 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

    1. I had a good burger at Triple Rock a few months back. Don't remember much but it was $7 bucks for a 1/2lb'er and cooked to order properly -- med-rare.

      I prefer Barney's because it's a "go to" place for me but this was good and I could see how others could favor TR's burger. If volume is part of the red meat bliss, this would be an edge. If I recall, it did seem like a lot of food.

      It wasn't my choice to go to TR but I'd order it again. For $7 bucks it's worth a try.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ML8000

        2nd Triple Rock. Mesa Burger and a red ale.

      2. Bistro Liason and 900 Grayson both make a damned fine burger.

        2 Replies
        1. re: SLRossi

          Great burger at 900 Grayson. But I still almost always end up ordering the demon lover (chicken and waffles).

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          900 Grayson
          900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

          1. re: JimKlein

            I always eat at Grayson. YOu have to ask them to pat dry the bacon if you dont want lots of grease but its very good (expensive). I stumbled upon Cafe Leila Sunday for lunch (usually I eat breakfast there because they know how to make soft eggs). The hambuger was really great., inexpensive and large. It came with fries and salad as well. BTW ask for crunchy fires as they undercook them. They also have lamb burgers. I tried my friends and think the hambuger bettter but it was tasty. I dont know how they are during the week as I find there weekend food better (maybe a different cook).

        2. Rocky's is pretty solid, yes.

          Oscar's at Shattuck and Hearst also nice...flame broiled in front of you, and the French Roll option also helpful.

          Spenger's has a decent one for happy hour.

          Overall, Oscar's for me.

          1. I haven't had a burger in Berkeley in many years, but I used to really like the ones at Fatapple's -- nice char taste. Only had a Barney's burger once, and thought it was terrible.

            Have not tried it myself, but the Cafe Rouge burger seems to get high marks in other eastbay burger threads.

            1. I like Meridian too, Bear Naked Burgers was decent as well. I miss the excellent burger at Maritime East.

              I hear Cafe Rouge serves a good burger.

              1. I think I may be the only one on this board that doesn't like Cafe Rouge's burger. I've had it a handful of times, trying to like it and the first time, I did, but all subsequent visits it's been dry and awkward to eat.

                Fatapple's makes a really great, well-seasoned burger with a nice char flavor that Steve Green points out, I just wish that for $8 it would include fries or a salad or something.

                Gregoire's grilled beef patty with gorgonzola when you can get it. T-Rex's burger with that Pt. Reyes blue is great, too...

                Lately, I've been ending up at Barney's, but usually order a turkey burger there so I don't know if that counts...

                22 Replies
                1. re: adrienne156

                  I don't like Cafe Rouge's burger either. The bun was wrong. i think I like Greoire's the best.

                  In the good for value but not amazing Bear Naked, Oscar;s, Nation's, Outdoor T-Rex which you mentioned.

                  Didn't like; Smokehouse

                  1. re: rworange

                    Yes! I can't stand the bun!! The ingredients, bun, and shape of patty are such that I could never really get a good bite and it was quite messy. Forget cutting it in half.

                    I actually have never had a burger from Outdoor T-Rex, but I remember reading your reports and it sounded like a really good value. I liked the burger inside.

                    I don't like Smokehouse, either. Greasey.

                    1. re: adrienne156

                      For the quality and value, IMO, the T-Rex outdoor burger is a good deal. However, it doesn't rise to the next level of amazing. In that second group I listed it would come in first by a big lead.

                      1. re: rworange

                        When do they serve the outdoor burgers? I go by there all the time, weekends and weekdays, and I've never seen it. What I have seen is a sign about future construction on the site. Maybe a more permanent hamburger stand?

                        1. re: Glencora

                          Across the parking lot from the restaurant is an open area that is sort of in the center of the strip mall. The entrance is on the other side across from some garden store. Don't know if they are out there is this weather or if they abandoned the idea. It is a little hidden. I knew it was there and it took me a little while to find the grill stand.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            The outdoor burger is now available indoors. It is listed on the menu as "the outdoor burger."

                        2. re: adrienne156

                          I used to dislike the Cafe Rouge burger precisely for the bun--it used to be some much bigger than the bulbous patty, I would tear off the extra two inches of bread that surrounded the meat. But in the past year or two, the bun was changed and now fiits the burger better. To my taste, the meat is always perfectly cooked to MR or rare, depending on how bloody I feel, and I love the pickled onions that come with it. I sit at the bar a couple times a year with a burger and a manhattan--maybe hte manhattan makes it taste better!

                          1. re: Leadbelly

                            I've had this discussion with someone recently, so excuse the novel, but...

                            The pickled onions are good - I'll give you that. ...But, I'm still not a fan. I had the burger within the past year and it was this oddly dense roll that probably would have been passable to my taste had it been toasted, but it wasn't. So, what came to me was the bulbous patty which wasn't particularly juicy even though I ordered it medium (I remember thinking 'wow, I can't believe I'm thinking this, but this needs more fat!), the pickled onions (yummy), some other things that weren't memorable (greens?), sandwiched between two slices of cold, dense, dry bread. My jaw hurt from chewing.

                            My ideal burger has juicy, well-seasoned meat cooked medium-rare, cheese (preferably some type of blue) melted from the heat of the patty, a couple of slices of (not cold!!!) ripe tomato that become fused to the burger by the melty cheese, leaves of crisp lettuce (dressed micro greens? not on my burger!), some kind of mayonnaise/aioli, on a soft-ish roll or bun. I like seeds and things on my bun, but I don't want to fight with it or have it really take up much space, I just want it to serve as a vessel. The Cafe Rouge bun I had was not a vessel. :o\

                            All this being said, I know plenty of people who love this burger - I'm just not one of them.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                Wow...the above is pretty much my ideal burger as well (minus the lettuce).

                                I tried blue cheese on a burger for the first time a couple years ago, and it's hard to go back to wimpy cheese after that. (Is blue cheese and red meat a popular combination? You often see it combined with steak...)

                                That's why I liked the T-Rex "indoor" burger, though the outdoor one has a really good bun which I'm not sure is used for the other one...

                                Secret wish: that the Cheeseboard will open a burger counter.

                                1. re: Agent 510

                                  Ha! That'll happen. I still remember the look on the counter guy's face when my college boyfriend asked for pate.

                                  1. re: Agent 510

                                    I've always been a big fan of blue cheese and red meat and usually see it as an option for burgers in the places I frequent...

                                  2. re: adrienne156

                                    The one other thing that accompanies the Rouge burger (other than cheese, if ordered) is some butter lettuce. Which realy seems too delicate to defend itself against the crush of the meat and the bun. It usually kind of melts into the juices.

                                    I do love this burger, though I certainly don't think it is perfect. I am mostly in agreement with your description of the ideal burger, though I don't necessarily need the cheese, and I like sliced onions, pickled or not. It is one of the trials of life that we have to continually search for perfection. Like my never-ending quest for the perfect BLT--I have yet to find it, but I definitely enjoy the hunt. ;)

                                  3. re: Leadbelly

                                    Yeah, I will concede the pickled onions are good. Do they serve them with other sandwiches?

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I seem to recall them accompanying something else, maybe a grilled tuna or swordfish sandwich? But it has been awhile since I ordered something other than the burger or whatever piece of goat they happen to have on the menu.

                                2. re: rworange

                                  When did Bear naked move to Berkeley?

                                    1. re: nicedragonboy

                                      Does this mean there's a second location? The one in Temescal is still there.

                                      1. re: Hunicsz

                                        my fault, thought that was the one Mission was referring to

                                        1. re: nicedragonboy

                                          Isn't Bear Naked now SR24

                                          -----
                                          SR24
                                          5179 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            Bear Naked closed and that space is now SR24. But you can still get the burger at La Calaca Loco next door. Still good, no fries but get some chips and guacamole!

                                            -----
                                            SR24
                                            5179 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                              2. Eccolo's burger is fantastic, though it's also very expensive. I don't really like Barney's burgers, and I wasn't thrilled with the Gregorie burger the time I had it (kind of small).

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: JasmineG

                                  I really enjoyed the Eccolo burger, but couldn't get past the price. Ordering up a cheeseburger and fries will cost you 20.50.

                                  1. re: SLRossi

                                    Yeah, and my other big issue with Eccolo is that I don't like their fries. Many people love them, and in themselves they're fine, but those are not the kind of fries that I want with a burger, so it's not a satisfying burger + fries experience, AND you're paying over $20.

                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                      Seems to me like "fries included with burger" is something that more or less disappeared years ago? I'm guessing it's because, in this age of lighter eating, some people prefer burgers without fries, so pricing them separately allows those folks to save a little money while the restaurant makes more off those who like both together.

                                      The Gregoire burger is actually my favorite - I forgot about that, since it's only available twice a year or so. Oscar's is my least favorite. I should try some of these others - some of them have been right under my nose!

                                      1. re: Agent 510

                                        I think in very casual spots they are seperated but I still expect that if my burger arrives on a plate from a server that there is something included on the side. I love it when the option is fresh greens but still look for potato salad, slaw, maybe onion rings! but great fries are always a winner. Someone up the post mentioned Liaison and I think that is a great burger. My 'beef' is with overly large burgers ~ about 1/3 pound is my max these days. A good selection of cheeses and other toppings is also a big factor. In Alameda, where I live, options are very slim. I think McGee's was great about 15 years ago, Nations is too sloppy, Bips is low quality and to expensive ~ Jims Out on the Course gets my infrequent burger out business these days. I haven't tried the blue cheese burger somewhere in the Alameda Marketplace ~ anyone else have an opinion?
                                        Edit: Whoops, sorry to hijack a post specifically for Berkeley, I should start a new post! Maybe later ~

                                        1. re: Agent 510

                                          Oh, I don't need fries included with a burger (and you're right, I think most of the places named in this thread don't have burgers and fries together), I just want a place that has good burgers, and also good fries. Wood Tavern comes the closest (just over the border into Oakland, though!)

                                  2. Cafe M does a great burger.

                                    An unexpected delight is the burger at Meal Ticket--house-ground and hand-pressed meat patty, on a Kaiser roll. It's juicy enough for the roll to fall apart, but that's no problem.

                                    And, to be perverse, the chili cheeseburger at Smoke House will remind you of Tommy's in Los Angeles (and possibly college days).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                      My husband and I love the burger at Meal Ticket. Especially with the gorgonzola cheese!

                                    2. office lunch took us to to the new Bistro 1491 on Solano Ave, I know, it's in Albany, but it's not too far out of Berkeley. My boss had the 1491 Bistro Burger, which looked excellent. He gave it good reviews. It was described as a wasabi burger with sprouts.

                                      1. I like Barney's and Christopher's. At either place definitely make sure you specify how you want it cooked (not sure if you can at Christopher's because I think their patties are thinner).

                                        Worst burger ever: Mel's.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: katya

                                          I could've sworn that the Mel's on Shattuck is no longer Mel's? I went there about a year ago for the sake of nostalgia and thought the sign had changed... Regardless, I agree with you -- it was a horribly dismal meal. Gray, gristly overcooked patty, soggy iceberg lettuce salad that tasted like fridge and was doused in way too much ranch, dirty silverware...

                                          1. re: adrienne156

                                            "The Original Mel's" in Berkeley shortened its sign to "The Original" a year or two back. The website for the Mel's chain doesn't mention the Berkeley store, so I assume they've gone their separate ways, if they were ever non-separate.

                                            http://www.melsdrive-in.com/hoursandl...

                                            Triple Rock is my favorite in Berkeley. Hefty though otherwise totally conventional, good price, and there's all that tasty beer to have with it.

                                          2. re: katya

                                            There's something wrong with the Mel's in Berkeley. I think it's related to heavy student traffic. The Mel's in SF are okay, if you order conservatively. I was at the one near Moscone (not by choice) and ordered a burger thinking it was safe. I was pleasantly surprised.

                                            First they asked how I wanted it cooked and then it came out MR, perfectly done. It was good, the surprise that it was good make it very good. I was expecting cardboard. I think it was $6 bucks+ with fries.

                                            1. re: laurenlyle

                                              I finally had a 900 Grayson burger yesterday. It was really good.

                                              About 1/3lb. Cheddar cheese. Shoestringy fried onion rings on top. Two
                                              meaty smoky slices of very nice bacon. Some sort of bbq sauce. An
                                              excellent bun from an actual (maybe acme?) bakery. Plus a big pile of fries.

                                              $11.

                                              Since it's 900 Grayson, everything comes with a pedigree but pedigrees
                                              on the menu sortof bother me because I get to thinking about happy little
                                              Beefer loping around out on the happy pasture with his happy mom and
                                              then .... Anyway, I didn't pay any attention to the pedigree but if you want
                                              it, they've got it.

                                              The bacon was great but a little overpowering. I think next time I'll take it
                                              off and eat it first.

                                              -----
                                              900 Grayson
                                              900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                            2. Definitely Barney's (Niman Ranch beef) and Fatapples.

                                              1. Any updates? I would like somewhere with high quality beef. That is the first and most important step for me.
                                                Price is not an issue, quality only.
                                                Could be Oakland or SF for that matter.
                                                Quick glance leads me to 900 Grayson in the area.
                                                Thanks

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: dietndesire

                                                  Eccolo has closed and Burgermeister on Shattuck has opened. I haven't tried it, but my son likes the burger there.

                                                  1. re: dietndesire

                                                    My current favorite is Mua. The menu says "naturally raised beef." Toasted Acme bun.

                                                    Some topics with more recent reports (this topic has been dormant since February 2009):

                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/659164
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4217...

                                                    -----
                                                    Mua
                                                    2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Thanks, Robert, had been through those was trying for the more precise location though I would like to get an answer to SF or East Bay. Sorry for making you repost old threads. That is wasteful on my part. I always look through a lot before posting to try to not repeat.
                                                      I read one of your posts and you have a 3 way tie for 2nd so which is #1 regardless of location?
                                                      I did not notice Mua much so thanks for making it clear.
                                                      Since you state that a burger is about the meat and the bun and not piling on whatever random rubbish (at some point it is no longer a burger, do not get me started about pizza 'toppings') is the current whim, I think we would have similar tastes.
                                                      Appreciate your list and also if you have thoughts on Zuni, Marlowe, Chez Maman.

                                                      1. re: dietndesire

                                                        Like I said, Mua's my current favorite. Zuni was my longtime #1 but I prefer the toasted Acme bun to focaccia.

                                                        -----
                                                        Zuni Cafe
                                                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                        Mua
                                                        2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        I completely agree with you , Robert.
                                                        Mua makes one heck of a tasty burger.

                                                        -----
                                                        Mua
                                                        2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                    2. Going way back as a starving student in the late 60's, early 70's, Bongo Burgers on Dwight was a favorite of mine. How have they fared over the years? Wondering if they are still any good or if it is just a distant memory.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: curiousgeo

                                                        They've done well enough to have expanded to three locations. Is the Persian Burger what they used to call a lamburger?

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          No kidding, three locations, good for them! Now today I'd try a Persian Burger without hesitation, but back then, it was strictly a cheeseburger deluxe and fries or maybe a Top Dog. Not very adventurous but I guess I've made some progress since those days.

                                                        2. re: curiousgeo

                                                          I went to Bongo Burger during the summer and it's still good and they use Niman Ranch beef...but the comp has risen in the area generally. Still for $4.50 it's a solid, quality burger and has held its own...probably still the best burger on Telegraph Ave...although admittedly it's not something I track.

                                                          What I always got back in the day was the kebab sandwich...I didn't get it because I didn't think it would be as good as the memory and I didn't want that much food.

                                                          Three locations - Southside, Northside and on Center St, near BART.

                                                        3. Agreed on T-Rex's version. Lately, I've been heading over to Trueburger in downtown Oakland too.

                                                          -----
                                                          Trueburger
                                                          146 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                          1. The sad truth is the best burger in the Bay Area is in Hayward, CA - Val's burgers. If you've been there you know...if not - you have to try it.

                                                            The Zuni Cafe burger is pretty good as well - kinda like the Father's office burger in LA. Some other burgers like that in the city (high priced, high quality) are at Paragon restaurant by the ballpark and Coco 500 in SoMa. You guys got Oakland and Berkeley pretty well covered on here!

                                                            -----
                                                            Coco500
                                                            598 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                            Paragon Restaurant & Bar
                                                            701 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                            Val's Burgers
                                                            2115 Kelly St, Hayward, CA 94541

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Pastrami King

                                                              I went to vals. The burgers were of a fairly average smokehouse variety. Nice that they were actually grilled over flame, but nothing much fancier than that. I don't get the hype. Nostalgia, or is there another Val's in Hayward that I missed?

                                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                                Don't think so. I think that's the one - I thought the burgers were great and unpretentious.

                                                                Coco500 and Paragon you have to pay but it's quality.

                                                                -----
                                                                Coco500
                                                                598 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                1. re: Pastrami King

                                                                  Sorry to be incredulous, but you've said the Val's burger is the Best of the Bay, bar none. Not the best burger under $10, but the best, period. So if you think Paragon is good, is it better than Val's? I mean, the Paragon doesn't make most people's top 20 either.

                                                                  Val's is a pretty good burger -- but, given the amazing range of burgers in the bay area (you mentioned The Refuge - what about the Pastrami topped Burger there? Unfair to put such amazing pastrami on a burger and compete with a classic burger like Val's, but what in life is fair), from Burger Joint to BurgerMeister to TrueBurger to Zuni to Namu to NOPA to Serpentine to Cafe Rouge to Mission Burger --- Val's is really flat-out the best? Please explain, because I just didn't see it.

                                                                  I like this article.
                                                                  http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/10-best-...
                                                                  The Burger Register is a bit less congested with expensive super burgers. Mo's is a favorite of mine.
                                                                  http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...

                                                                  I've had maybe 5 burgers on the first list, 10 on the second. Maybe you can list a dozen from all those and explain how Val's is superior to them all.

                                                                  I'm not claiming to know the best burger in the bay area. I won't even say I know the top burger within 10 miles of my house, because I haven't tried Village Pub's burger, or Marche's. Maybe soon.

                                                                  An interesting sub-question: what places with Michelin stars have hamburgers on the menu? Spruce and Village Pub, I'm sure, but are there others?

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Zuni Cafe
                                                                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                  Cafe Rouge
                                                                  1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                                                  Namu
                                                                  439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                                                  Village Pub
                                                                  2967 Woodside Rd., Woodside, CA 94062

                                                                  Burger Joint
                                                                  242 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                                    Boulevard does at lunch. Their burger reminds me of the one at Pearl's, although obviously a bit more expensive.

                                                                    Alexander's does too, haven't had theirs. Also, One Market at lunch. And Michael Mina, which only lost its star because of the location change (although based on mjy experience at the new location, it doesn't deserve a star).

                                                                    did redd get rid of their bar menu?

                                                                    I still miss the burger at Mission Burger and hope that it will return in some form somewhere someday....

                                                                    -----
                                                                    One Market Restaurant
                                                                    1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                                      You know, bbulkow, I came over from yelp because I thought people were a little less cynical on here and just wanted to talk food opinions....but you're asking me to justify my opinion like you don't think my opinion is worth jack...that seems pretty uncool to me.

                                                                      Many of the expensive burgers in the City/East Bay just aren't really that good. They charge an arm and a leg for something that's supposed to be gourmet, but really is a blue collar item. I like to call these places dishonest burger joints. Sometimes you get fed up with these dishonest burger joints and just want a burger that kicks ass...nothing with arugula or kobe beef. Val's is the no frills burger that kicks ass.

                                                                      You could go mess around with some burger that really isn't what a burger is supposed to be and get all these frilly items that make you think the burger is worth what you paid for or you could get a Val's burger and have one like it's supposed to be. and I think Val's is the best of the honest burger joints in the bay area and yes it's all opinion.

                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/klara/31... check out this picture on flickr for a picture of a mama burger.

                                                                      1. re: Pastrami King

                                                                        Nice photo. I like a good char-grilled burger. I hope you keep posting on Chowhound. I like your blog. Seems like there hasn't been much action on Treyf .

                                                                        There are times when people can get a bit zelous about their favorite food and there can be heated opinions. However, it doesn't happen that often. You are lucky you weren't here a few years ago with the pizza wars.

                                                                        I'm with you on fancy burgers. For me a burger has to have a classic bun. Without that, I don't care how good the rest might be. It is not a burger to me, but a ground beef sandwich.

                                                                        1. re: Pastrami King

                                                                          that does look like a good burger. plus it looks like it's the right size (e.g. not too big).

                                                                          how many burger joints did you visit on your "burger quest"?

                                                                          1. re: Pastrami King

                                                                            King, I want to understand what you see in the Val's burger. You said it was the best, without much justification. It "kicks ass". Great! Tell me more. I've had the val's burger and I thought it was only OK. This is called a discussion, unlike what they do on yelp.

                                                                            Here's my opinion. Stating my opinion doesn't mean I don't respect your opinion, I just don't know what's behind it yet. I'd like to hear what aspects of the food you like. Taste, texture, components, price, toppings, etc. I get the bit about preferring a fairly standard complement of toppings - but honesty and dishonesty? It's a hamburger and a restaurant, not a plaintiff and judge judy.

                                                                            I'm all for fancy burgers, but I put them in a different category. I don't think it's reasonable to compare these $14 super-burgers with what you call an "honest burger" or I'd call a "regular burger", or 7x7's classification of an under-$10-burger. So let's just talk about "regular burgers".

                                                                            In the discussion about The Office's burger (San Carlos), another poster said they prefer their burgers seasoned. My preference is unseasoned, or maybe lightly. When I'm cooking at home I go back and forth - often doing a quick black pepper outside rub, sometimes mashing soy sauce into the burger, sometimes just going straight up. But my perfect burger doesn't need adjuncts.

                                                                            For a "regular burger" I'm very fond of grill char, so Burger Joint rates very highly for me. The burger's pretty thin and no serious meat taste. I like their fries, but the bun's pretty ordinary. Still, I'll stop by BJ when I'm in that part of town. I will not call them the best burger in the area - but I sure like 'em.

                                                                            I like Mo's a lot. It's a very honest burger, straight ahead, but with a good meat taste. I like my burgers with solid pink (medium rare), and I expect to get a solid, sweet meat taste. That's something I look for in my burgers, so the burger has to be thick enough to be solidly pink. Mo's has all that.

                                                                            This is also why I like Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto. The burger always has that pink-all-the-way-through, and sweet beefy taste. Unfortunately no grill char, but you can't have everything (where would you put it).

                                                                            I have a soft spot for Barney's, which is widely pooh-poohed here. Partially l like the quick service, low price, and massive fries, which isn't the burger. The burger itself is fairly ordinary, but always gets cooked to that perfect pink I like.

                                                                            I am also fond of Jefferey's (two locations on the peninsula). The burger itself is only average, but I'm a 100% sucker for self-topping. I like lots of jalapenos and relish and pickles and tomatos, and will pile about 2x higher than they will.

                                                                            One that always surprises me is Triple Rock in berkeley. It's a really nice basic burger. A little on the expensive side, a little juicer than I like, a little less meat taste, very nice tomatoes, and you can get it with blue cheese. TR became a staple when I was eating lunch in that area regularly.

                                                                            What I remember about Val's was a good all around burger. I think it had a light char, which is better than no char, enough thickness, and some nice meat taste. The toppings were uninspired and the bun average at best - the real weakness. I thought it was a really nice burger, especially for the price, and would probably get in the habit of stopping by if I was near, but not "worth a trip". I'd very much filed under the "stop by again next time I'm hungry" so I can try them again, but I made a special trip out there to try them and came back 'meh'. Maybe my expectations were too high.

                                                                            I'd put the Val's burger above BurgerMeister, which also seems a good basic burger, nice and thick, no char but better toppings, average meat taste. Will seek out burgermeister when I'm in that part of town, but don't consider it great (or nearly as good as Mo's).

                                                                            Looking at your Burger Quest, I think we're fairly close on a lot of rankings. I think The Counter is way overpriced, and I hate the service, so I'll never be back. I think I'd rank Oasis a bit higher than you did, but I don't like their burgers enough to be a regular. For the category of burger you're talking, I'm also fond of Alice's. The burger itself is thin, but the toppings are very good and the atmosphere is great.

                                                                            I'm leaving off a lot simply because I haven't tried them. TrueBurger is more recent. I think Luka's burger is probably good and I haven't had it. Cafe Rouge probably falls into the "fancy burger" category. Slow Club and Serpentine I've both had recently, but they're also in the fancy burger category. I'm eating my burgers closer to home (peninsula) and when I get up to SF I usually order something other than a burger.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Cafe Rouge
                                                                            1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                                                            Slow Club
                                                                            2501 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                            Peninsula Creamery
                                                                            900 High St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                            Burger Joint
                                                                            242 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                              I've had the triple rock brewery and I can't remember it being that great, but it was good. I don't think I liked the sharper cheese on it. Perhaps I will have to go back for a second round.

                                                                              I agree with you about Barney's. I liked the service at the location on 24th Street in Noe Valley and their topping are always to excess. You could order a bacon burger and a regular burger and make 2 bacon burgers out of that because that bacon burger comes with SO much bacon.

                                                                              Burgermeister is my most hated burger joint because it's very basic and cost 12.50 for a bacon cheeseburger. It's niman ranch meat which is nice, but I know some place in Oakland called Sparky's that serves niman ranch burgers, basic, for cheaper....so I find them to be a ripoff and also the meat always seems drier, less juicy to me there. I stopped going. There is a new burgermeister in the Westlake shopping center in Daly City - if that's closer to your house.

                                                                              I essentially feel the same way about Burger Joint...there is always a better place around the corner from them. Valencia street location? Go to Urbun Burger instead. Haight Street location? Go to the Metro Caffe instead. King Street location? Go to Holy Grill instead. Burger Joint is meh and overpriced to me.

                                                                              The Holy Grill in SF uses Meyer's ranch meat and is also excellent. They use big seeded buns, which isn't my thing, but the holy sauce is excellent an the meat is juicy, flavorful. I go there regularly from work, but I wouldn't call it the best..definitely habit forming good because of the juicy meyer's meat and the holy sauce.

                                                                              Another place I like in the city is the Bull's head restaurant in West Portal. They serve buffalo meat instead of beef which breaks up a bit more easily, but has a great grassy fresh taste to the meat.

                                                                              I've had the Zuni burger which is very good, but I think I liked the Paragon burger better because it had a saltier taste (I think they add salt when they ground the beef) and I enjoyed the garlic aioli. I found the Coco burger to be pretty similar to the both of those burgers - about the same as Father's Office in LA.

                                                                              I like the Val's burger because the meat is juicy and it isn't overdone with mayonnaise - lightly dressed with a softer, seedless bun and a basic cheddar cheese. I find burgermeister to be drier and some people prefer a drier burger, but I like mine wetter, juice coming from the meat with a bit of mayo or the aioli (at paragon). Also, sometimes simple is beautiful and you don't need a pretentious atmosphere to go along with your burger.

                                                                              That burgerquest wasn't mine btw - I just linked the picture, but I'm glad you agreed with that quest's rankings.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Zuni Cafe
                                                                              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                              Holy Grill
                                                                              659 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                              Bullshead Restaurant
                                                                              840 Ulloa St, San Francisco, CA 94127

                                                                              Sparky's Giant Burgers
                                                                              4120 Redwood Rd, Oakland, CA 94619

                                                                              Urbun Burger
                                                                              581 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                              Metro Caffe
                                                                              247 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                                              Burger Joint
                                                                              242 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                              1. re: Pastrami King

                                                                                Great discussion.

                                                                                You clearly factor price into the quality of the burger far more than I do. Personal preference. This can get funny - I've talked to some people (usually Asian), and ask "how's the restaurant?" they say "Too expensive" "Yeah, but how was the food?" "Too expensive!" --- which to me is just crazy. One should be able to talk about the quality independent of the price - then factor in the price.

                                                                                Regarding Urban Burger - do they use charcoal, and get the same char levels as Burger Joint? As I pointed out, the only benefit of BJ is char. Everything else is inferior and wouldn't even make a list - if it wasn't for the char. Either case, they're mentioned enough here that I'll stop by.

                                                                                On another noted, I had a burger at the Hotel Utah last night. Good in a rainy night pinch, but only an average burger at best.

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Burger Joint
                                                                                242 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                  2. My favorite restaurant for a burger is Five in the Shattuck Hotel, it's served with pimento cheese and their butterscotch pudding is wonderful. T-Rex and Cafe Rouge used to be my go to place for burgers, but Five is far superior.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: tartines

                                                                      I love all the analysis. I have different burger moods. Barneys is often a to-go spot due to the fries and the terrific coffee shake. The burger is decent, but not a destination burger.

                                                                      A fancy char grilled burger is also great on occasion, but sometimes I want a greasy, drippy griddle fried burger - the Red Onion on San Pablo used to be my to go place for that....

                                                                      I like Cafe Rouge's burger. I think they must have shrunk the bun. I'm not too fond of the Counter in Palo Alto, but my friends love it. Its fun to pick your own toppings I guess, but I would rather just go to Fudruckers and pile my burger with fake nacho cheese sauce and salsa (tsk tsk). The sliders at The Hob Nob in Alameda are pretty tasty too and they have truffle fries - if you don't like those Pearl's Deluxe Burger just opened at Alameda Town Centre (used to be Southshore Mall).

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Cafe Rouge
                                                                      1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                                                      The Red Onion
                                                                      11900 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                                                                      Pearl's Deluxe Burgers
                                                                      708 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                    2. To me, "best burger" could be one of at least seven distinctly different dishes: griddled, gas-grilled, or charcoal-grilled hamburgers; the cheeseburger variation of each of those; and specialty burgers with unusual ingredients or condiments, such as the New Zealander's "Aucklander 3am White Lady Special" with pickled beet, ham, pineapple, and a fried egg, or the "granulated" burger Mission Street Food used to make.

                                                                      To me, a charcoal-grilled patty trumps other methods of cooking, and cheese is gilding the lily. The bun has to be real bread, not Interstate Brands sponge, and it has to be toasted (which I'll request to make sure it is). And they have to know how to cook it medium-rare (which at some places means getting an overcooked patty on my first visit, after which I know to order "rare"). Mua and Cafe Rouge are the places I think of when I get a burger craving these days.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Cafe Rouge
                                                                      1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                                                      New Zealander
                                                                      1400 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                                                      Mua
                                                                      2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Mua was really good. Better than that in fact. Thank you for the rec, it was about the only food item/dish that met expectation during the trip.
                                                                        I will be presumptuous and say it is the best in the area,if not in the Bay area or at least within a hair's breadth of it.
                                                                        Regardless of all the raves for so many places, they fell short but this choice lived up to it.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Mua
                                                                        2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                      2. Flame Burger in the Elmwood neighborhood is great (and grass fed), and the service is 100 times better than the horrid, HORRID service at all of the Barney's locations.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Elmwood Cafe
                                                                        2900 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: ltsering

                                                                          It must be really REALLY GOOD because I have not been unhappy with the service at Barney's Solano. Either that or I am an easy customer.

                                                                          1. re: wolfe

                                                                            Wasn't Flame replaced by another resto? Plus the burgers were very dry -- maybe frozen patties that were then overcooked?

                                                                            1. re: ltsering

                                                                              Flame recently closed and was replaced by a new branch of Marc 49. I liked Flame, but they never got a lot of business.

                                                                              1. re: betterbeheaven

                                                                                But, darn it, the service was great.

                                                                              2. re: ltsering

                                                                                Wife and I went to the Barney's on Shattuck last week and the service was just fine.

                                                                              3. Since the discussion has opened up to include Oakland one has to mention Rico's at 15th and Franklin. Lunch only.

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Rico's Diner
                                                                                400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: 10foot5

                                                                                  And while you are waiting for your burger you can read the fascinating free literature on the various clones of cannabis sativa available for your home garden. The burger is good

                                                                                2. This has been a fun discussion!
                                                                                  For Berkeley burgers I'd add the blue cheese burger I got at Sea Salt. It's a sea food place but the burger was pretty amazing. And though perhaps not technically a burger, the sliders at Phil's Sliders are incredible. Maybe they're so tasty because they're so small?

                                                                                  1. Perhaps not destination fare, but good when in the neighborhood:

                                                                                    Al's Big Burger
                                                                                    437 San Pablo Ave, Albany
                                                                                    Juicy 1/3 pounder, flame-broiled more or less to order, hits the spot with retro toppings (lettuce, tomato, grilled onions).

                                                                                    Pyramid Brewery
                                                                                    901 Gilman Street, Berkeley
                                                                                    Large and juicy, cooked to order, not much char, again fewer toppings is more to my taste, although the bacon is pretty good. Convenient because I'd drag myself across the street with a broken back before I ever again entered T-Rex, where the service has consistently been so insultingly bad that I guess it must be my own fault.

                                                                                    When in Frisco, I like to hit Joe's Cable Car because I ate there often when working nights.. I've had a better burger in nicer surroundings, but Joe's makes me feel middle aged again. "Joe grinds his own chuck daily."
                                                                                    4320 Mission Street at Silver, SF

                                                                                    1. So far the FIVETENBURGER truck serves the best one I've tried so far, only fault is that they can be undercooked unless you specify otherwise. PHIL's SLIDERS come in a close second, if you consider them to be 'real' burgers.

                                                                                      1. +1 (9.75 Olympic scoring) for Val's Burgers in Hayward.

                                                                                        Mama burger with grilled onions and bacon, cooked truly rare without other condiments, was perfectly prepared IMO.
                                                                                        Onion rings were carefully fried in a tasty but slightly too-thick coating.
                                                                                        Chocolate malt was peerless -- just as it should be.

                                                                                        Fractional point off just because I hope to find something closer to heavenly and I need the "space" to score it so.

                                                                                        [regarding Father's Office burgers in LA, my comparison to Val's would be the Apple Pan in south Westwood -- everything genuine and gratifying -- and both have pie!]

                                                                                        1. I relly like Marlowe's burger in SF. But if you are a purist like me order the bacon on the side.

                                                                                          1. I've been enjoying the burger at Berkeley Bowl West. It comes with fries now (used to be potato chips), and they can be pretty good as well.

                                                                                            1. I had a quite mediocre burger at Zut. Ordered it medium - it was dry and well done. Fries were soggy.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: SunsetKid

                                                                                                Disappointment seems "baked in" at a place called "Zut".