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I need a hamburger so bad! [San Diego]

I'm craving a hamburger and I've decided to go get one for lunch, which place in SD has the very best burgers? Fancy burgers are nice but so are down home good messy burgers.

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  1. Straight up Burger - Rocky's
    Spicy Stuffed - High Dive
    Greasy Goodness - Waterfront/Longhorn
    Bacon With That - Hodads
    Over Rated - Lodge at Torrey Pines/Burger Lounge
    Artisan - Whisk 'n' Ladel

    If you want fries/O rings with that that would require a whole other discussion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: stevuchan

      The Jayne's burger at Jayne's Gastropub is legit.

      1. re: stevewag23

        Has anyone had the Jayne's burger recently? After being totally in love with it for a year, it now seems to be a slightly less perfect version of itself. And maybe the same goes for other items on the menu?

    2. I went to Rocky's in Hillcrest recently and found the burger to be overrated. Ritual Tavern makes a great burger though the fries were not so great. Can't beat Waterfront for combination of food, beer, ambiance (or charming lack thereof) and price. And I will admit to an occasional trip to In-n-Out.

      2 Replies
        1. re: stevuchan

          Mea maxima culpa ... I meant Lucky Buck's. What was I thinking???

      1. I honestly do not get the love for Rocky's. It makes me think that most burgers are so bad that theirs looks great by comparison. The biggest problem with Rocky's is they use commodity ground beef, that they don't grind themselves, which means that it has to be overcooked. Meh.

        Best burgers, IMO, are at places which grind their meat, or use stuff from sources where E. Coli isn't a concern.

        Burger Lounge
        Ritual Tavern

        My current favorite is Burger Lounge, because they use grass-fed beef (which means I can get it rare) and have the best rolls.

        19 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          just had the burger at the Pearl hotel restaurant-excellent. great frites also... on par with ritual tavern burger.
          just curious, what makes the torrey pines lodge burger overrated? i'm thinking of taking my dad there when he visits...

          1. re: smile81

            Heard rave reviews and was let down. Burger was on the dry side with less than produce. Many folks enjoy it.

            1. re: stevuchan

              That must have been an off day. The two times I've had it, it's been anything but dry. They call it the "drugstore burger" for a reason though - it's not gussied up, it's just a really good classic cheeseburger.

              1. re: Alice Q

                Think I built it up in my head a little too much, and I meant less than fresh produce. I work in the area, so I will be back.

          2. re: Josh

            Doesn't the Linkery use Tallgrass Beef too?

              1. re: Josh

                From the latest Linkery newsletter:

                * Our burgers now feature grassfed California beef from Open Space
                Meats in Newman, CA. We're grateful to the Nietschke family for their
                great farming and friendly partnership

            1. re: Josh

              I personally found Burger Lounge pretty plain. Really thin burgers with no real seasoning. So what if they use grassfed? I'd rather have a great burger =(
              They also seem to have incredibly rude management who posted on my blog with fake usernames .


              1. re: clayfu

                I think they have improved a lot over the past year. I first ate there in early '08 and wasn't really bowled over. I thought it tasted okay, but the rolls had an unpleasant dusting of raw flour on them, and the overall flavor wasn't so great. I tried them again in the summer of last year and found it much improved. The rolls were a lot better, and the burger was more flavorful. This has continued to be the case with my subsequent visits, and with friends of mine who have gone.

                If I had to guess, I think that they probably changed the fat ratio in the beef mixture they are using. It may have been leaner before. Or they got the message like they did with the rolls and added more seasoning. To me, it seems like they're trying to do a typical "American burger joint" burger, just with better ingredients.

                The grassfed thing is actually a big deal to me. I know a lot of people don't really care that much about it, but once you're aware of the realities of feedlot meat production and the corn economy, it's hard to eat that stuff in good conscience. You might want to read Fast Food Nation or Omnivore's Dilemma. They are good books on the subject that will teach you a lot about modern food production.

                1. re: Josh

                  I think they are pricy for wha they serve. They need to improve the fries and rings. My wife likes the turkey burger.

                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                    If you're comparing to places serving feedlot beef and Sysco rolls, then yes they are pricey. I usually get the half-salad, which is quite a nice bowl of vegetables for the price, IMO.

                    1. re: Josh

                      I just do not think the rolls should crumble in my hand, and you should be able to taste what you are eating. The dimunitive cups of ketchup are a bit annoying too.

                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                        I don't recall the rolls crumbling in my hand, and I've always found the food quite flavorful. YMMV.

                  2. re: Josh

                    Which location do you normally go to? Have you noticed a difference between the locations?

                    1. re: DougOLis

                      I've only ever been to Kensington.

                    2. re: Josh

                      My personal experience with Burger Lounge has varied quite a bit over the time since they've been open - at both the LJ and Kensington stores. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's just meh. They need to stop pressing the patties down on the grill to get them to cook faster, it just dries them out. The buns have improved though, and I also like the turkey burger.

                    3. re: clayfu

                      I go to burger lounge occasionally, it's good but pricey for what they serve. But where I live, this is the closest place that offers better than Inn-and-Out, but I+O definitely beats Burger Lounge in value. ;-)

                    4. re: Josh

                      Just had a Neighborhood burger recently.

                      Solid burger, but grumpy service at the bar. Lame.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        try the Cowboy Star burgers (bison and regular) about 2 blocks away

                    5. To throw in my two cents, Tioli's Crazee Burger on 30th (1 block south from El Cajon Blvd.) in North Park is pretty good. Ritual Tavern's burger is pretty good as well.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jmtreg

                        Just did a review on Ritual, great burger, I hope they do something about the fries, too common to sit next to that burger. I also like Cafe on Park for their burgers. One major criteria for me is that the burger has to be excellent and with all the fixins, under $10 if possible.

                        1. re: cstr

                          I remember like the fries. . .of course, I haven't been to the Ritual in awhile.

                      2. I thought clayfu had abandoned this board for ebob; anyway, my favs:
                        Dobsons bar burger
                        Waterfront - texas burger with cheese and onions
                        Longhorn - pattymelt
                        Cowboy Star - bison burger with anaheim chili
                        Arterra - simply one heckuva burger, get it with bacon

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ibstatguy

                          san diego lunch suggestions are hard to come by at Ebob =P
                          Thanks for the suggestions so far guys.

                          1. re: ibstatguy

                            update: eatemup and I ventured up to Arterra for the burgers and experienced good and bad. the bad - both burgers were ordered medium rare and were delivered well. the good - upon notification to our server, she very politely whisked them away to get new burgers. the good - the manager made a point of coming over to apologize and deducted the price of both burgers from the bill. the so/so - the replacement burgers were not what I'd call medium rare so next time I'm ordering it rare to medium rare. had a excellent though pricey glass of Viader Dare (cab franc).

                            1. re: ibstatguy

                              At least the mgr. did the right thing, how was the flavor sides etc.

                              1. re: cstr

                                my burger, with bacon, was very good. having had the frites at Blue Boheme the day before, I can easily say that I prefer those at BB. I am in complete agmt with you regarding the mgr and give them full credit for same.

                          2. Rocky's

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              Cowboy Star
                              And I continue to advocate for Cheers in Ramona which beat Rocky's, Hodads and a couple others in some radio contest last year. $6 or so. Good quality beef from Bisher's Meat Market in Ramona. Excellent.

                              1. re: eatemup

                                forgot all about Cheer's...thanks for the reminder eatemup!

                            2. I am a fan of Bully's East. Great burgers served on a french roll. It comes with a salad and choice of potato, baked, mashed or french fries. They have a great bar too, and happy hour!

                              Hodads is also very good.

                              1. Grass fed, locally sources, artisan, and organic are all great but the food has to be properly seasoned and prepared or why bother. Also, when you’re talking about burgers, you’ve got to talk about the buns and accompaniments as well. Here’s my two cents:

                                Good to Great:
                                ROSEVILLE = Great gourmet burger on a great bun with very good steak frites = but a bit expensive at $16.
                                BURGER LOUNGE = Very good burger and bun. Plus good fries and shakes but expensive.
                                WATERFRONT = Very Very good burger. Would be a great burger if they got rid of the soon to be soggy grocery store bun. Love the grilled onions.
                                Finally got rid of the old school “steak house” fries and got some decent ones in.
                                JAYNES GASTROPUB = It’s been a while, but I remember it being a very good with the brioche bun (I think) house made aioli and good steak frites. (And on a side note, the best calamari I’ve had in San Diego).

                                Mediocre to Bad:
                                HODADS = used to be a good greasy burger but last time I went, the bacon tasted and looked more like thick cut ham than bacon and was not good.
                                LINKERY = disappointing burger. It was not seasoned, the bacon was too undercooked. And, not only was the bun stale but it was burnt.
                                RITUAL TAVERN = The burger was OK, the bun was stale, the house made ketchup tasted like pasta sauce. And the service was indifferent. (On the positive side, some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had though.)
                                TIVOLI’S CRAZY BURGER = Did not like at all but was brought to me cold so I’ll give it another try.
                                ROCKYS = To me this was just an average burger, nothing special but took a ridiculously long time to get – I think we waited over half an hour and it wasn’t busy.

                                Want to try:
                                THE PEARL = Good meals there so far and they use the same bakery as Roseville.
                                NESSY BURGER = Friends have tries and thought they were on par with Waterfront.
                                LODGE AT TORREY PINES = Have heard nothing but raves about this burger.
                                KENSIGNTON GRILL = I’ve heard they do a good burger that may or may not be on the menu.
                                URBAN SOLACE = I keep planning on ordering the hamburger with the bun they make in house, but I always end up ordering something else at the last minute.
                                NIEBORHOOD = I can live without ketchup.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: sdnosh

                                  I really like Neighborhood's burger, Urban Solace has some kind of herb butter in it so it is a very different taste. Burger at Torrey Pines is good, but not worth a separate trip. Kensington grill is hands down my favorite...well seasoned, perfectly cooked, nice grill flavor and the best spiced, skinny fries come with. YUM! JMHO.

                                  1. re: foodiechick

                                    try the burger at Arterra if you happen to find yourself up that way around noontime

                                    1. re: ibstatguy

                                      Oh, thanks. Never think of that place for lunch.

                                    2. re: foodiechick

                                      Ken Grill's burger is really good - it's the only thing I really like there, actually (though I have to admit I haven't been in a while.) I also really like the burgers at Roseville, Farmhouse, Starlite, Ritual Tavern, and the Torrey Pines Lodge. On the casual end, I like Hodad's and In n Out - double meat, animal style.

                                      1. re: Alice Q

                                        Another vote for the burgers at Kensington Grille (yes, they are on the menu) and also Starlite. Had a Starlite burger last night in fact. I think the Ken Grille burger is a little more gourmet than Starlite, and I like how they spice the fries that come with it.

                                        1. re: Uptown Dave

                                          Oh! I forgot... Adams Avenue Grill has a good burger selection, including their Southwestern Turkey Burger and great waffle cut fries. And perhaps even better, also featuring waffle cut fries, is The Tractor Room where you have your choice of beef, lamb or buffalo burger.

                                    3. re: sdnosh

                                      I haven't been to Nessie Burger since I lived up in Bonsall (5-6 years ago), but it was a classic greasy burger stand Burger served out of a shipping container in the corner of a Car Pool parking lot on the side of the highway & overlooking a dirt lot where the trucks parked. You're definitely not going for the Ambiance, but it *is* a classic of the greasy stand burger genre.

                                    4. I second (or third, fourth, whatever) Burger Lounge ... I, for one, like their fries (gulp).

                                      Mr. Peabody's (on Friars, West of Fashion Valley) is my go-to burger joint. I remember a long time ago they served the burgers on gross sweet Hawaiin rolls, but they have gone back to normal buns - thank goodness! I'm pretty sure fries and rings are of the bagged frozen variety, but the burgers are huge and delicious and I don't miss having fries.

                                      1. I hope he got his hamburger by now. The title made it sound like he was desperate.

                                        1. I haven't been to all of the places mentioned here but so far I have not found a good burger spot in San Diego. Therefore if I want a good burger I either cook one myself, go to a Red Robin franchise (which is ok but better than any other burger I've had in San Diego), or drive to Santa Monica and get a Father's Office burger.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: SD Native

                                            Wow, no idea what to say to that. I think there are many good burgers to be found in San Diego. I've had the burger at Father's Office, and I agree it's very good, but I think the burger at Neighborhood easily rivals it.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              Wow Josh, you used to rave about Ritual, what happened? I enjoy having Neiman done medium rare, very tasty and the right thickness. Do you miss it?

                                              1. re: cstr

                                                I still go to Ritual, I just don't get the burger. From what I understand, Niman doesn't raise their own cattle, and it's not necessarily pastured or grass-fed.

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  Niman uses a "network" of farmers that humanely raise their cattle and pigs. Vegetarian feed, no antibiotics or hormones but not grass-fed. They also just got gobbled up by a huge Chicago holding company to stay in biz, so who knows how long that practice will even last.

                                            2. re: SD Native

                                              sounds like someone needs to get out of the Red Robin and try a few more burger joints. At least give some insight to what you have tried.

                                              1. re: SD Native

                                                You say, "Therefore if I want a good burger...[I'll] drive to Santa Monica and get a Father's Office burger."

                                                If your willing to do that perhaps you could spend 1/10th the effort to check out the places here first. There must be a better hamburger in San Diego than Red Robin.

                                                Now pizza--well that's a different story. :)

                                                1. re: The Old Man

                                                  I will go along with Native that Father's Office in Santa Monica (or Culver City) is better than anything down here. That would include Neighborhood, Hodads, Burger Lounge --even my beloved Cowboy Star Bison Burger and my go-to standy-by, Cheers in Ramona (OK, I live a couple miles away). The Lodge at Torrey Pines is great if they cook it right and you, and Waterfront is great depending on the grease quotient you are willing to withstand.

                                                  I look forward to trying Arterra again. I had one at the bar shortly after Bradley Ogden and Carl Scrhoeder took over but have not been back.

                                              2. Tioli's Crazy Burger in North Park...hands down best in SD!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: fruitchip

                                                  I was there once about a year ago. (We live in Tucson and only get to San Diego 2-3 x per year.) Great food, reasonable prices and two guys who really took pride in their business. That always counts for me!

                                                  1. re: fruitchip

                                                    I'm in love with Tioli's half beef/half lamb burger with the tzatziki sauce especially if it is done rare. Tioli's is the most creative burger place in town plus as lawyerbriefs said the two owners really take pride in running a great neighborhood restaurant.

                                                  2. I did not chime in with my suggestion, because I thought you all were discussing San Diego proper, but now that you have ventured further out in your discussion -

                                                    The burger at Brett's BBQ in Encinitas is great - hand formed patty, always cooked to order (medium rare for me), I usually get the sweet potato fries.

                                                    I do not know if the meat is grass fed, etc. I guess I should find that out.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Enorah

                                                      "I do not know if the meat is grass fed, etc. I guess I should find that out."

                                                      Probably not or I think they'd mention it. We do like their BBQ!

                                                        1. re: The Old Man

                                                          Huh? The Old Man likes something? Our very own Eeyore?

                                                          ; }

                                                      1. I like the Burger Lounge and like them (I've only been to Kensington) and tonight I went to Rocky's - oh so good! I loved it! I wish they were a bigger place, though...

                                                        Have y'all tried Hooley's burgers? They are juicy and flavorful. DON'T forget to order their onion rings - HUGE rings of sweet onions dipped in some kind of beer batter, I'm sure!

                                                        They'll be open in Grossmont Center in the next few days if they haven't already...

                                                        1. I just had a very good burger at Johnny B's in La Mesa. There afternnon lunch special is 6.50 for a chesse burger fries and either a beer or a soda.

                                                          Big slice of tomato, and peppers at the table. bun was great and did not fall apart!

                                                          It is a bar and you must be over 21.

                                                          Monday nights the special is 6, but it does not include the drinks.

                                                          1. In order of preference:

                                                            1. The Pearl Hotel – If I’m gonna spend $15 for a burger (house-ground), then this is the one. Plus, the well- seasoned fresh frites are the best I’ve had in years (since the dearly-departed Benita’s on the Santa Monica Promenade)

                                                            2. The Glass Door (Little Italy) – A perfectly-cooked Waygu burger with really nice frites. The great view is simply a bonus.

                                                            3. Urban Solace – Great burger, great roll. Still under $10.

                                                            4. Kono's (PB) – I know it’s mainly a breakfast joint, but it makes a rock-solid burger.

                                                            5. The Waterfront – The Texas burger (?) is death on a bun. Really, dude. But combined with a cold brew, it definitely hits the spot. Their fries are a non-factor.

                                                            BTW, the worst burger? Mary Jane’s Coffeeshop in the Hard Rock Hotel. It’s a cheap-tasting embarrassment. I have pure disdain for that place.

                                                            Overrated: Neighborhood. It’s a decent burger, but that’s about it. Father’s Office is definitely better. Plus, like Father’s Office, the “no ketchup” policy is stupid, and from a culinary standpoint, un-American.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                              1. re: Maxmdwinter

                                                                I got to try both the Pearl's and The Glass Door's burgers recently. Both are great burgers, perfectly cooked and seasoned on great buns served with great fries. I think I would give a slight edge to the Pearl as the meat was moister, they smoke thier own bacon, and the fries has some interesting seasoning on them. The view fromt the Glass Door is pretty nice. I can't wait to come back and try dinner and catch the view at night.

                                                                1. re: sdnosh

                                                                  Hi sdnosh,
                                                                  How was The Glass Door in Little Italy..did you only get the burger?
                                                                  Look forward to hearing your take on the place.

                                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                    Hi Beach Chick,
                                                                    At the Glass Door, I did just get the burger. My friend got the Jdori Chicken. It was suppose to be a sandwich, but the waitress misheard and brought the salad. Either way, it was nicely cooked and seasoned with that perfect skin I can't seem to accomplish at home. The patio is narrow but nice as is the interior. The service was good not great as they seemed a bit short staffed. I haven't tried it yet for dinner, although friends who went on New Year's Eve said they really enjoyed the food.

                                                                    1. re: sdnosh

                                                                      Thanks so much sdnosh!
                                                                      Really appreciate your take on the Glass Door.

                                                              2. Alchemy in South Park. Grass fed beef, cooked rare as ordered, manchego cheese, very tasty, crispy shoestring fries, for $10. Finally, I have a favorite burger in this town. I've tried many, but not all, of the other places listed in this thread, and Alchemy beats them.
                                                                Dishonorable mention goes to the Waterfront burger - can't see how anyone calls that a great burger. I have enjoyed the service and atmosphere at Waterfront, but not the burger.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: juantanamera

                                                                  ah well, tastes differ and thank goodness for that. I still tip my cap to the Waterfront Texas burger with cheese and onions. That said, today's split of the bison and regular burger at C Star reaffirmed their primary position in my burger rotation. Bruce's skills as a mixologist are not to be missed as well.

                                                                2. Anyone do a burger that is stuffed with cheese in between 2 patties?
                                                                  It's Monday and I'm craving a cheeseburger!

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                    I done them with herbed goat cheese inside, tangy, creamy and yum!

                                                                    1. re: cstr

                                                                      that sounds awesome cstr!
                                                                      I'm looking for either a stilton cheese bomb stuffed inside or cheddar oozing out of that bad boy..kind of like a 'jucy lucy'..

                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                        The Spicy Reed @ High Dive (not Stilton or Cheddar, but good)

                                                                        Half pounder stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeno topped with grilled onions smoked bacon, mushrooms and swiss cheese. ($10.25)

                                                                        1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                          Stilton is one of my fav cheeses. Burger stuffed with real stilton, oh yah!

                                                                      2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                        Did you see the Man v. Food episode on Minnesota this weekend too?

                                                                      3. I have to say the Aztec burger (jack cheese and anaheim chilis) at Downtown Johnny Brown's is really quite good.