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Mar 14, 2012 05:37 PM

Burgers and coffee, that's elf food, apparently -- your thoughts solicited

Coming to town for another visit April 11-16. Most of our meals are mapped out but we’re looking for a couple of things: an outstanding burger and any new/new to us coffee places we should check out. I know both of these can be controversial but we’re not looking for the “best” of either, just suggestions on versions you think I might like a lot and why (for example, see the things I like in a burger below if you want to play along!).

Some will say I am “wasting” a meal on a burger, but where I’m from (Vancouver BC), there are only a handful of places that are allowed to serve burgers made to order, and so far none of them are great (the best one is closing in ten days, sigh). I like a fairly standard burger, not too many unusual toppings and prefer a good white bun (no whole wheat and no focaccia – I’m looking at you, Zuni!) that should be toasted and not too big and pouffy. I also appreciate a very plain patty, grilled with good char, no filler or seasonings apart from salt and pepper, and definitely no onions or other vegetable matter in the meat itself. A burger without fries (or even more ideally onion rings) verges on blasphemy for me, and it’s hard to get both well executed so that would be a bonus.

Re burgs, we haven’t got much under our belt in SF but were inspired by the great offerings in Portland recently. So far we’ve only tried Marlowe (meh, bun was wet and fries cold), Burger Joint (surprisingly good for airport food), Anchor Brewing (ditto) and Bix (tasty if a bit underseasoned but way too much cheese, can’t believe I’m saying that) plus the Rosamunde Tuesday burger (sadly overcooked). Could be high or low end but probably will be a lunch stop. Reviewing the most recent “best burgers” threads and assorted best ofs, blogs etc I came up with: Grubstake (conflicting reports), Super Duper (surprised how many Hounds like this one; not sure you can get it to order), Pearl’s, Tupelo’s (candied bacon, cheddar frico), Bill’s Place (Giants’ Burger), Metro Caffe, Lark Creek Steak (fries sound good), Perry’s, Roam, Nopa (good fries too; lunch w’ends only), Bullitt (had to include one dive bar), Chez Maman (partly for the show at the counter), Serpentine, Slow Club (good fries), and Mission Beach Café. I noticed there are a lot of reccs from outside the city but was thinking to stick with SF proper for now, though I might be persuaded otherwise :-).

When it comes to coffee I think I am a second waver but the SO is into the third wave stuff so we tend to go more to those cafes. He prefers to drinks cappuccinos whereas I rather like your Gibraltars.

We’ve tried Blue Bottle (all but the one near Jack London), Ritual on Valencia, Four Barrel on Valencia, Contraband, Coffee Bar on Montgomery, Grand Prix, Ma’velous, Jane, Sightglass, Phil’s, Delise, Grand Prix, Reveille and a few others I’ve overlooked I’m sure. We have Fourth Wave on the radar, anything else we should be checking out?

Thanks in advance for your comments and ideas!

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  1. If you get over Oakland way, try Mua's burger.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I am wondering if I'll have to cast a wider net to include the East Bay in the burg hunt, just not sure we'll have time this trip. The Mua one does sound like a contender for what I'm seeking.

    2. I do really like the Slow Club burger but I was surprised at how much I liked the burger at Epic Roasthouse. I know people may blast it, and it is crazy expensive, but it's huge and comes with a platter of fixings so you can top it how you like. If it's nice outside there's not much better than sitting outside for lunch w/ a burger and a beverage.
      Sadly one of my fave burgers was the mini-burger at Thermidor. Sad because they are no more...

      Slow Club
      2501 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Epic Roasthouse
      369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

      8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

      3 Replies
      1. re: margieco

        I thought of one more... Citizen's band.

        The bonus - they use buns baked next door at Pinkie's bakery, and their bacon is tasty.

        Pinkie's Bakery
        1196 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA

        Citizen’s Band
        1198 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: margieco

          Finally had the burger at Citizen's Band a few weeks ago and agree it is solid. Should've taken a photo. Burger was cooked to order. I think it was bested soon thereafter by Southern Pacific Brewing Co.'s burger, also cooked to order. I posted a photo of that one in a thread about SPB, which has an outdoor seating area (nice if weather cooperates and is not too crowded).

        2. You're right that Super Duper doesn't cook to order, but it is still a good experience for what it is, with well-sourced meat, the all-you-can-eat pickles, good selection of drinks, etc.

          Prather Ranch has a new spot in the Ferry Building making burgers, definitely made to order, and other tasty items. And next door at Frog Hollow you can try some Verve coffee.

          In Oakland, a couple of other option are Flora's burger, which comes with great fries and a salad dressed with too much blue cheese dressing; I order the burger w/o cheese and use some salad instead. Luka's Tap Room also make a good burger, and really great fries. Both of those options are fairly near Blue Bottle's Jack London HQ.

          11 Replies
          1. re: foodeye

            I visited the Super Duper in Mill Valley a couple of weeks ago and really liked it. The cheese burger was ordered and delivered med/rare, the meat was very tasty (tho' next time I will order the sauce on the side) the garlic fries good (tho' next time I will order extra crispy) and those home made pickles, which you dip yourself from the pickle jar) are superb. The tab was $12 which included a large draft beer and I left totally satisfied. Will return.

            1. re: foodeye

              Despite the restaurant-sounding name, Prather Ranch's American Eatery is just a takeout place in the hall, and they cook to order only if you order medium.


              Luka's burger is good, or used to be, but I stopped going because of the noise and impossibility of getting in without a reservation.

              Places with lousy fries can't make them much better by leaving them in the fryer. Good fries take considerably more work.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I had a good burger and excellent fries at Luka's within the past three months. I was with a large group and we did have a reservation, although I've not had a problem with dining without one when we've gone early. I didn't think it was extremely noisy (again, it was early) Very nice beer selection also.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  i'm not a fan of that type of fries - the fat, steak-type fries. I prefer the really skinny ones, but that's just personal taste; other than that, their fries aren't bad. i remember the burger being good as well. i went recently at around 6:30 and the noise was pretty intense. we actually asked to be moved to the back table nearest the pool room, which helped. but i'd still go back - they have a lot of other really good food.

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    Luka's fries aren't the fat "steak-type" style, they're Belgian-style, like Frjtz's, medium-sized with a square cross-section.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  In The City for everyday burger craving I like Mo's in North Beach. The fries are thin cut from real spuds and fried crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Le Garage makes a fine upscale (read "Kobe Style beef, about $15 with great, very French fries and Aioli) burger. No one has addressed the onion ring issue. To that end, consider the burger at Alfred's, a fine example of the genre available with fries and onion rings ("string" style). I still remember fondly one of the best french fries of my life from there. It was a french fry that had been sitting under the onion rings and had absorbed some of their flavor. ("Ants mouse worse waddling." from "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut".) Nothing better!

                  1. re: little big al

                    I'm going to put a solid +1 on Mo's. If you thought burger joint "was surprisingly good for airport food" (the mother is in the mission, 19th and valencia), you'll like the Mo's burger, which is an everyday burger entirely in the right direction. Great char, solid meat, not too fancy in any particular direction. I'm not sure it's worth going across town for, but if you're staying in greater-union-square it's a solid option.

                    Re: the slow club burger: It's the same burger over at Serpentine, but I like the space better, and the rest of the menu is better, and the cocktails are better. If you're making a special trip, try Serpentine.

                    Mua's burger is good. Worth a trip from wherever you are in the east bay. Better than Luka's, and a better environment. More other fun stuff on the menu - but a real sit-down place, not just a Joint like Mo's.

                    Don't forget, you can also sample the latest in LA imports at Umami Burger up in the Marina district. I haven't eaten one yet, and both the fact that they're from LA and in the Marina means it may be a long time.

                    One fun burger is the Zeitgeist burger. The perfect hour at Zeitgeist is a sunny saturday or sunday afternoon at about 2pm hanging out with the 20-something mission-ites, their favorite beer and tunes, and one of those burgers. It's fairly basic charcoal and patties, but the freshness of the beer and the atmosphere make up for a lot.

                    The pastrami + burger combo is killer. We have it on the peninsula at the Refuge, where you can get a burger topped with pastrami. I'll keep an eye out on that Wise & Son's burger.

                    No one has stood up for Pearl's Deluxe, or UrBun, or SuperDuper, or BurgerMeister or BigMouth or Gott's or Barney's or Acme, or Max's, or Mel's or Bender's or Slider's. I used to crave Barney's quite a bit, and even had one yesterday, but the world has moved past them. Mel's and BurgerMeister make a decent non-charcoal burger, but only OK. Gott's only makes sense if you're *right there* and hungry, even then you should order the Ahi burger. Slider's on Polk is underappreciated - they use the same char contraption as Mo's but somehow the meat isn't as good - I still eat there when I'm doing a gig at the regency around the corner. The others I haven't eaten. I wonder sometimes if ChowHound doesn't get frightfully inbred - there's a lot of other good food out there.

                    re: coffee, I'm not sure there's much new since your last visit. You might try your way over to Local 123, but it's a haul, and even further is Barefoot, which I suspect is best categorized as Third Wave - I get confused sometimes. I drink mostly four barrel when I'm feeling flush, and Costco when I'm not.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      For the local chains, I think Super Duper does the best job, and I've gone there a bunch of times. I like that you can get tons of pickles there too.

                      When you take away all the crazy toppings, Barney's burgers just aren't that good. I'd be game for trying Burgermeister again, but the pasty low quality blue cheese on top of their blue cheese burger was so overwhelming that I've been reluctant to go back.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        I haven't been to Barefoot since they were sold. Are they still as conscientious as they were ?

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          BurgerMeister earns a big fat no from me.
                          BigMouth is one of my favorites for fast-food type burgers
                          Barney's meat has a weird texture, anymore, for me.
                          Mel's? oh no.

                  2. They don't serve burgers, but Outerlands in the Sunset does something no other restaurant does in San Francisco, and maybe everywhere for that matter. They treat coffee with respect and skill. they use coffee from Sightglass and whether you order a pour over drip or an espresso drink, your drink will be the equal of it's supplier.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: poser

                      I would not recommend Sightglass to anyone who's not a fan of third-wave coffee.


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Agreed on Sightglass - at least for drip. Incredibly acidic/caffeinated probably due to the very, very light roasting. Also gave impression of a lighter/watery cup of coffee.

                        Haven't tried espresso from them.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          I'm afraid you are mistaking bright-citricy for acidic/caffeinated. Two complete different things. As for whether they would like the coffee? GE already said they had gone to Sightglass, and her husband is a third wave fan.

                          1. re: poser

                            I'm afraid I'm not mistaking the two. It was highly acidic/caffeinated - as in burning a hole in my stomach. This was true for a person who regularly drinks 3 cups of coffee a day and from one who drinks one cup of coffee a day. I'm sure some appreciate the flavors that this type of light roasting brings out - I did not. It may be because we got drip?

                            For the record, we like Blue Bottle and Ritual (and Intellegentsia when we get it) - all who are grouped into 3rd wave. Sightglass seemed even more extreme than any of those.

                            1. re: poser

                              Citric flavor comes from citric acid, one of the 50-odd acids in coffee. Third-wave roasters favor more acidic beans. The lighter the roast, the more acid is retained.

                              I asked the guy at Sightglass for their darkest roast. I can't honestly call it undrinkable, since I choked down a couple of cups, but most of the incredibly expensive, repulsively acidic beans are still in my freezer six months later.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                We did indeed go to Sightglass, twice when it was a kiosk and once since the buildout was completed. We both liked the coffee better the first time, which could be the result of a number of variables. Neither of us enjoyed the atmosphere in the finished room, which is a personal preference. As indeed is liking the coffee there (or not!). I did find it a bit stomach-burny FWIW.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  "but most of the incredibly expensive, repulsively acidic beans are still in my freezer six months later."

                        2. Grubstake makes a burger that's as good as your high quality diners, but it's not in the same league as a lot of higher end places are striving for. Likewise, I had the Marlowe burger at their new place, Park Tavern, and didn't think it was up to the reputation.

                          My two favorite burgers are from Nopa and 4505 Meats. The pickled onions help justify the use of a Nopa's brioche bun, but you may still have a problem with it since your preference is a white bun. I wasn't a huge fan of the bun at 4505 meats, but the meatiness of their dry-aged burger is astounding.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            Is 4505 only at the Sat FPFM? If so, it will have to be another trip. I have had breakfast from them and really enjoyed.

                            1. re: grayelf

                              That's the only place I've seen it

                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                Perhaps this isn't what Grayelf seeks but just posting it out there - Baker and Banker also makes a 4505 burger during brunch. I really like Baker and Banker for brunch. They serve Four Barrel coffee and always have a lot of savory choices on the menu. Here's a cut & paste from their brunch menu:
                                Seared 4505 Burger
                                poppy seed challah roll, roasted garlic aioli, French fries
                                add cheese 1.5 applewood bacon 2 farm egg 2

                                Baker & Banker
                                1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109