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Your Favorite Place to Get a Grass-fed Burger and/or Steak in the San Diego Environs

There has been a lot of discussion about the touted superior taste and environmental sensitivity of choosing to consume grass-fed beef.

OK, I haven't the faintest idea about where to go to find out for myself. (Also, I am easily confused and distracted by bright shiny objects.)

Where do you go, fellow Chow Hounds?

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  1. I am fairly certain the burger at JRDN at Tower 23 Hotel is grass fed and it is a consistently good burger as far as I am concerned. For the record, I base my like for a burger on the flavor of the meat by itself--not if it needs 4 or 5 added ingredients to give it flavor.

    1. If you want to buy the raw ingredients WholeFoods has Homegrown Meats (you can also visit their shop in LJ) which is very good.
      For a grass fed burger I would go to Alchemy as they have it from sources which is completely grass-fed. (A lot of vendors have grass fed beef which is grain finished (which pretty much defeats the purpose of grass fed - so you might often have to ask about their sources and how the meat is finished.). For steak you might have to go to Cowboy Star as they have some grass fed beef (but not sure about their sources and if it truely grass fed)

      1. came across the following article--most are not burger/steak restos and a few have closed, but fairly relevant article that should be of assistance to you:


        1 Reply
        1. re: El Chevere

          This is total BS - a Fox News editorial about nutrition.

        2. Burger Lounge - multiple locations, tasty burgers!

          31 Replies
          1. re: srk

            +1 on Burger Lounge. Although, personally, the whole "grass fed" thing is just marketing hype.

            1. re: wanker

              Why is grass fed marketing hype ? Ever tried both side by side and see how they different they taste (and let's not start talking about the difference it makes for the animals) ?

              1. re: honkman

                Yes, I've tasted both and the difference minimal -- at least domestically. Now dry aged beef that's another story.

                1. re: honkman

                  I actually don't prefer the taste of grassfed burgers.

                  Steaks are a different matter. At least for certain cuts anyway.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I am fine if somebody prefers the taste of grain fed burgers as taste is subjective but I have problems if somebody calls grass fed beef just a marketing hype as this is simply ignoring facts.

                    1. re: honkman

                      We need an expert in non-commodity beef. Let's see if we can get Josh of The North in the discussion:

                      Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice

                      1. re: honkman

                        Facts... okay... and they are...?

                        With ground beef, at least with a good quality cut and the right percentage of fat, I find the taste difference between grass feed and traditional corn finished lot feed beef minimal. WIth steaks, grass feed is very in consistent, and I've never been all that impressed. Regardless, I like Burger Lounge.

                        1. re: wanker

                          The taste of a grass fed burger or steak is significantly different than grain fed and my comment was mainly about "just being marketing hype" which is BS

                          1. re: honkman

                            I think when people associate "grass-fed beef" with "marketing hype" it's usually related to the supposed (superior) health benefits of grass-fed beef vis-a-vis corn-fed.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              There is scientific evidence supporting these claims, FYI. Not "supposed" evidence.

                              1. re: Josh

                                There's scientific evidence that supports a lot of things that later turned out to be bunk.

                                Frontal lobotomy, anyone?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  The study's methodology is published so you can feel free to conduct your own research and prove it wrong if you think that it's wrong.

                                  Of course any attorney, or PR professional, can attempt to discredit scientific evidence by pointing out that sometimes scientific research is flawed or gets the cause/effect relationship wrong.

                                  Citing a questionable surgical procedure like the frontal lobotomy is like citing trephination or phlogiston theory.

                                  Of course if you believe the NIH study to be flawed or "bunk" perhaps you can proffer an alternative hypothesis to explain the evidence revealed by the research study.

                                  (I won't be holding my breath.)

                          2. re: wanker

                            Cows evolved eating a diet of grass, which means their digestive systems don't tolerate grain well. This doesn't only result in cows producing a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas, but also means that eating grain-fed beef contributes hugely to global warming as the transport of grain to feedlots consumes a lot of fossil fuels.

                            Health-wise, beef that comes from grain-fed cows is high in omega-6 fatty acids instead of omega-3, which is bad for one's cholesterol levels.

                            Cows that are raised on grass produce leaner beef, with a much smaller carbon footprint, with greater health benefits.

                            The real marketing hype here is the BS industrial food system that's sold people on the non-scientific notion that corn-fed beef is better.


                            1. re: Josh

                              Josh, I thought that all cows (in the US) are grass fed, right up to the point when they're close to being ready for the slaughterhouse. Then the "corn-fed" cows get a switch in food, to improve marbling I suppose, but it's just for a relatively short time.

                              Is that not so? Just asking.

                              1. re: DoctorChow

                                That's a good question, can't say that I know for sure. I know that is what Brandt does, but my recollection from Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast-Food Nation is that the beef from CAFOs is fed a grain-based diet for most of its life.

                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                  Cows are raised on grass for ~ 8 months (and 700-800 lbs), then go to feedlots for 4 - 6 months where they are fed a high energy food (mostly corn, but also other grains, antibiotics, and who knows what else - remember mad cow disease?). Weight at slaughter is 1200-1400 lbs.

                                    1. re: firecooked

                                      Remember that on Feed Lots, cows stand in muddy manure from the thousands of cows being fed a diet of grains, that is UNnatural for them. Mad cow disease, as well as, many other toxins to their nervous system make for a very weakened immune system. When they become 'down cows' they are shipped off to the slaughter house with the other cows and end up on somebodies dinner plates!

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    Well Joshie, if you really think about it, Man evolved by eating a diet of fruits and veggies, which means our digestive systems don't tolerate meat well. Man only used animals for sacrifice, you know back in the day.

                                    1. re: cstr

                                      lgeria Tassili nAjjir cave. You're correct, only recently did man hunt animals.

                                      It was just 9-10 millenia ago.

                                      These guys were obviously hungry- I mean, look at 'em.

                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                        Isn't the earth just 7000 years old ? Why are these guys not riding dinosaurs ?

                                        1. re: honkman

                                          Yes, and there is incontrovertible photographic, scientific evidence!

                                          1. re: Fake Name

                                            It looks like you listened to Lewis Black

                                        2. re: Fake Name

                                          Yes they were hungry but, was that meat grass fed.

                                        3. re: cstr

                                          Evidence says otherwise. Our eating of animals goes back tens of thousands of years.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            Long-term experience has shown that we human types will eat almost anything when the river dries up.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              Yes it does, I'm referring to a time just a tad further back, like 'In the beginning'.

                                2. re: wanker

                                  I don't think in the case of Burger Lounge it is hype. The owner of the place clearly believes in what he was doing. He could have made easier money by going with some other catch (e.g. KraftBierBurgers).

                                  1. re: wanker

                                    It's not marketing hype if you consider the myriad ways that grass-fed cows are better than factory-farmed feedlot cows.

                                3. Gauchito Grill in San Marcos uses all grass fed beef for their Argentinian steaks and their burger.

                                  Cowboy Star for steak.

                                  1. I just had a good grassfed burger at Notorious Burger in Carlsbad before a movie. Good ingredients, good bun to meat ratio, and cooked as asked - med rare.

                                    1. Curious - does Colorado now have a new type of "grass fed" beef?

                                      4 Replies
                                        1. re: DoctorChow

                                          Oddly enough, after eating a 1/2 pound burger you are hungrier than you were before you ate.

                                        2. re: RB Hound

                                          I think it's called "smoked meat"

                                        3. Oh, Lordie. I just finished grilling and having a steak from Siesel's, and it was just wonderful! These were "corn fed" steaks. Whatever! Terrific!

                                          I guess I'm saying that maybe, for me anyway, "grass fed" may be an over-rated thing, flavor-wise.

                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            In general I agree. Sure, grass-fed has an edge in flavor. But as far from earthy-crunchy I may be, there is merit to considering the tremendous inequity of resources (corn ((and opportunity cost of the land dedicated to its growth)) and water) required to produce a pound of beef.

                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                              That's like comparing apples and pears. Yes they are both fruits and look similar but just because I like pears more than apples I wouldn't call them overrated. corn vs grass fed beef has obviously very different flavor profiles based on the diets - one has a much more "buttery" flavor with a more tender mouthfeel (corn) whereas the other has a much more "natural" beef flavor with an often more chewy consistence. None is overrated, there are just personal preferences, e.g. I like beef flavor, if I want to taste butter I prefer to eat butter.

                                              1. re: honkman

                                                I don't disagree that corn v. grass fed beef taste different, but I seriously think that that difference is significantly muted in burger form.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  When I have beef it's often in some form where the meat flavor itself is somewhat muted by other ingredients. I only rarely eat steaks in a restaurant and when I do, it's somewhere special, like Cowboy Star or Donovan's, where the steaks are always outstanding, whatever the cows were fed.

                                                  So I think that you're probably right about burgers, even though I always ask for "rare" when I order one, given a choice, specifically so that I can taste the meat. Go figure. Maybe my beef taste buds just aren't that refined.

                                                  1. re: DoctorChow

                                                    I was completely underwhelmed from the steak at Donovans several years ago. And even though Cowboy Star was much better everything else like sides, appetizer etc were disappointing at several visits. (But I hadn't yet the chance to try their tasting menu (only Mon-thu) which looks very promising). In addition I prefer restaurants which sous vide their steak/meat which will give you a far superior dish than any steak focused restaurant can offer

                                                    1. re: honkman

                                                      OK. Well, what are your current favorite places for steak?

                                                      1. re: DoctorChow

                                                        Those places which serve it as part of a tasting menu with sous vide. Since steak restaurants tend to not use sous vide I have yet to find one which I like. Conventional steak cooking methods will always lead to large parts of a steak being overcooked (you can't beat physics/nature). Once you have eaten any steak made using sous vide it is hard to go back

                                                        1. re: honkman

                                                          Not totally sure I agree with you here. I like steak more on the rare side, and I find if I sear at high temperature and finish in the oven I wind up with a nicely crusted exterior and rare interior.

                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                            My favorite way to prepare steak- I have a 3/4 inch steel plate, about 13" square, that I put directly on the gas grill. Fire the grill for 40-60 minutes to get that plate VERY hot.

                                                            Drop the steak on the hot plate to sear the living hell out of it on both sides- the mass of the steel plate means less heat loss.

                                                            Then transfer the steak on a grid over a jelly-roll pan to a 250 degree oven for, depending on the size of the steak, up to 40 minutes or so.

                                                            That gives the crusty outside, but the inside is very consistent edge-to-edge. It's also easy to get exactly the internal temp one wants, because it's cooking slowly. Also gives one the chance to chat with guests and prep other food.

                                                            I use a Cattleman's Cut from Siesels or Iowa Meat Farms- not an expensive cut of meat, and very large/thick. I slice it and often serve it Tuscan-style on rocket with lemon/olive oil and giant shavings of Reggiano. Pass the peppermill.

                                                            1. re: Josh

                                                              The problem with this method (and what FN describes) is that you will always generate a temperature gradient within the meat. The middle of the meat might be rare but large parts of the meat (>50%) will not be rare (you can't really argue against physics). The only way to not overcook meat is to cook it at the desired temperature, e.g. sous vide, combi oven and sear it afterwards to give it the desired crust. The very short sear will still cause some overcooking of the meat but a much smaller percentage than for example finishing it in the oven. If you like your steak rare with a great crust sous vide is the best way to give you the desired result

                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                The basis of sous vide is the slow and low temp (granted, in a sealed pouch) over a long period, which allows the food to heat and cook evenly. The way I'm cooking is very similar, but done in a different sequence.

                                                                Very similar to blowtorching then slow roasting a roast beast. The sear is mostly for texture and appearance.

                                                                Yes, I've had sous vide steak, and was fine with it- but the earth did not move for me.

                                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                                  The key difference in both methods which will give very different results is that the bath temp of the sous vide will be 125F (for rare so that there is no way that any part of the meat will overcook) wheras in your method significant parts of the meat have to overcook since your oven temp is 250F and significantly over the desired meat temp. You should try to lower your oven temp to 150F (or lower if possible) to minimize the temp gradient. Also a roast cooked sous vide will have much better way to be cooked to the desired doneness, e.g. medium rare short ribs instead of braised short ribs.

                                                                  1. re: honkman


                                                                    So if one cooks sous vide at 125, it will NEVER cook beyond?

                                                                    That is- time at temperature is irrelevant?

                                                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                                                      It is not completely irrelavant but you have a much larger time window until you overcook as long as your bath temp is the desired core temp. A rule of thumb for steak is that it is fine to keep it in the bath up to 4 hours until it starts to get tough (but actually not overcook).


                                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                                        I have had sous vide steak numerous times and have had a similar ratio of good to great steaks as places that skillet or direct fire them. I think the thing that sets them apart is the proper sear after coming out of the water bath. I had one at Wine Vault that was beautifully tender but it looked like it was cooked in water, poor crust and it was definitely lacking something. The last sous vide steak I had was at Whisknladle and it was perfect, with a nicely seasoned crust that was obviously done at high temp (broiler? Torch?) while keeping it rare.

                                                                        Personally, I have gotten the Homegrown steaks, bison and beef, and have had no problem cooking them rare with a fantastic crust. I use the cast iron skillet to roasting method (all on a propane grill to keep the mess down in the kitchen per MsKrispy's numerous, I mean NUMEROUS, requests!)

                                                          2. re: DoctorChow

                                                            Better yet- don't cook it at all..

                                                            The Carne Crudo:

                                                            Raw Razza Piemontese beef with olive oil and sea salt at La Carne in Chicago's Eataly.

                                                            More locally, Bijou has a helluva Steak Tartare- served witht he raw egg, potato crisps and capers.

                                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                                              Steak Tartare sounds great -- will have to try it at Bijou.

                                                    2. re: honkman

                                                      OK, but I was really speaking only for myself when I used the term "over-rated". I don't taste that much difference, but then maybe that's because I usually finish a grilled steak with a little butter...hmmm...

                                                    3. re: DoctorChow

                                                      Grass-fed beef is different in flavor from corn-fed and I personally find it preferable, as corn-fed beef to me seems quite bland. Tangent: when Sab-e-Lee was under original ownership I asked the owner if he'd ever consider using grass-fed beef for the koi soi (raw beef) dish. He was quite surprised to learn that cows were fed anything other than grass since in Thailand they eat their natural diet. Similarly, the cattle used for traditional bistecca fiorentina are grass-fed.

                                                    4. Apropos this conversation right now at HoFoods- they say it's grass-fed.

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                                        Homegrown Meat is a very good source for grass-fed beef. They also have butcher in La Jolla


                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                          I don't see anything on the tag that says it is grass fed. This may not be from Homegrown Meat Inc. The tag just states country of origin and since this cow grew up in the USA, it is homegrown. But it is organic.

                                                          1. re: littlestevie

                                                            As mentioned, they said it was grassfed. The butchers behind the counter at Whole Foods in Hillcrest with whom I spoke told (by voice) me it was grassfed.

                                                            I understand it does not say it on the tag.

                                                            They may be lying. I don't know.

                                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                                              I was just thinking that if it was grass fed, they would of touted that on the tag. As from this thread alone, not everybody likes the taste of grass fed. And a question that I just thought of, does organic always mean that it is hormone and antibiotic free?

                                                              1. re: littlestevie

                                                                "Food labeled organic must be third-party certified to meet USDA’s criteria. Organic foods cannot be irradiated, genetically modified or grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals or sewage sludge. Organic meat and poultry cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics (sick animals must be treated but cannot be sold as organic) and must be fed only organically grown feed (with no animal byproducts). Organic meat animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture. There are two ways to identify organic fruits and vegetables: by the “100% organic” or “organic” label and by the unique Price Look-Up (PLU) code sticker. Instead of a 4-digit number beginning with a “4,” organic produce has a 5-digit number that begins with a “9.” "

                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                    Did you notice that the meat is organic but, not the fat. Maybe the meat is grass fed, though not stated, and the fat is not.

                                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                                  They may also not know. I've run into that issue at WF more than once. I also had the manager of the Hillcrest butcher counter lecture me about why grass-fed beef is no good.

                                                                2. re: littlestevie

                                                                  Homegrown offers both grass-fed and -finished and grain-finished. If this isn't labeled grass-fed then it's probably their grain-finished beef.

                                                              2. OK, just to ask for your opinions - am I grass-fed or corn-fed?

                                                                I mostly eat veggies - field greens salads, asparagus, fresh sweet corn, the same goes for quelittes (lambs lettuce) and all beautiful herbs and fruits available during summer (Baja has some incredible fruteria/dulceria venors who drench a twi-kilo clamshell box with the freshest of the fresh, topping it with cottage cheese and giving several plastic containers of locally sourced to go.

                                                                i won't turn down a great rack of ribs or steak or roasted chicken, but, I don't buy or prepare them in home anymore.

                                                                I love all kinds of sushi, but, I have never tried yakitori or its variation of offal arts.

                                                                And, I do drink wine (red and white, box or vintage, but Champagne is always a first choice), tequila and/or vodka.

                                                                No whiskeys, gin or bourbon are on my menu, at all, regardless of the "Craft Cocktail Movement).

                                                                Ohh, I almost forget to mention that I avoid flour tortillas when I have the choice. Me likey freshly made corn tortillas - the nixtamal is addictive.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                                  Hmmm...let me see now...greens...fruit...steak...fish...and (of course) tequila.

                                                                  [Runs calculator.]

                                                                  Just a second...

                                                                  [Runs calculator again. Darn frustrating gizmos.]

                                                                  OK. Looks like from the numbers here that you're 80% grass-fed, with a 20% corn-fed finish.