You've Been Waiting Your Whole Life to Face San Diego's The Kraken Burger
We were majorly disappointed when Collin Hilton, the new chef at ABV, decided to get rid of the incredibly popular pimento cheeseburger, but the “New F*ckin Burger” (we get it, Collin!) is so tasty that we’ve almost (but not quite) forgiven him and the $5 price increase. The $14 burger is a 1/3-pound grass-fed beef patty with whiteCheddar, raw red onion, shredded lettuce (on the bottom bun, which we appreciate), pickles, and a tangy secret sauce on a Japanese sweet potato bun that comes with a side of “spicy-ass” jalapeño chips. And though it’s good any time of day, it’s the best as a midnight snack after a few cocktails.
The Americana burger made it into our burger bracket and found its way to the finals, only to lose to a burger shack in Mississippi, which held a voting party attended by their freakin’ mayor. And there is logic behind that sort of popularity: Causwells' Americana burger is like an In-N-Out Double-Double… but a little pricier ($15.99), and way better. Yup, we said it and we stick by it.
At Garaje, there is one burger you have to order: Crazy Dave's Double Drive-In Cheeseburger. With two-thirds of a pound of certified Angus, double American cheese, griddled onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato, Thousand Island, and an Acme bun, this is the Goldilocks of San Francisco burgers -- not too much or too little of anything... everything is just right.
There is a reason, friends, that The Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger made it on our 100 Best Burgers in America list and was our top pick for burgers in California. Ryan Farr knows just what the hell he’s doing when he created this godsend thanks in large part to that perfectly grilled grass-fed patty, effortlessly meltable Gruyère, secret sauce, and a homemade sesame and scallion bun.
The house-ground grass-fed hamburger on grilled focaccia with aioli and Zuni pickles is not as well known as Zuni’s famous roast chicken for two, but is equally as (or maybe even more) delicious. The salty, fatty meat is perfectly complemented by the aioli and pickles, and even though focaccia sounds like a dumb choice for a hamburger bun, it’s light and airy in a way that miraculously works. The only bummer? It’s $18... and cheese will cost you another two bucks, and shoestring fries another six) and it’s only available at lunch, brunch, and in the afternoon. OK, so that’s a few bummers, but still, it's totally worth dropping $26 for on a Wednesday afternoon.
Gott's Roadside in the Ferry Building (it's the place with the massive line out the front) does a juicy double cheeseburger exactly the way a juicy double cheeseburger should be done -- nothing flashy, just 1/3-pound Niman Ranch Angus beef patties with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and secret sauce, all on a toasted egg bun.
Nopa has been doing such great things for so long that you can find yourself kind of taking it for granted. Of course you can have a perfect three-course meal at 12:30am with fancy cocktails and thoughtful wines and all of that. But one of the simple pleasures of going to Nopa is sitting at the bar and ordering the wood-grilled hamburger with pickled onions and french fries. The fatty meat blends with the vinegar from the onions and creates this perfect counterbalance that eschews the need for cheese. But it does go damn well with that St. George Terroir gin, grapefruit, lime, and honey cocktail you should probably order next.
There's a reason you can get the Marlowe Burger at Marlowe, and Park Tavern, and The Cavalier, and that reason is it's totally freaking delicious. The caramelized onions, Cheddar, and bacon are all on point, but it's the horseradish aioli that sets this thing apart/makes you lick your shirt when you drip some on it.
Before Mission Chinese Food, and Commonwealth, and Mission Cantina, and Mission Bowling Club, there was Mission Burger -- a short-lived operation behind the butcher counter of the Duc Loi market run by Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien before they became kind of a big deal. The eponymous burger -- and its decadent patty of aged, granulated short rib and chuck seared in beef fat -- got very popular, very fast, before becoming very gone when Mission Burger closed in 2010, just nine months after opening. Then in 2012 Myint and Mission Bowling Club resurrected the burger from its delicious grave, and here we are.
Here’s what you need to know about the $9 double cheeseburger at Sam’s: It’s gotten a ton of hype of the years (Anthony Bourdain called it one of the three best burgers in the world), but you need to be as intoxicated as Bourdain was when he ate it to agree. There’s nothing gourmet about it, it’s just a classic and affordable (for SF) burger on a sesame bun that does exactly what you need it to at 2am. Oh, and never ever order the pizza. But you knew that already.
When Chef Bruce Hill (Zero Zero, Bix, Picco in Larkspur, etc.) decided to take over and remake the legendary Fog City Diner, it was a calculated risk. After all, the diner is a legend, even if the food had lagged in the past few years. But his revitalization was spot-on, and the burger he brought to this party (the Fog city Burger, which he has claimed would happily be his last meal) is easily one of the best in the city. The combination of the smoked tomato aioli, house-made American, thin patty, dill pickle, and onion create what in many ways is the perfect version of the upscale diner burger.
The Americana burger at Causwells gained such a cult following, it basically had to get its own restaurant... only Popsons has even more burgers and they’re not quite as pricey, so basically dreams do come true. All of the burgers are delicious (duh), but if you have to pick one, pick the cheeseburger (American cheese, onion, lettuce, pickle, special sauce on a bun from Petit Pains) and make it a double. It’s $9.15, but bring more than a Hamilton because Popsons also sells wine and beer. See aforementioned statement about dreams.
Once upon a time, a photographer named Wes Rowe decided that he was going to stop making his popular burgers just for friends and start offering them to all of San Francisco at a monthly pop-up. Not long after, he won first place at the SF Burger Brawl, which lead to a weekly pop-up. Fast forward to now and he has his own spot in the Mission where people can feast on his burgers seven days a week. All of the burgers (“’n’ more”) at WesBurger are worthy of debate, but the champion is The Okie Burger ($11), a 6-ounce patty cooked on a cast-iron skillet over a bed of onions and topped with mustard, pickles, and American cheese.
Paying $19 for a burger may seem totally insane... until you take a bite of the Spruce Burger, which is made with a blend of brisket, sirloin, and short rib that’s ground in-house every day, and topped with pickled red onion, pickled zucchini, tomato, and a caper remoulade. But the thing that really sets this burger apart from all of the others on this list is the bun: a buttered English muffin that’s made in-house and provides just the right bread to burger ratio. Oh, and the fries (which come with) are fried in duck fat and are oh so very damn good.
Some burgers are delicious because they’re simple (see: Nopa). Others, like the Hux Deluxe ($19) succeed because of the symphony of ingredients that play perfectly together. The menu description is so long that your eyes may glaze over before you finish reading it (4-ounce dry-aged ground chuck, bacon wheel, fried onion, American cheese, frisee, pickles, Hux aioli, house-made seeded onion dill bun, served with fries), and yes, there’s so much stuff on it that the burger actually comes with a knife stuck through it because otherwise it might fall apart on the way to your table. But simply remove said knife, push everything down so that the burger will actually fit in your mouth, close your eyes, and don’t look back.
The Finn Town Burger ($18) is indulgent, over-the-top, and worth every calorie (like calories are a thing you care about if you’re reading this). Think: two beef patties topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, and a secret Thousand Island-esque sauce that is one of the best secret sauces you’ll ever find on a burger. What more do you need to know?
The $15 Saratoga Burger might not be for every palate, but if you enjoy a pungent yet tangy cheese with your ground beef, then you’ll not only love it, but find yourself craving it if you go too long between fixes. The two patties are covered in Taleggio, slaw, and pickles, and sit on an onion bun. This translates to every single bite being juicy, salty, rich, cool, and crunchy all at once. And though this has nothing to do with burgers, we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we didn’t suggest you finish your meal with a green Chartreuse-glazed chocolate old-fashioned donut with rainbow sprinkles.
The Prime Flannery Beef Burger ($17) at Maybeck’s is a hearty burger made with a dry-aged beef and topped with a herb aioli... but wait, there’s more, you can also get it topped with hatch green chiles, which will cost you an additional $2 and most likely change your life and outlook on burgers.
Next time you’re craving a burger during the week, head to this Lower Haight spot for its happy hour between 5:30 and 6:30pm or 10:30 and 11:30pm and order the Maven Burger ($17) ‘cause even the most delicious burgers are a million times more delicious when served with a free beer. The burger is spiced with Angostura bitters, which sounds weird -- and maybe is weird -- but doesn’t matter because it’s so legit. It’s also topped with Muenster cheese and house pickles.
We’re tempted to start making beer in our garage just so we have more excuses to visit this brewery/coffee shop/restaurant/homebrew supply store and order the Black Sands Burger ($12). It’s truly one of the best examples of a fast-casual burger that we’ve ever eaten -- the double patties are thin and juicy, but with that crunchy char that makes every bite so good you can’t wait to take another one. There’s also American cheese, “shredduce,” tomato, a special sauce, and a really great bun that’s soft, toasted, and buttered. Plus, it’s a brewery, so there’s beer there.