Food & Drink

The 9 Best Under-the-Radar Burgers in SF Right Now

Published On 02/12/2015 Published On 02/12/2015
Wes Rowe

There are a lot of good burgers in SF, so how come everyone only ever talks about the same six or seven? You know the ones we're talking about: The Nopa burger, the Marlowe burger, the 4505 burger... and don't get us wrong; those burgers are AWESOME. But they're not the only awesome burgers in the city. And that's why we put together this list highlighting SF's nine best under-the-radar burgers, all of which do NOT appear on the most recent "Best Of" burger lists from SFist, Zagat, or The Bold Italic.

Castro's Best Burger

Lookout (address and info)
You know how you can only get the Wes Burger when he does his pop-up at Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Wednesdays, and how sometimes that makes you very, very sad? Well, wipe those tears away 'cause you can actually get the 1/4lb of ground brisket patty, topped with American cheese, fried onion, pickle, and mustard every single day of the week at the Lookout in the Castro. It's the same recipe; it just goes by a different name.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Americana Burger

Causwells (address and info)
We mentioned this burger in October, and the Causwells masterpiece remains "part Whopper and part Double-Double, but, like, a bazillion times better than either." That's probably all of the information you need, but in case you're not sold (which, for the record, is weird), just know that there are two patties, both of which are covered in American cheese and then topped with a secret sauce that includes house-made Worcestershire, house-made Thousand Island dressing, and other delicious stuff they won't divulge since, you know: SECRET. This burger is 100% worth the trip to the Marina. Trust.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Balboa Burger

Balboa Cafe (address and info)
Cow Hollow
It’s honestly kind of shocking that this isn't on any recent "Best Of" lists because it's such an SF staple. If you can’t handle the fact that it comes on a baguette, then 100% don’t order this burger because: it comes on a baguette. Which is a huge part of its delicious charm. As are the house-made pickles it comes with. And, sure, we don’t want to tell you how to order your burger, but probably add cheddar cheese and grilled onions for $1.50 each.

Bartlett Hall 

The Maverick Burger

Bartlett Hall (address and info)
Union Square
When Maverick closed due to a fire, all of San Francisco mourned the loss of its infamous Butter Burger... until the chef from Maverick went to Bartlett Hall and brought that delicious butter burger with him. It's served with cheddar, stout rarebit, crispy onions, and Kennebec fries. And yes, the meat is ground with whole CUBES of butter in case somehow that wasn't clear.

The Monk's Kettle

Fresh-ground beef burger

The Monk’s Kettle (address and info)
The Mission
Once you add bacon ($3) to this burger (it comes with onion jam and aged cheddar), it's going to run you almost 20 bucks, but trust us, it's worth it. Oh, and pairing it with a pint from one of the city's best beer selections? Double worth it.

Hog and Rocks

H & R Burger

Hog & Rocks (address and info)
The Mission
The Kobe-style chuck in this burger is aged at least a week and then ground twice before being formed into two 4oz patties. Those rest between a challah bun that's been brushed with garlic butter and seared on the griddle. Oh, right, and then there are two slices of American cheese, caramelized onions, house-made fermented dill pickles, and butter lettuce. OH, RIGHT, and then there's also the special sauce -- a Thousand Island-type dressing with hot sauce -- that's spread on both sides of the bun.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

The Hangover Burger

Burger Bar (address and info)
Union Square
Though you 100% should devour this burger if you drank whiskey at all aggressively last night, you don’t have to have imbibed too much the night prior to enjoy what can only be described as the burger you wish the Big Mac were. The Certified Angus beef patty comes with chopped lettuce (so good), and a toasted sesame bun (also so good), but it’s the magical “hangover sauce” that makes this a bread-meat-bread situation you’ll want to eat again and again. Fast food style, but with amazing ingredients that won’t make you feel gross afterwards. Welcome to burger perfection.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Absinthe Hamburger

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar (address and info)
Hayes Valley
Michael Bauer dissed the Absinthe Hamburger in 2013, but he's not the boss of us. To be fair, it IS just a basic burger, served with aïoli, lettuce, red onion, french fries, and house-made pickles. It's the things you can add that make this one of our favorites, specifically Gruyère, spicy onions, and pickled chilis. Yeah, they're $1.50 each, which makes it kind of a spend-y burger, but sometimes you've gotta be spend-y when under-the-radar burgers are involved.


Zazie Niman Ranch Burger

Zazie (address and info)
Cole Valley
The whole menu at Zazie is always so tempting that it's incredibly easy to overlook the burger. Don't do that. The burger is serious. Served on a grilled Pinkie's challah bun, it comes with house-made garlic aioli, Dijon, roasted tomatoes Provençales, and greens. Go ahead and add some white cheddar and, fine, maybe some bacon also for a dollar each.

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Daisy Barringer is Thrillist's SF Editor and is pretty sure there's no better food on Earth than a hamburger. Except maybe a cheeseburger. Tell her your favorite one in the city on Twitter @daisy.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Lookout 3600 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

This huge spot on 16th St houses one of SF's best-known gay bars. With great outdoor space (they're rocking a killer outdoor, wrap-around balcony), you should definitely be on the Lookout for their crazy parties year-round.

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2. Causwells Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

This casual bistro from Alvin Garcia (Delarosa, Lolinda, Don Pisto's) and Tom Patella (California Wine Merchant) boasts classic American fare, like a deviled egg trio and pork belly confit, but the real star of the show is the the American Burger. The two patties have dry-aged fat in the mix, and are topped with American cheese, secret sauce (it's a mixture of Thousand Island and Worcestershire), and pickles. If that burger isn't enough to get you to the Marina, though, plan your meal around a visit to the Presidio Theater, which is located next door.

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3. Balboa Cafe 3199 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (Cow Hollow)

Open since 1913 in Cow Hollow, Balboa Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco. It's managed to maintain most of the original decor, including the moldings and black & white photos. The restaurant is split between a casual front area with a younger crowd and a white table-clothed dining room filled with an older crowd, but everyone is there for the same thing: the Balboa Burger. Served on a baguette with house-made pickles, it's one of the best in the city.

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4. Bartlett Hall 242 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Upscale bar bites and classic American fare are served with house-brewed beers and barrel-aged cocktails at this Union Square establishment. The butter burger, with with cheddar, stout rarebit, crispy onions, and Kennebec fries is the must-try item on the menu.

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5. Monk’s Kettle 3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

At this gastropub in The Mission, beer is the total focus. Their specialty is Belgian beers, though the list has 200 rotating beers for every palate. Monk’s Kettle has coolers set at 45, 50, and 55 degrees to ensure your brew is served at the right temperature, and the entire keg system is cleaned every two weeks so the beer always tastes its best. Food includes everything from bar bites like chile- and honey-roasted hazelnuts, to more substantial fare like dry-aged beef loin with blue cheese potato gratin. Not sure what to order? The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and totally willing to help you figure it out. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out that the seasonally driven pub fare is quite tasty.

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6. Hog & Rocks 3431 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

What's better than an oyster bar? A ham and oyster bar! The team behind Maverick and blessed SF with this delicious double-threat, a rustic slate-walled joint sporting a dark walnut bar, a streetside patio, and, oh yeah, so much ham and oysters! Hit happy hour weekdays from 5-6:30pm for select dollar oysters and $7 cocktails like smoked margaritas and whiskey sours.

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7. Burger Bar 251 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Obviously you need to try every burger on the menu here, but if you have to pick one, go with the Hangover Burger: the Certified Angus beef patty comes with chopped lettuce (so good), and a toasted sesame bun (also so good), but it’s the magical “hangover sauce” that makes this a bread-meat-bread situation you’ll want to eat again and again. Fast food style, but with amazing ingredients that won’t make you feel gross afterwards. Welcome to burger perfection.

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8. Absinthe Brasserie & Bar 398 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

French and Mediterranean cuisine meet top-notch cocktails at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar. Don't worry, you'll find plenty of the green fairy mixed into those cocktails and even in a special mimosa!

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9. Zazie 941 Cole St., San Francisco, CA 94117 (Cole Valley)

Since 1992, this petite French bistro has been a San Francisco brunch institution, where locals and tourists alike have gathered to enjoy awesome dishes in an intimate and quaint setting. It's a Cole Valley neighborhood gem that has countless meals worth lingering over; from its multi-level back porch/garden to its dog-friendliness to the awesome Croque Monsieur, Zazie is a spot that has added permanent character and charm to the city.



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