We love burgers like a fat kid loves cake... and burgers. What we don't love, though, is eating not-the-best ones in San Francisco, which's why we set out this month to find those housing alllllllllll of the 7x7's most promising patties, new and old. (Don't worry guys, we did like 15 sit-ups, too.)
Several mustard-stained pairs of pants later, we settled on this: our list of SF's 20 burger standard bearers.
What you're getting: Pimento cheeseburger
You kinda knew Kevin Cimino's burger could end up being a dark-horse favorite when ABV opened in 2014, especially since Cimino used to work with Chris Kronner (yeah, Kronnerburger Chris Kronner) at Bar Tartine. What you didn't know is that it would so quickly go from sleeper to fucking Sea Biscuit. Almost every inch of this burger is made in-house (from the pimento cheese to the freshly baked caramelized sweet potato bun), and yet it somehow still only costs $9 for a compact, flavor-napalming quarter pounder.
What you're getting: Americana burger
Well, first of all, the relative newcomer to the must-have burger scene debuted on our 33 best burgers list this year, then proceeded to go into our burger bracket and make it all the 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: Causewells' Americana burger is like an In-N-Out Double-Double that got fancified by the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. We'd extend this metaphor even further to include pumpkin coaches, but let’s just maybe leave it there.
What you're getting: Tuesday cheeseburger special
You can only get this elusive exacting harmony of cheeseburger-iness (served on an incredible bun that's somewhere in between onion roll and English muffin) Tuesday at lunch. Only at Rosamunde's Lower Haight location. And only for $6. Pro tip: show up at 11:30am and get in line if you actually want to eat one, they only make 200 of 'em.
What you're getting: Crazy Dave's Double Drive-In Cheeseburger
This is just a fantastic burger. With two-thirds pound of certified Angus, double American cheese, griddled onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato, 1000 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.
What you're getting: Beef and bacon burger
It's got other options now, like an all-beef burger, and a country burger with a spicy pork patty, but don’t be fooled. You still want to get the legend, the beef and bacon burger, in which both meats are ground together then topped with American, mayo, ketchup, onion, and optional pickles. Putting the bacon in the patty might not seem like some sort of mind-blowing invention on its face, but just wait until you bite into that sucker.
What you're getting: The Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger
There is a reason, friends, that this burger has been on our best in the country list for three straight years, and was our top pick for burgers in California. Ryan Farr knows just what the hell he’s doing when he created his “Best Damn” cheeseburger, thanks in large part to that perfectly grilled grass-fed patty, effortlessly meltable Gruyere, secret sauce, and a homemade sesame and scallion bun.
What you're getting: House-ground Marty Ranch hamburger
Before I ever lived in SF, I knew about Zuni Cafe and its house-ground Marty Ranch burger on grilled rosemary focaccia with aioli/pickles. There is a reason it has been a legend for so long, and that reason is the perfect combination of salty, fatty meat; cool aioli/vinegar pickles; and a surprisingly light and airy focaccia that complements it all. If you want to get crazy you can add grilled onions and some Beecher’s Flagship cheese, but it doesn’t need it all. The meat stands alone.
What you're getting: Double cheeseburger
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 one-third pound Niman Ranch Angus beef patties with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and secret sauce, all on a toasted egg bun.
What you're getting: Wood-grilled hamburger
Nopa has been doing such great things for so long that you can find yourself kind of taking it for granted. Like, 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 start drinking right now.
What you're getting: Hood Burger
It probably shan’t be a surprise that one of the most underrated bars in the city has one of the most underrated kitchens in the back of it. Almost everything Hood Grub makes is fantastic (try its version of poutine on tater tots) but the burger stands out, thanks to the Brandt Farms/Beelers combination sausage and beef patty, bacon, fried egg, and Jarlsberg on garlic bread.
What you're getting: The Trick Dog
"Whoa this hot dog looks delicious. Whoa, this hot dog is a burger. WHOA, this hot dog is a really good burger." That's the inner monologue of every single person who has ever had Trick Dog's award-winning tongue-in-cheek riff on the burger dog at the Olympic Club’s snack shack. The house-ground blend of brisket, sirloin, and chuck is one of the best in the city, and the toasted sesame bun it gets dropped into (along with shredded lettuce, pickles, house sauce, and cheddar) always has just the right amount of toasting.
What you're getting: Marlowe Burger
There's a reason you can get the Marlowe Burger at Marlowe, and Park Tavern, AND The Cavalier, and that reason is it's freaking delicious. The caramelized onions, cheddar, and bacon are all on point, but it's the horseradish aioli that really sets this thing apart/makes you lick your shirt when you drip some on it.
What you're getting: Mission Burger
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 kinda a big deal. The burger -- and its decadent patty of aged, granulated short rib and chuck seared in beef fat -- got super popular, super fast, before getting super 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.
What you're getting: Burger du Nord
Of all the changes at the iconic music venue tucked underneath the historic Swedish American Hall -- which was closed for a year and a half before reopening under new ownership in June -- our favorite one involves the kitchen. It's there that three-time James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year nominee Thomas McNaughton (Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, Salumeria) is making his first-ever burger (WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG, BRO?), a juicy, messy-in-the-right-kind-of-way revamping of the classic, with gloriously melty sharp cheddar, lettuce, pickles, and secret sauce.
What you're getting: The Tipsy Burger
The Tipsy Burger is famous at this point, having been a mainstay of the Marina bro crowd for many, many years. But here’s a pro-tip for you: see if they’ll substitute the regular cheddar on the burger for the smoked cheddar-pilsner dip that comes with the pretzel bites. The extra tang pushes the burger over the top, and making that substitution will help you gain the much needed respect of the three dudes who played Cal water polo sitting next to you.
What you're getting: Hamburguesa
Don Pisto's is a very good Mexican restaurant. Don Pisto's has very good traditional Mexican meals you should absolutely enjoy. BUT you still need to get the hamburguesa marinated in bacon and onion, and topped with guacamole. I, admittedly, had passed it up the first three or four times I went here, until a friend clued me in. That will never happen again.
What you're getting: Sam's Double Cheeseburger
There are four things you need to know about Sam's Pizza and Hamburgers: 1) Anthony Bourdain called its double cheeseburger one of the three best burgers in the world, 2) we took the above photo at 1:30am after checking off some San Francisco bucket list bars in Chinatown, 3) we're not entirely sure Sam's actually serves pizza, and 4) the guy behind the grill isn't Sam, it's either the guy who bought the place from Sam in 1970, or his son.
What you're getting: The Wednesday burger special
It’s only available on Wednesdays, and the toppings vary, so we can’t make any definite statements about the experience you’re going to have, other than to say that you will absolutely want to order more than one. Especially if the combination includes bacon, some sort of experimental aioli, and its house-made pickles.
What you're gettting: O.T. Special
Old Bus Tavern's burger (which comes with a pair of patties, mandolin-ed cucumbers, Gouda, and house bacon) lasted less than a week on the regular menu before they had to pull it and move it to the late-night-only-after-10pm menu -- the burgers are dry-aged in-house and they very literally couldn't store enough meat to meet the demand. According to the guys, they were out of burgers by 7pm on more than one night, thus the new restricted patty hours. Want the burger but don't want to be in Bernal at 10? No sweat, you can hit our early leader for San Francisco's best opening of the year on Sunday, when they'll be doing it All. Day. Long.
What you're getting: Fog City Burger and fries
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 (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.
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Kevin Alexander is Thrillist's Executive Editor, and once ate six burgers in a day, not even on a dare or for research or anything. Follow his cholesterol rise @KAlexander03.
Grant Marek is Thrillist's Senior Cities Director and is now certain that if you eat nothing but burgers for a month you will not, in fact, turn into a burger. TOLD YOU, MOM. Follow him on Twitter @grant_marek.
1. ABV3174 16th St, San Francisco
2. CauswellsChestnut Street, San Francisco
3. Rosamunde Sausage Grill545 Haight St, San Francisco
4. Garaje475 3rd St, San Francisco
5. Rickybobby400 Haight St, San Francisco
6. 4505 Burgers & BBQ705 Divisadero, San Francisco
7. Zuni Cafe1658 Market St, San Francisco
8. Gott’s Roadside1 Ferry Building, Ste 6, San Francisco
9. Nopa560 Divisadero St, San Francisco
10. Broken Record1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco
11. Trick Dog3010 20th St, San Francisco
12. Marlowe500 Brannan St, San Francisco
13. Mission Bowling Club3176 17th St, San Francisco
14. Cafe Du Nord2174 Market St, San Francisco
15. The Tipsy Pig2231 Chestnut St, San Francisco
16. Don Pisto's510 Union St, San Francisco
17. Sam's618 Broadway St, San Francisco
18. Biergarten424 Octavia St, San Francisco
19. Old Bus Tavern3193 Mission St, San Francisco
20. Fog City1300 Battery St, San Francisco
Though ABV is more than just a great whiskey bar, its whiskey menu isn't to be forgotten. You’ll find a surprising and thorough list of rare Scotches, Japanese whiskies, bourbons, ryes, and cask-strength bottles. Its bar snacks are definitely worth writing home about too, and -- it should be mentioned -- it serves an impressive brunch on the weekends. Win!
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.
From it's beginnings, Rosamunde has had a location on Haight right next to craft-beer haven Toronado. The grill's notorious sausages have now spread all the way to Brooklyn, but this original spot is also notable for Burger Tuesday, when they turn out a limited number of ridiculous burgers around lunchtime.
SOMA's Garaje is one-third taqueria, one-third taco joint, and one-third sports bar. And it's cheap. For $3 you can get a street-style taco filled with quality meat and toppings; for $8 you can get the Zapatos burrito, stuffed with meat, cheese, refried beans, and avocado, then pressed like a panini. The most notable thing about Garaje though is the Double Drive-In cheeseburger, which comes with barbecued onions, dill pickles, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and Thousand Island dressing on a toasted Acme bun.
You know it's a sweet place when it has two first names for its only name. And if you like cheap and hearty eats, soft lighting and crazy crap on the walls, you'll love Rickybobby.
An offshoot of the original 4505 Meats, this burger and 'cue shack is one for the Divis books. This butcher-owned and operated spot takes meat and barbecue seriously, with loaded platters of pulled pork, smoked ribs, and hot sausage, and quarter-pound grass-fed burgers. No matter if your main is in the form of a sandwich or platter, don't overlook the fixin's -- the fried mac & cheese with a hot dog inside is an insanely delicious creation.
A culinary talisman for over thirty years, Zuni Cafe on the ever-bustling Market Street continues to serve New American cuisine with French and Italian influences. With a menu that changes daily, the element of surprise is never lost -- all while using the freshest, most sustainable ingredients.
Located at the Ferry Building, this eatery is the perfect spot for a water-side lunch. Park it at one of their long, wooden cafeteria-style tables and snack on bites like burgers, milkshakes, and choose from four types of fries: regular, super-garlicky, sweet potato dusted with chili powder, or the go-for-broke chili cheese fries.
Nopa is a San Francisco institution that does everything really, really well. It's the best brunch in Western Addition and one of the best in the whole city. Its burger is perfect with pickled onions and French fries, especially when eaten at the bar. It's a one-stop-shop for a date, a birthday dinner, or dinner with your parents. Plus, the kitchen is open until 1 AM for a full dinner. Yeah, this place wins at everything.
Broken Record is a super-casual Excelsior dive bar where you can kick back with friends on the spacious outdoor patio, but it means business with its drink menu. On it, you’ll find an extensive list of liquors, particularly whiskey and bourbon, and dozens of rotating local craft brews. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to the kitchen in the back (it’s called “Hood Grub”) for innovative bar food: tater tots with curry ketchup, spicy wings made with Mary’s organic air-chilled drumettes, and a meatloaf sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll all await you.
Brought to you by The Bon Vivants, Trick Dog in The Mission's a marble- and steel-adorned cocktailery serving drinks from a Pantone-inspired menu with names from favorite song titles, along with bar bites like beer nuts, pickles, and cracklins.
This French-American bistro in SOMA has all the things that make a neighborhood restaurant so recommendable: excellent brunch; a fine wine selection featuring French, Italian, and Californian wines; an outdoor patio; and last but definitely not least: one of the best burgers in the city. Served with fries, the $16 Marlowe Burger is stacked with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, and horseradish aioli. It's so darn good that it's also served at sister restaurants Park Tavern and The Cavalier.
Equipped with six lanes from an old Fort Bragg alley, MBC's ready to make your bowling experience feel all the more fancy with tufted leather booths where you can get down on fare that you'd be hard pressed to find in most bowling alleys, from gumbo-spiced red bean hushpuppies and harissa sauced lamb meatballs to Korean baby back ribs and English pea toast. And because bowling requires drinking, you'll also find a solid craft beer selection available in both pitchers and flights.
What happens when you take an over 100-year-old concert venue in Duboce Triangle, revamp it, and invite James Beard nominee Thomas McNaughton (the guy behind Flour + Water and Central Kitchen) to do the cooking and the Trick Dog guys to shake the cocktails? You get Café Du Nord, an absolutely killer new-but-old restaurant-cum-music-venue. The burger here is a juicy, messy-in-the-right-kind-of-way revamping of the classic, with gloriously melty sharp cheddar, lettuce, pickles, and secret sauce, and you can order it until 1am every night. Enjoy it in the Viking Room, a restaurant tucked away in the back, or at the bar while listening to live music and sipping a seriously good cocktail, and if you stay late, you can snag half price Champagne and oysters when the clock strikes midnight.
Brunch and the Marina go together like bacon and eggs (and bottomless mimosas), and The Tipsy Pig has all these things, plus everything else you could ever want in a gastropub. Outdoor patio? Check. 40 local and worldly brews? Check. Cocktails? You get the idea. You’re going to want to get here early on a Sunday morning to stake out a spot outside and stay here all day chowing down on huevos rancheros, old-fashioned doughnuts, and the killer burger.
If you were convinced you couldn’t find good Mexican in North Beach, think again -- this hip eatery even gives Mission joints a run for their money. Served by a friendly staff, Mexican street eats dominate the menu, such as ceviche, tacos, and tamales, but the real show-stopper here is the whole lobster that's big enough for two. Dip it in heavenly cilantro garlic butter, then go to town creating absolutely decadent tacos with all the fixin's.
This Bourdain-approved burger (and pizza) hole-in-the-wall has been keeping San Francisco fed on the cheap since 1956 (often well after midnight). If you've had a long night in Chinatown there are few better decisions than spending $8.99 on a beautifully simple old-school cheeseburger, a pile of fries, and a Coke.
With quintessential large mugs, sausages and sauerkraut, long picnic tables in the sun (hopefully), and a rotating selection of impressive German beers, Biergarten everything you want in, well, a beer garden. It’s owned by the masterminds behind Suppenküche, so you know you can bank on them having a way with Teutonic suds and snacks. With no roof, it’s not the ideal spot for a rainy day pint, but you’ll be clamoring for a space come summertime.
This casual gastropub in Bernal Heights serves game-changing drinks and eats in a cool, friendly atmosphere. For starters, the bar's 14 taps are split between OTB beers brewed in-house and a rotating selection of local craft ones. The food menu, which has a four-course tasting option, is too good to be considered basic pub fare. The desserts are listed simply by flavor ("chocolate" and "vanilla") and are thoughtful, complex, and downright unforgettable. Old Bus Tavern's menu will tempt you to order everything on it.
When Chef Bruce Hill (Zero Zero, Bix, Picco in Larkspur) decided to take over and remake the legendary Fog City Diner, it was a calculated risk. After all, the diner was a legend. But his revitalization was spot-on, and the burger he brought to this party (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. Even better? You can get the burger and the rest of the menu plus cocktails like a raspberry-based Negroni from 7am 'til 2am.