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The 2009 Burger Bonanza: Nice Buns, Mission Beach Café

Welcome to the 2009 Burger Bonanza wherein two girls eat 20 of the city's best burgers, on the path to burger enlightenment. The 10 best will then be chosen to be featured—in ranking order—in 7x7's September magazine issue. Burgers must fit our "fancy burger" parameter: made with beef and available as part of the regular dinner menu at upscale restaurants in SF. Beyond that, we're open to suggestions, which we hope you will leave in the comment box below!

Mission Beach Cafe

Price: $13.50
Beef: Prather Ranch, grass-fed, pre-ground
Bun: Panorama Potato-Pepper bun
Fixings: Gouda cheese, caramelized onions, heirloom tomatoes and Little Gem lettuce
Condiments: Housemade aioli
Cooked over: Grilled over gas
Extras: Fresh-cut Kennebec fries

A year ago I heard Daniel Handler do a reading at the Swedish American Club. I don't remember exactly what the story was about, but I do remember the refrain of the story, the line repeated throughout: "Yes, Yes, Yes, Oh Baby Yes." I'd like to borrow that line to describe the burger at Mission Beach Café. To begin with, the MBC burger is just the right size—not so enormous that you can't get your mouth around it, not so small that you can't split it with a friend. Then there's that bun—I have decided that potato rolls are the ultimate, the very pinnacle of hamburger buns, the grand pu bah of plushness. Soft, sweet, and flecked with black pepper, there is no finer cradle for a ground beef patty.

The standard burger at MBC comes topped with sweet-salty Gouda, a tangle of caramelized onions, thick slices of heirloom tomatoes and a few leaves of Gem lettuce, which retain their crunch. The patty was perfectly cooked, the stubby fries above average. I wished for pickles, of course, but otherwise thought this was a damn fine burger. It doesn't hurt that it only costs $13.50—and that includes fries. How novel, a burger for under $15! I felt like it was 1995 again.

This setting seems just right, too. The early evening sun streams through the window, illuminating the burnished wood tables, and the kind, neighborly service makes you feel like you belong right there. And really, is there anything better than eating a great burger in a neighborhood joint? Yeah, we didn't think so.

Next up—Michael Bauer swears by Zuni's burger. But what did we think? Tune in to find out.