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The 2009 Burger Bonanza: Orson Gilds the Lily

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!

ORSON

Price: $20
Beef:
8 ounces of Vande Rose beef from Iowa, ground in-house
Bun:
House-made green onion and Parmesan bun
Fixings:
steak sauce, a bacon-bleu cheese cobb relish, truffle mayonnaise, pickles, romaine lettuce.
Cooked: gas grill
Comes with:
duck-fat fries

This is my ninth burger write-up. Suffering from a post Carte415 lunch slump, I’m taking the advice Jessica gave me yesterday: “You know, when you listen to Beyoncé’s "Halo" two times in a row, you just feel like you can do anything.”

Now, with Beyoncé belting into my headphones (how hard is it to not sing out-loud right now? hard), I’m finding the strength. Let’s see if I can put the deep philosophical discussion Jessica and I just had onto page—on the fine-line between well-made and delicious. A burger presents a good example: It can consist of the finest, nicely-seasoned house-ground beef, a housemade bun, homemade ketchup, specially-cultivated lettuce plucked from the cool, loamy soil of a Zen farm … and still, it can be missing something. The best parts in the world do not always make a whole.

This is the case with the Orson burger. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s enjoyable enough to eat. But at $20 (including fries), it sets you up to expect something more.

The "more" that you’re paying for—the housemade everything (butter-basted Parmesan-green onion bun, steak sauce, bacon-blue cheese cobb relish and truffle mayonnaise (which replaced Elizabeth Falkner’s original foie gras mayo, after she received complaints), as well as a side of pickled cauliflower, fennel and onion—is exactly where the problem lies. Instead of feeling liberated by all choices, my burger joie de vivre withered at the sight. More is not more in this case.

It's the elusive sweet spot that lies between too much and not-enough that presents a challenge to the best of chefs—even with something as proletarian as a burger. And with that bit of lily-gilding food writing, I'll see you tomorrow for our final two burger write-ups. Tune in Thursday to see the Top 10 in ranking order!

Next up: Midi