The 2009 Burger Bonanza: Serpentine and The Importance Of Pickles
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 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!
Beef: Grass-fed beef from Prather Ranch, pre-ground
Bun: A buttered, griddled Acme bun
Fixings: Housemade pickled red onions and bread-and-butter pickles, Ed George's tomatoes (in season, mais oui) and mesclun.
Condiments: On the side—ketchup, mayonnaise, Dijon
Comes With: Frozen French fries, cooked in Canola oil
Cooked: Gas grill
Add-ons: Cheese from local purveyors for $1 more
Now that I am deep into burger eating, I’m beginning to get a little perspective on the things I find most important. Personally speaking, I’m realizing that pickles of some kind are of critical importance—you need something to cut through the richness of the meat (and cheese). For that reason, Serpentine’s burger gets a nod from me. Their Prather Ranch patty comes gussied up with both pickled red onion and bread-and-butter pickles, and the cooks are wise enough to butter a very fine Acme bun before cooking it, which gives it some great flavor without the overwhelming richness of its brioche brethren. Worthy of note: though Slow Club and Serpentine have the same owners, the Slow Club burger has no pickles whatsoever. But we'll get to that burger in due time.
Lucky for me, the Serpentine cooks have just begun using tomatoes (a seasonal addition, natch). Let me tell you, the pickle-beef-fresh tomato trifecta is pretty irresistible. The thin patty was well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, but—and maybe this is because they use pre-ground meat—the texture was a bit fine for my liking. Also, touching on Sara’s point regarding the importance of lettuce, Serpentine gets a big fail for topping the burger with mesclun mix, which does not offer sufficient crunch nor succulence for this application. The fries, of the pre-frozen skinny variety, and serviceable but not extraordinary.
The Delicious Factor: If you are a good cook and shop at Bi-Rite, you can replicate this burger at home. But that’s not a bad thing.
Next up: Absinthe. Leave a comment and let us know where else we should check out. Time is of the essence!