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The State of Ground Meat: SF's Burger Onslaught, Addressed

Yes, that's peanut butter you see on the yo-mama-style 15 Romolo burger. [Photo: Eva Frye]

Burger Mania

15 Romolo lets you eat its burger "yo mama style" with peanut butter and bacon. Heirloom Cafe tops its off-menu beauty with pungent Epoisses cheese. Chef Bruce Hill hand-designed a burger weight to evenly cook the patties at Bix. Hayes Valley's Straw serves its ground beef mounded on a donut. As any of these restaurants will tell you, when it comes to surviving the stiff burger competition in SF, you've gotta have an angle.

This doesn't mean new spots are staying out of the playing field. Just this year, Greenburger's opened in the Lower Haight and Super Duper expanded into the FiDi with hopeful plans to open somewhere else in San Francisco before 2011 is out. Then there are San Francisco's first burger trucks: Fivetenburger and Doc's of the Bay, lighting up a street corner near you

Should you think that burger spots last forever, though, recall that Best-O-Burger shuttered its old Belden Place location in early 2010. And Burger Joint's Lower Haight outpost ducked out a few months later. Still, Yelp Community Director Ruggy Joesten says about 37 places fit within the burger inquiry in SF, making it one of Yelp's largest categories for a single food group. 

More Burgers, Coming Soon

1) The Upper Haight still needs a good burger joint. Enter Sam Sirhed's tentatively named Burger Urge, about five or six months out at 1599 Haight.

2) One might think Cow Hollow is getting close to saturation with Roam Artisan Burgers and Marengo on Union on the same block. But that hasn't dissuaded LA-based empire builder Adam Fleishman of Umami Burger from planning to open his next outpost right down the street at the former site of Jovino this fall. (Uncomfortably close to Umami, the restaurant, which is around the corner.) He's also steps away from finalizing a location in the Mission. His angle? A Wagyu Angus beef blend, proprietary Portuguese-style buns and "umami powder." LA swears by it.

3) Local chain Pearl's Deluxe, which has locations in Mill Valley, Alameda and the Tenderloin, has plans to open its newest location on Market and Sixth Street around August 15th. At 34 seats, it's almost two and a half times the size of the other SF location and, to make matters even tastier, they'll have six beers on tap.

Deep Thoughts on Burgers

Elizabeth FalknerTop Chef Masters Season 1 alum and chef-owner of Orson and Citizen Cake: "We never get tired of a great burger! Good news is, there are many ways to achieve that greatness and it comes with lots of debate and dialogue. Everyone including myself, still seem obsessed with constantly tinkering with ways to figure out an even better burger."

Ian Marks, chef-owner, The Beast and the Hare: "If you are gonna make a burger in this town it better rock! I don't need anything fancy, save for a Juicy Lucy every once in a while. (We make a Juicy Lucifer with cheese and foie in the inside... gross right?) Here are the rules: 1. You better grind it yourself. 2. Cook it medium rare, on the rare side 3. Put an egg on it!"

Adam Fleishman, founder, Umami Burger: "I feel the burger is in its modernist period emerging from the confines of tradition while retaining its universal appeal."

Chad Robertson, founder, Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine: "After Kronner’s Bar Tartine burger was retired, I don’t need to eat another burger until the Game of Thrones series on HBO catches up to book five."

Jared Rivera, founder, Rivera Public Relations: "The demand for the burger has always been there, just look at McDonald's creepy little burger-odometer: "5 Billion Served." We get it, why are you all still even keeping count? It's disgusting."

Josh Sens, food critic, San Francisco magazine: "We now take it for granted that a burger will be house-ground and made from high pedigree meat. But really, how much more is there to say? In the end, it's a burger, a ground meat patty doubling as a delivery system for all sorts of other stuff. Like pizzas before them, I believe they have had their 15 minutes and should now take a step back to become the role players they were always meant to be."

Nate Valentine, owner, The Tipsy Pig, Umami, Blue Barn: "The Burger may be the only SF menu item that transcends all calibers of restaurant. From Ravi's burger at the bar at Prospect to the Bourbon & Burger at the Fifth Floor to the renaissance of burger concepts popping up left and right. What's the best? I haven't decided, but as I keep trying, I know one thing: They keep getting better."

Alice Waters, founder Chez Panisse and the Chez Panisse Foundation: "It might come as a surprise to people that I adore hamburgers. It won't come as a surprise, however that the meat has to be grass-fed. I sometimes go to Zuni Cafe and sit at the bar and have a burger all by myself."