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!
Beef: Prather Ranch
Bun: Acme pain de mie
Fixings: Tomatoes, greens, balsamic onions
Condiments: Aïoli, Dijon, your choice of cheddar, jack or Swiss cheese (Gorgonzola $1.50 extra)
Cooked over: Gas grill
Comes with: Fries, cooked in peanut oil
Unsurprisingly, on the subject of burgers San Franciscans are surprisingly vocal. And no place was more roundly recommended for our Burger Bonanza than Slow Club. Since Slow Club and Serpentine have the same owner, it stands to reason that the burgers might be similar, and indeed it is true that on the face of things, the two are alike: both are made with Prather Ranch meat, both are served on Acme buns, both are topped with mesclun (booooo). But now that we are well into this burger thing—now that we are getting down to brass tacks, if you will, I'm beginning to really appreciate the nuances of burgers.
And the biggest problem with the Slow Club burger is the patty, which is wretchedly undersalted. Using grass-fed beef already presents a challenge, and the scanty seasoning did nothing to help matters along. Where the Serpentine burger is brightened by house-made pickles and pickled onions, Slow Club's is topped with balsamic onions and lashed with aïoli—though, like the Serpentine burger, it's topped with juicy slices of great tomato. While the balsamic onions are tasty enough on their own, it's the pickles that I think give Serpentine's burger the edge.
But here's where atmosphere comes into play. Slow Club, like Serpentine, is a neighborhood restaurant, and at a neighborhood restaurant you want to go, eat a burger, feel like a local and leave, without having spent too much money. You do not want to argue with your server about the glass of wine that never arrives because he claims you never ordered it. You don't want to have to flag him down for the check. You don't want the burger-eating endeavor to feel like a hassle, which is, unfortunately, exactly how it felt. Onward.
Next up, the Magnolia burger!