Don't let anyone tell you different: This is a great burger town. From the workaday deliciousness of Gott's and Super Duper to the excellent, hand-ground, well seasoned beauties put out by 4505 Meats and Zuni, there is a whole range of greatness to be found around the Bay between two buns.
Today we're focusing on the high end of that range, the Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis of the local burger pantheon. These are the burgers at the fancier joints where all the meat is sourced from good farms, and you see words like "proprietary grind" and "anchovy ketchup" in the descriptions. And the prices reflect that fanciness, averaging about $20 each, but we'd argue they're worth the splurge if you consider yourself a burger connoisseur.
Bourbon Steak, $22
Available at lunch and on the bar menu, the house-ground Bourbon Steak burger is a thing of beauty. It's topped with Nicasio Valley Reserve cheese and melty caramelized onions, with pickles on the side, but it's the beef here that's the star; it's meatier in flavor and texture than your average patty, and juicy as all get out. It is worth the price to try at least once, but you're likely to be going back for it if you do. And with good reason: The patty comprises a mix of trim from the very high end cuts the steakhouse serves, generally a 50/50 mix of wagyu rib cap and flat iron from Snake River Farms in Idaho, but sometimes including hangar and dry-aged sirloin from Schmitz Ranch and Brandt Farms.
Epic Roasthouse, $25
Each of the hefty patties at Epic contain a half pound of meat from Schmidt's Ranch in Sebastopol, and this is, of course, hand-ground in house and tastes pretty fantastic. The meat breaks apart in noticeably big, juicy hunks as you bite into it, and you know chef Jan Birnbaum knows what he's doing in the burger department; he's an alum of Stars, one of the first "fancy" restaurants in the country to feature a burger, back in the 1980s. It doesn't need much, but it comes with grilled onions and anchovy ketchup on the side, should you want that sort of thing.
Luella, $19 to $25 including wine
It's only available as an off-menu special, typically on Mondays, and clocks in well under $20 if you don't have the add-on glass of wine, but it's damn delicious. It's got bone marrow mixed in with the meat, giving it some extra unctuousness, and it comes topped with white cheddar, alongside some excellent bistro frites.
KronnerBurger, $18 (for a double)
This is the newest burger on the list, from former Bar Tartine chef Chris Kronner who's lately been popping up Sunday through Thursday, and occasional other nights, in the next-door overflow bar room at Bruno's. The burgers are pretty thoroughly seasoned (his tagline: Rare. Salty.), and really flavorful. Though the $11 single might be plenty for most appetites, the $18 double is where you want to take things if you've got a major hunger to sate and nothing else to do the remainder of the evening. Plus, for those with some wiggle room in their cholesterol count, you can add bone marrow for an extra $4.
Wayfare Tavern, $19
The Wayfare Burger is, like these others, a polished creation featuring finer ingredients, like a proprietary grind of local, grass-fed beef, and brie from Marin County. It's also topped with smoked bacon and an optional Petaluma egg, and it's served on a fluffy brioche bun. It is wildly delicious, and worth throwing down an Andrew Jackson for at lunch or dinner.
(Editor's Note: I actually did an exhaustive tour last year for Grub Street, if you care to peruse it.)