San Franciscans are obsessed with food. We spend hours reading about it, Instagramming and Yelping ramen, burritos, fried chicken, and pizza. But one menu item trumps them all: the burger. Burgers are fixtures at some of the most expensive and the cheapest restaurants in town. They’re an all-American food, but we don’t stop there. In San Francisco, you can get a burger to satisfy any regional food craving – we have a ramen burger, hamburguesas, and even a Middle Eastern kibbeh burger. And why not? There are few things as easy to eat (for the most part) that offer so many flavors in one bite.
Burgers also remind me of my first food cravings, and I eat at least two a week – whether it’s because I’m testing burgers at my pop-up, WesBurger, or just going out and trying something new. Because of this, I get asked all the time to name a favorite burger.
Bigger, more expensive, or different is not always better. While I love a fancy one with pricey meat and creative toppings, I am more often craving a simple ¼ lb. greasy patty with American cheese. With a little love you can squeeze amazing flavors out of the simplest ingredients. My favorite burgers are also juicy, and that doesn’t always mean medium rare. The cheese must be properly melted. The patty must be seasoned; I want the burger to be as salty as possible without going overboard. Texture is very important too. I rarely enjoy a chewy burger. I prefer something with a coarse grind, a patty you almost don’t need teeth to bite into. I have eaten many great burgers that were ruined by poor bun choice.
So here are 12 of my favorite burgers, a list that isn’t set in stone. I left out some great burgers because they’re ones you should know about already (Nopa) and others I kept in because they were too good to exclude (Marlowe). Feel free to tell me in the comments how much you love or hate this list. Or come tell me to my face Wednesday nights at Mojo Bicycle Café.
Roll your curser over each burger to get the breakdown on what's between each bun.
A very simple, delicious burger with a great crust on the patty from the flat top. The meat is super tasty and I wanted to lick the pooling fat off the plate.
This burger, with its squishy Acme bun and two slices of American cheese, lives up to its name and satisfies my most basic burger cravings.
Each time I have this greasy, griddled burger, I leave thinking that this is a much better version of In-N-Out Burger. Ask for it medium rare and keep it classic with American cheese on the grain-fed patty.
B&J ¼ lb Burgers
It’s messy, all the ingredients come from a restaurant depot, a ton of mayo is used, and eating it is one of my favorite burger experiences in SF. Get the single unless you are starving.
$18 is a lot of money for a burger, but this one is worth every penny. Creamy, rich pâté and caramelized onions make this the most decadently delicious burger on this list.
This 4 oz. burger is on the smaller side and always leaves me wanting more. The Asiago sesame scallion bun is stunning and almost upstages the patty.
Don’t be afraid to order it rare and slather extra amounts of the horseradish aioli on the buns. It’s a no-frills burger and one of the most consistently great burgers in the city.
Presidio Social Club
The patty is thick and well seasoned with nice grill marks, and comes with an awesome tomato jam that does wonders in your mouth when it mixes with all the beef fat.
This is one of the most flavorful patties I have eaten. A 50/50 blend of brisket and chuck is used, letting the meat shine through and accenting it with only simple toppings.
Mission Bowling Club
The key to this burger is the granulated patty, leaving the big 8oz. blend of hangar, brisket, and chuck amazingly tender.
Creamy yogurt, sour capers, and Zatar spread create bold flavors that blend well with the lamb and bulgur patty.
It is probably one of the leanest burgers on this list, but it also has one of the richest beefy flavors. This is due to the cuts of beef (from right near major blood lines in the cow) and the fact that the patties are aged for 24 hours, creating an intense flavor.