Food trends will come and go, but there’s one thing that will never stop pleasing diners of all ages, and that’s the warm sandwich known as a classic hamburger.
They’re easy to eat (no cutting, just lifting), affordable (ish), and filling, but more than that: they’re just damn good.
Lucky for us, San Francisco has an abundance of delicious burger options. And lucky for you, we decided to eat them all and rank them, so that everyone will know, once and for all, which one is truly the very best burger in the 7×7. Until a new contender comes along, that is…
Someone had to be “last” on this illustrious list, and, if we’re being honest, the only reason it’s ABV is that we’re still really sad the new chef (Collin Hilton) 86ed the pimento cheeseburger, which was one of our favorite burgers in the city. Yes, we get that Hilton wanted to make his burger mark, and frankly, he did just that with the $14 “New Fuckin Burger with Spicy-Ass Chips.” But he promised if he got rid of the original burger, he’d replace it with something better. And though the new burger is super tasty — a 1/3-pound grass-fed beef patty with white cheddar, raw red onion, shredded lettuce, pickles, and a tangy secret sauce — and messy in just the right way, we just wish we had the option of both. I guess what we’re saying is: life is hard when you really love burgers.
The Flannery Beef Burger ($17) at Maybeck’s caught us off guard when we first tried it. We thought it would be good in the way that most burgers are good, but we were not expecting it to be that good. Luckily, we love surprises, especially when they come in the form of a dry-aged beef patty topped with an herb aioli and (if you’re in the know and ask – they’re not advertised) Hatch green chiles – which add a lively kick you didn’t know you wanted or needed (but absolutely do).
Probably when you think “bowling alley,” you don’t also think “award-winning food,” but that’s legitimately the case when it comes to Mission Bowling Club, which had its burger named one of the “Top 5 Burgers in America” by the Food Network. The $16 Mission Burger ($10 without fries during happy hour) is made up of a half-pound patty that’s a mix of granulated short rib and chuck seared in beef fat (you’re dying already… in a good way, not a heart attack way, although okay, maybe both ways), and then topped with mild Monterey Jack, caramelized onions, and a caper aioli. It’s juicy and salty and just yummmmmm.
12. Gott’s Roadside
Gott’s offers 11 different burgers, but our pick is the Double Cheeseburger ($11.49)—two 1/3-pound Niman Ranch patties cooked medium well with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and secret sauce on a toasted egg bun. It’s juicy, flavorful, and when you’re enjoying it while sitting in the sunshine on their patio, the kind of burger that makes you happy you’re alive.
You know how when you were little and you didn’t have burger buns at home, and your mom would use English muffins instead, you’d be annoyed because an English muffin definitely isn’t a burger bun? Just us? Well, turns out six-year-old us was totally wrong because an English muffin is most certainly a delicious burger bun, especially when it’s the bun on the Spruce Burger ($19). The patty, a blend of brisket, sirloin, and short rib, is ground daily in-house and then topped with pickled onions, zucchini, and a caper remoulade. The burger doesn’t need cheese, per se, but go ahead and add gruyere ‘cause why not. Oh, and FYI: this delish burger is only available at lunch and in the bar, but that’s cool ‘cause we prefer to sit in the bar anyway.
The problem with naming your burger the “Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger” ($9.75) is that it’d better actually be the best damn grass-fed cheeseburger. We’re going to say it’s not the “best” (many will disagree), but regardless, it’s an amazingly tasty cheeseburger. That’s because the 1/4-pound grass-fed patty is perfectly grilled, topped with melted gruyere, secret sauce, crisp iceberg lettuce, and slices of red onion, all on a griddled sesame and scallion brioche bun. You can make it a double ($13.75) and add bacon and an egg, but we prefer the single just the way it comes.
The burger at this tiny upscale spot in the TL flew under the radar for a little bit, but the secret is out and The Hux Deluxe ($19) is a legit contender when it comes to SF burgers. The burger sounds complicated because, well, it kind of is: a four-ounce dry-aged ground chuck patty, a pressed “bacon wafer,” fried onion, American cheese, frisée (?!?) lettuce, thick slices of pickles, and MSG aioli, all on a housemade onion bun made with pickle brine. Bacon wafer? Fried onion? MSG AIOLI? A BUN MADE WITH PICKLE BRINE? It’s a lot of complicated stuff – and just a lot of stuff in general. So much stuff that the burger actually comes with a knife sticking through it to hold it all together. But once you get that Instagram pic, all you need to do is smoosh everything down and sink your teeth into it. That’s when you’ll realize that everything complicated about this burger is why it’s simply one of the best.
Anthony Bourdain once called the double cheeseburger ($9) at this divey burger counter one of the “top three in the world” and the man who made it for him “The Patron Saint of San Francisco.” Sadly, “patron saint” Mike Shawa (“Sam”) has since passed away, but the burger remains one of the best in San Francisco, and it’s for sure the best when you’ve had too much to drink and all the bars have closed. This double cheeseburger is cooked on the grill with American cheese and then bottomed (you read that right) with shredded lettuce, fresh tomato, red onion, ketchup, and mayo. A.k.a.: late night burger perfection.
Zuni epitomizes everything we love about Northern California cuisine, so it’s only fitting that their burger ($18) has the same vibe. It’s made with organic, all-natural, grass-fed beef that’s ground in-house (of course), and comes on grilled rosemary focaccia and topped with pickles and aioli. You can add Bayley Hazen blue cheese, grilled onions, and Portobello mushrooms, but we like to keep it simple with Shelburne Farms cheddar cheese. The only problem? This burger’s only available at lunch, brunch, and in the afternoon. Actually, scratch that. It’s actually a gift that they stop serving their burgers at night, because that way when you eat dinner at Zuni, you never have to choose between the burger and the roasted chicken.
We cried a thousand tears when Scotland Yard closed and took its insanely good Yard Burger with it. Luckily, Jason Raffin found a new home as chef de cuisine at Finn Town, and he created an even more delicious version of his burger for the menu, which we were shocked to discover was even a thing that could happen. The (messy in the best way) Finn Town Burger ($18) comes with two beef patties that are seasoned with kosher salt and porcini powder, both of which are topped with American cheese. The shredded lettuce and pickles hang out on top of all of that and the secret sauce (think: Thousand Island, but with cornichon, pickles, ketchup, and mustard) is slathered on both buns. It’s a combination that’s so good it almost makes us wish we smoked pot, because we’re pretty sure this is a stoner’s dream burger.
There are people who will argue that the Wood Grilled Hamburger ($18) at Nopa is the best burger in the city. Those people are wrong. But they’re not far off because this burger is one we will never grow tired of eating (especially late at night, since Nopa is open until 1am on the weekend). Unlike a lot of other burgers on this list, which are messy and covered with toppings, the beauty of Nopa’s burger is its simplicity. It’s made with grass-fed beef that’s ground in-house and perfectly salted, and it comes with pickled onions on a grilled brioche bun. We like to add cheddar to give it a little bite and ‘cause the truth is that burgers are just better when they’re cheeseburgers.
We are big believers that you shouldn’t have to add bacon to a burger to make it delicious, but when the bacon perfectly complements all the other ingredients, we’re all in. Hence why we can’t get enough of the Marlowe Burger ($17). The patty is made of 80 percent Niman Ranch beef and 20 percent lamb, which gives it a rich flavor you don’t find in most burgers. It’s then topped with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, and the pièce de résistance: horseradish aïoli. Not up for a trip to SoMa? No worries. This beauty is also served at Marlowe’s sister restaurants, Park Tavern and The Cavalier.
The Hot Wes ($11), a 6-ounce patty with onion rings, queso, and pickled jalapenos that’s a play on The Hot Mess at Jack in the Box, is what put Wes Rowe’s burgers on the map. And The All-American ($11), a 6-ounce patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese, and a special sauce, certainly sounds damn tasty – and it is. But The Okie Burger ($11), a 6-ounce patty cooked over a bed of onions with mustard, pickle, and American cheese perfectly cooked on a cast iron so that it’s both crisp and juicy, is the burger that keeps us going back to WesBurger time and time again, which is why it earns the #3 spot on this list.
Is it dramatic to say that the first time we bit into the Americana Burger ($15.99) at Causwells, our lives were changed forever? Probably, but whatever, because it’s true. This burger is so bomb that it completely changed the way we enjoy other burgers. It consists of two four-ounce patties of beef (ground in-house) that are smashed on a hot griddle, which gives it a crispy crust. Two slices of American cheese are melted atop each patty, and then lettuce, pickles, and onion are piled onto the bottom bun. But it’s the secret sauce — a combo of house-made Worcestershire, house-made Thousand Island, cayenne, and other stuff that no one will tell us because: secret — that really pushes this concoction over the edge… and into the #2 spot.
MID-MARKET and SOMA
When you create a burger with a cult following, like the one at Causwells, it only makes sense to spin it off into its own franchise, right? And thank goodness for that, because now that Popsons exists, we don’t want to imagine a world without it. But what you really want to know is why it’s the top burger on this list.
Frankly, it’s because it’s the burger from Causwells we love so much, but with more options and cheaper prices. The patties are made from Five Dot Ranch beef that is butchered, ground, and pattied in-house every day. Like the Americana, the patties also have a crispy crust from the griddle. You can order it plain (but don’t do that) or with a wide variety of add-ons (definitely do that): chili; bacon and blue cheese; mushroom, truffled cheese, caramelized onion, and aioli; or even veggie-style — they use a beet, quinoa, walnut patty that is shockingly good.
But if you have to choose just one burger, the way to go is the double cheeseburger ($9.15) with American cheese, onion, lettuce, pickle, and special sauce, all on fresh buns from Petit Pans that are made just for Popsons. Honestly, we don’t know what else to say, except that you just have to bite into this burger to fully understand why we believe it’s the very best one in all of San Francisco.