Continuing my adventures outside of Vegas, I recently took a quick 22 hour trip to San Francisco for a night. On this trip I sadly ate 3(!!!) burgers; two are worth mentioning and one was a very late night, drunken mishap. I will tell you about two of them, and we will never speak about the third. Got it?
On the night of our arrival we basically went straight from the airport to our friend’s gallery opening, and pretty much the sole purpose of our quick visit. Because we hadn’t eaten all day and were in for a late night, our friend sent us a block away to get some dinner at the Brickhouse Café & Saloon. It was a small, unassuming place with some great live jazz playing when we walked in. The place had maybe 25-30 seats max, plus some at the bar and I believe an upstairs area which I didn’t get to check out. They had a great cocktail menu and a decent selection of beers. Their menu is stocked with tons of food, but what surprised me was their huge burger selection. Most places I go to these days, even burger specialty restaurants, don’t have as many pre-made selections as this place did. Quite a nice surprise for a last-minute dinner!
I went with my go-to mushroom and swiss burger to have something fairly neutral but still provide me with an idea of what these guys could do. The buttery bun looked smaller than the meat, but ended up being proportioned quite well in the long run. The patty had great beefy flavor with a small amount of char, and was cooked perfectly. The mushroom chunks didn’t stand out even though they were quite large, and the cheese was nicely melted but also didn’t have too strong a flavor. Unfortunately the fries were only so-so, and I wished they were a bit more to compliment this strong burger. Overall it was juicy, wet and great. I don’t think you can go wrong here with many of their options; the prices were good, the drinks were great, and the live music was a treat.
The next day came with a meal that had been planned for months since hearing about it, along with a reservation that was placed a couple weeks prior. NOPA has been recommended to me by many of my readers as well as a few SF locals. I tried to go there the last time I was in town, but I didn’t make a reservation ahead of time and this place certainly needs one. The interior was nice, bright and very packed as expected. They have a farm to table concept; they specialize in wood-fired cuisine and use local foods. Their dinner menu has some great sounding items; the brunch menu is a lot smaller but still had some tasty choices. I was able to grab a bite of my friend’s French toast and it was of the best I’ve ever had.
Of course I was here for one thing, the grass fed hamburger with pickled onions, French fries and harissa aioli. Luckily it is available on both menus or there would have been a real problem. What came out was a very simple looking burger; nicely grilled bun, thick patty with melted cheese, minimal additional toppings and some fries. The meat was cooked perfectly; maybe even more on the rare side than some would like, but based on the quality of the meat I was more than happy with it. The cheese was delicious, and the pickled onions added great flavor to the overall meal. My bun was a little unevenly sliced with more on the bottom than the top, and may have been slightly dry, but it had great flavor. Overall it was a really good burger, but nothing incredible. I feel like the meat was missing a bit of seasoning or something, nothing about this struck me as a must-have burger contrary to many comments I received from others.
The fries were pretty good, but I found myself with a lot left over at the end of my burger which is an odd occurrence. They were cooked well, with some crispy and some a little softer, and had great flavor, but even with the strong and tasty harissa aioli they weren’t enough for me to eat too much of. The burger does come in at a very reasonable $14.50 with fries, which I’m ok with given the quality of the food and atmosphere of the restaurant. As I said earlier, this restaurant is certainly a hot spot right now so reservations are needed. The food all seemed very tasty so you can’t go wrong for a meal any time of day, but I question if this is really the best burger in town as some have claimed.