The last few weeks have been marked by an unusually high level of pizza consumption and I think my precious baby, the burger, started to feel left out (there, there … mommy is here). Regardless of the excuse I conjure up for myself for this, I did indeed order four burgers between noon on Friday and Saturday night around 10pm. The feedback runs the gamut from “I want my money back” to “I have to come back as soon as possible” (a follow up visit at Gamine has already occurred).
Friday, 11/4, 12pm: My parents and I ventured beyond our normal Financial District boundaries to Bluestem Brasserie on Yerba Buena lane at Market & 4th. The restaurant is new and early reviews have been mixed. I wasn’t any more encouraged when I walked in at noon to find the vast space completely empty. The menu had many tempting items (mushroom tartine, burger, pulled pork sando) and I ended up going with the Lamb Burger. It was excellent. Actually, it was excellent with a small caveat: if I had this before my trip to Greece, I would have been totally blown away; but alas, Greek lamb has totally ruined me. Bluestem’s lamb is juicy and flavorful, but it doesn’t have the special spice factor that the Greeks exposed me to. That being said, the light touch of goat cheese, sauteed peppers, and the bun were all top notch.
The fries joined the esteemed ranks of Spruce and Fog City Diner. Thick and crispy on the outside, hot and creamy on the inside: the perfect fry dimension. Service was polite and perfectly paced; noise level pleasant. This place is a solid (and unexpected) A.
Friday, 11/4 6pm: Still coming down from my Bluestem high, I headed over to Gamine in the Marina for dinner. Gamine (French for a mischievous young woman) is a small, charming French bistro that you might miss if not looking for it. When one walks in and meets the French host, you feel as though you’ve left San Francisco and entered a Parisian cafe. The atmosphere couldn’t be any more different than at lunch, and the burger is even more impressive. It’s in the running for Best Burger of the Year.
I am typically weary of the non-traditional hamburger bun (don’t try to re-invent the wheel), but Gamine’s chewy ciabatta roll is light enough so it doesn’t push the meat out the back side. The beef is thick, spiced superbly, and cooked to a perfect rare. My toppings (bacon and brie cheese) complimented the wonderful beef patty without obscuring it. There are many moving parts to a burger and Gamine nailed each and every one. I revisited the following week with a big group and confirmed this place is no fluke.
Saturday, 6pm: La Folie is very much a special occasion spot, but I had always been curious to check out their more casual lounge. Be warned, the folks over at La Folie have a liberal interpretation of “casual” as three small sliders are $18 and a bowl of popcorn is $6. Portions are small, prices are high. Perhaps not surprisingly, the $18 sliders were the worst of the weekend. The meat was so tasteless I asked myself if it was a Gardenburger. The patty was cold. The bun has a crossaint-like look, but it’s no treat. I never jumped on the slider bandwagon and La Folie’s take did nothing to inspire me. Sadly, I’ve downgraded the main dining room
Saturday 10pm: Yes, at the point, another burger was totally unnecessary, but Nopa is on my 2011 To Do List and as Jac warned me, I’m running out of time. Nopa’s rendition isn’t shockingly bad like La Folie’s, but there wasn’t one thing about it that ingrained itself to my memory. Were there toppings? Probably. Maybe? Was the meat cooked well? Couldn’t tell ya. It was a pretty standard, “nice restaurant” burger but I fail to see why its earned a reputation as one of the best in SF. That is to be found at Gamine and Don Pistos.
Now, can I get a freaking salad?