Archive for Category ‘$10-$15‘

Straw Carnival Fare – San Francisco, CA

Fate works in strange ways. Every week I drive across the city to get to the Bay Bridge. Always in the left lane going across Octavia, not paying much attention to whats passing by. But recently I glanced over and saw a wonderful site. A tilt-a-whirl seat in a window of a small restaurant. I glanced up and just barely caught that the place was called Straw Carnival Fare. That was more than enough to pique my interest. Growing up, I was convinced I would design rollercoasters, I had bought Coaster, a floppy disk based rollercoaster building simulator from the Scholastic Reader, and I was set. I later found out that excessive math skills would be needed, and dropped that idea pretty quickly.

But I have always had a love for theme parks, fairs, carnivals, games, all of that stuff. Rides, and corndogs; there is little else I need. I even built the website for the Marin County Fair a few years back. So I called my girlfriend right away and asked her to check it out. Reservations were made, and two weeks later we were there with 2 friends of ours.

The reason?


The Ringmaster. I have heard about burgers like this before, but it was only from a chain, and maybe only a combination of food from one chain with food from another chain. But when served up at a proper restaurant, it just seems much better.

What is the ringmaster exactly? A cheeseburger (that I obviously got with bacon) served on two glazed donuts. Many words can be used to describe this. Some would say “that’s so American” or “Gluttony”, but those people are annoying and should not be here. I would say Awesome and Must-try. There was a lot of anticipation for eating this, as we had made plans a few weeks ahead, so it had been lingering around in my mind for awhile.

I was definitely wary of how this would actually taste, as some things that are both awesome don’t always work together (i.e. those bacon chocolate bars). But first bite in, and you could just tell it worked. The sweet and savory was balanced just right.

The burger was very simple; bacon, cheese and meat, which has to be deliberate. The only thing that bothered me was having some of the grease end up on the donut buns, but the burger was really not that greasy. I don’t know how often I would describe something as being fun to eat, but this definitely was.

Recently, if you are getting a burger that is way out of the ordinary, it’s either got some stupid gourmet thing going on like a caviar aioli, or it’s all about how massive this is. The Ringmaster is neither, and it’s one of the most fun things I have eaten in years. On their own, the burger ingredients are tasty with the bacon being done very well. The patty was a really good size, not too thick, and thankfully not too greasy. The donuts were… well donuts. I can’t say I’ve really had a bad one, and these were no different. For buns, they are a bit tall, so you have to do the ole burger squash method to make it work, and you are going to get messy. But this restaurant definitely caters to that. The Ringmaster and a side of homemade chips is $11.75 and it’s another $1.50 for bacon. Pretty standard for an SF restaurant.

For non-burger lovers (ridiculous I know) there are still plenty of options, and some that are close to as interesting as the Ringmaster. A friend order the fried chicken and waffle monte-cristo, and that looked pretty delicious too. Everyone had fun here, and it’s just a great atmosphere for a smaller group of friends. Straw is very small, so it’s best to make a reservation, but I can’t recommend this place enough if you can’t decide between a nice dinner out and a burger place. I’d say the Ringmaster, or an equivalent, is something all burger lovers must try at least once!

Rating:
★★★★☆

Check them out at http://strawsf.com/

Johnny Garlic’s – Santa Rosa, CA

Love him or hate him, you all know who Guy Fieri is. Guy has been one of the heavy hitters in the super-celebrifying of the chef, and I am definitely guilty of going out of my way to stop at places featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. My girlfriend’s parents are fans of the show, and enjoy visiting featured places when they are traveling as well. So naturally they wanted to check out one of Guy’s own restaurants when they came up to visit.

So up north, beyond the outskirts of the Bay Area, is Johnny Garlic’s. It’s called a pasta grill, but the dishes are pretty all over the place, especially for its location. The menu has something for everyone on it, including vegetarians and generally picky eaters. But then it also has bison burgers, and some exotic animal as the Hunter’s Special. I’ve actually been a few times, and had things like the pizza, and everything has been pretty tasty. The bread they bring out is always a huge hit too. But that is not why we are here. We are here for this.
Burger and Destroy - Johhny Garlic's Burger

Checking their website and menu now, it looks like this burger has been updated. I had the Snake River BBQ Burger, but now it appears to have been replaced by Guy’s Big Bite Burger. They have added a pretzel roll (one of my personal favorites), and swapped the pepper-jack for cheddar. The BBQ burger was really good. Should this be surprising or not, I don’t know, but it really was solid. The bacon is thick and crispy, breaking apart cleanly with each bite. There’s some onion straws on top for some added crunch, though not overwhelming. The bun was actually really good, with a little bit of crunch to it. Almost a bummer that they went to a pretzel bun, when their regular buns were already rather good, and so many other places would benefit much more from it. What really pulled this burger together though was the BBQ sauce. Definitely a top notch and delicious sauce. It was sweet enough where it balanced the kick of the pepper-jack and brought the whole thing together. They use higher quality ingredients, and its definitely noticeable.

Burger and Destroy - Johhny Garlic's Burger

This messy burger caught me off guard, as it was a bit better than I was really expecting. I figured it would be good, albeit standard, but everything worked really well together. It’s a bit higher priced at 13.95 with a side of fries, but that is most likely a balance of local meat and a sprinkle of unicorn dust for that bbq sauce. As a whole, the restaurant is a good place for friends or family; it’s a little loud, there are tv’s up, and the waitstaff is pretty consistently great. The onion rolls they serve with oil and vinegar get devoured plate after plate, and if you can survive for dessert they have some pretty decadent options as well. Prices seem a couple dollars too high on some items, but it is good food and a good time.

Rating:
★★★★☆

You can get more info at http://www.johnnygarlics.com/

Burger Joint (SFO Airport)

Seeing as my flight got delayed, it seems appropriate that I type this up now.

Being hungry at the airport can be scary, for both your wallet and your internal organs. My flight today is out of the brand new terminal 2 here that they were espousing as some sort of wonderland. Turns out that is the wonderland of waiting. Power sources abound, but that is it for the excitement. We were supposed to be meeting up with family in Seattle for dinner, but with the delayed flight I decided to go with a burger from Burger Joint.

The name sounds familiar, but I don’t quite know why, besides for it being super generic. Have I ever been to one? Is that their rational; that you can’t remember if you’ve had it or not? Are they only in airports? Will I instantly regret this?

At this point, I wasn’t even going to bother to look up more information on them, as I am already irritated at the airport. Gave it a shot anyway, and all their website shows is their logo and “new website coming soon”. I guess it is still 1999.

That means we as a group will not be getting any answers. Now to the actual food. With tax, a cheeseburger came out to just under $11 and comes with fries. Though mind you this is at the airport, where everything we’ve learned about numbers-money and time, don’t exist in the same way as the outside world. I wonder if calculators have issues here too…

First thoughts. One giant piece of lettuce. Ultra thick steak fries. Suspiciously familiar looking patty. I went for a fry first, as I reached for the ketchup. Mistake, as for my entire meal was spent trying to figure out what the aftertaste of the fries reminded me of (and yes I am ending this sentence with “of”). At this very moment, it still befuddles me. The leafy part of a strawberry that you shouldn’t eat? That multicolored insulation that looks like lint? Those edible photos they put on top of cakes? I really haven’t a clue, but there was some bizarre aftertaste making an appearance on those fries.

Now onto the actual burger. I said it seemed familiar, and I think I’ve at least got that figured out. Those large stacks of frozen patties you get at Costco that always get cooked by someone you don’t know no matter how small the party you are at is… Yeah, it was just like that. Oh it looks big, but the whole time you are eating, it seems like very little is happening. I read some mumbo jumbo about where the meat was from, but stopped caring. The consistency of the patty just was not there, it had some weird crunchier parts that no one likes to think or talk about. The cheese was fine, but this was a grade A blandburger. Nothing terribly wrong with it, just tasted like some frozen company picnic burger.

If you are at the airport, maybe you pony up the big bucks for a burger at the Lark Creek Grill here and still risk it, or do what I wish I did and get a bucket sized froyo at pink berry. Other than that I have no real takeaways here, except an oddly sore throat and a stomach that I hope doesn’t turn on me.

Rating:
★★☆☆☆

Burger Meister – Cole Valley

After going to a few bike shops with a friend, we looked up places nearby to eat, and realized we were two blocks away from Burger Meister in Cole Valley. I didn’t even know they had a location there, but I have been to their other two in the city a few times. The Cole Valley location is the most tucked away of the group, and they have a handful of tables inside and outside.

Burgermeister - Cole Valley, San Francisco

From my previous few trips, I had the notion that they lean on the expensive side for a typical burger joint. After my last visit I think their prices are fairly standard, though the sides and add-ons are where the cost will creep up on you. They use all Niman Ranch beef, so the quality is definitely there. I ordered the Western Burger, which for a 1/3 pound burger is $10.25 including a side of fries. I believe the 1/3 pound option is relatively new, and does help make the price more reasonable. A standard 1/3lb cheeseburger and fries is $7.75. Sides of sweet potato fries, onion rings and the like are from 4-5.25 dollars.

Burgermeister - Western Burger

Somehow on this visit I managed to escape the wrath of my BBQ sauce, but my friend was subsequently drenched from his Meisterburger. I am a staunch believer in that once you pick your burger up, you never set it down again, and I am usually not so lucky. These are all messy burgers, usually at least a 3 napkiner.

The western burger is a solid burger. The bbq sauce is nice and sweet, the onion rings are massive and perfectly crisp, and the bacon and cheese tied it all together. No soggy bacon here. The burger is thin and wide, giving enough surface area for their variety of toppings, which is one of the main reasons Burger Meister is so good.

There are no complaints here, the 1/3 lb burger and curly fries filled me up just fine. Everything tastes real good consistently, making it a great go-to restaurant. Nothing too memorable, but you’d have a very hard time being let down here, as they have something for everyone.

Rating:
★★★★☆
Burger Meister's Twitter
Burger Meister's Facebook Page
http://www.burgermeistersf.com/

(zoom out for all locations)

Zazie – Cole Valley, San Francisco

Zazie is a romantic little French restaurant that gets very little ink for just how good it is. Every dish has been delicious (I’ve heard, as I only order one thing, save for the surprise Prix Fixe menu on Valentine’s Day). Zazie is perfect for a special occasion; the atmosphere is really great inside, which you will almost never hear me talk about, but for a nice place it lacks the snobbishness of many others. Every meal starts with an incredibly fresh and hot roll, which is far too small for how delicious it is. This roll was definitely a precursor of what was to come. And to end the meal they have some insanely decadent desserts. My favorite is the chocolate-coma inducing Baked Chocolat Chaud, which tastes almost like brownie batter topped with tons of melted marshmallows. Absolutely delicious.

But none of that matters here. What is important is that Zazie is hands down the best place to take your significant other for a special occasion/romantic dinner, and still have one of the best burgers you can get your hands on. They offer one burger, the Zazie burger, with white cheddar, tomatoes proven├žals, and a side of grilled potatoes. I don’t know what tomatoes proven├žals are, so they are swept off to the girlfriends plate. The bacon for a $2 additional charge is well worth it, and brings the total for this bad boy to $14.

Zazie Burger

The whole time you wait for your burger, all you can do is think about that tiny roll they served you early on. I think the service is reasonably quick, but after eating that little roll the only thing running through my head is how I could probably eat about 20 more, or if the people at the table next to me won’t be looking when the waitress drops off their rolls. Time seems to just crawl, which is just about all I can do after eating the burger and then the dessert. Finally the burger arrives, and it delivers. The bun is just as good as that little roll, buttery and crisp on the outside. White cheddar has been popping up more often lately, and it is a trend I like (hopefully it becomes the next pomegranate or avocado or sweet potato fries). The white cheddar and bacon, again a crucial addition, are a stellar combination. It’s obvious Zazie takes pride in what they serve, and both the cheese and bacon are rich and flavorful. The bacon is crispy enough where you won’t have to worry about pulling the rest of it out when you first bite into it, which as we all

know can throw off the whole balance of a burger. Surprisingly, the fancy leafy greens on top also compliment the burger very well.

Zazie Burger

This has to be one of the most well-balanced and refined burgers out there, while still being a true burger. I didn’t know this burger existed when I went to Zazie for the first time, and was expecting to have to eat something way too “fancy” where I’d just end up pushing about half the plate to the side. Instead I was absolutely blown away by this burger. Wouldn’t matter if this was from a burger shack, a trailer, or the fanciest restaurant, this is a top 5 burger all the way. Add in the killer dessert, and the fact that you can impress your date there, who will be more than happy with their menu whatever their taste may be, and you’ve got one of best experiences for any burger lover.

If this burger were any cheaper, I’d be there twice a month for sure.

Rating:
★★★★★
Zazie Restaurant's Twitter
Zazie Restaurant's Facebook Page
http://www.zaziesf.com

941 Cole Street, SF
415-564-5332