Reviewed by: Kevin
Kate isn’t the only one who can take road trips. A few weeks ago, I drove up the coast on the endlessly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. In case you’ve never heard of PCH, picture driving with this scene right next to you for seven hours. The view from my car during the trip was as unbelievable as the Bay Area itself.
One great thing about this burger blog is that, when in new cities, I don’t have to aimlessly wander around looking for places to eat. Now, when I travel, I do so with purpose. I do research, looking for the tastiest burger in town. Given, burgers aren’t math problems with objective solutions; in a cultured city like San Francisco, there were obviously a great many tasteful burgers vying for the title of “city’s best”. Still, a few seemed to rise above the fray, so I picked one and set about to Zuni Café in the Hayes Valley section of San Francisco, CA.
In previous posts, I have sung the praises of simplicity. Zuni, like The Apple Pan, has constructed a seemingly simple burger, in terms of the sheer number of ingredients. The only things that come standard on the Zuni Burger are pickles and aioli. I added cheese and asked for the aioli on the side.
Did Zuni’s burger, in its simplicity, come close to the Apple Pan’s? In short, no. A million times no. The patty was obviously made with quality meat, but it had no kick. It was quite plain. The cheese was barely noticeable, certainly not worth the extra $1.50. And the pickles. The sad, sad pickles. It was clear they did their pickling in house, as their pickles were both cucumber and onion. The purple coloration of the onion added an interesting layer to the burger that I liked, but the enjoyment stopped there. The pickles tasted like a more mustardy bread n’ butter pickle, as opposed to the standard, vastly superior dill. The strong flavors overpowered every other element in the burger with a faintly unappetizing zest. I was very disappointed.
It was a burger without an identity. It strove for both simplicity and class, and landed at neither. Simple burgers are great, in my opinion, because there is something homey and classic about them. They just feel right. But any homey-ness in Zuni’s burger had been replaced with pretention. It tried too hard, and it fell even harder.
Lastly, the price. I realize that living in a big city comes with higher costs, and I do my best to not complain about them. But this was just ridiculous. I had my burger with a side of thin, decent fries and a mojito – a meal that totaled over forty-five dollars. Yes, you read that correctly. Forty-five dollars. My Apple Pan Burger was one quarter of that cost. Of course, they don’t serve cocktails at the Apple Pan, but the price was outrageous still.
This time, my research did not pan out. I am certain I did not eat the best burger in San Francisco, and if I did, I’m content to keep searching for great burgers in LA instead. But if I didn’t, I’m totally fine with finding another excuse to head north. So where did I go wrong, readers? Is there a better burger by the Bay? And where should I go next in LA? As always, let us know in the comments!
Burger Flavor: 2/5