Summertime is upon us and soon enough the farmers market will be bursting at the seams with fresh tomatoes and other warm weather fruits and veggies. I can’t wait to start loading up on all the free samples of peaches and cherries. The farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building operates year-round but in the cold winter months it can be hard to drag yourself down there when the bounty isn’t as rich as it is in the summer. But, even when it’s cold out, the farmers markets in the bay area, and specifically the one at the SF Ferry Building, offer a wide variety of artisan street food vendors. There is everything from tacos to whole rotisserie chickens. You might have guessed by now, there are also burgers.
I recently discovered 4505 Meats, a purveyor of all things meat and best known for their hot dogs and melt-in-your-mouth chicharrones – a.k.a. pork rinds. In addition to dogs and skins, they also make a great burger. Chef Ryan Farr cooks up a mix of different meat dishes each week using fresh ingredients and unique flavors. The core of the menu, the cheeseburger and the 4505 Uncured Hot Dog are regulars on his menu while other offerings change weekly depending on what is fresh. Everything on the menu is cooked fresh on site by Mr. Farr himself.
I got to the market a little early so I could avoid the massive line that forms during the height of the lunch hour. I stepped up to the white EZ Up canopy decorated with cutout pigs and placed my order for the cheeseburger ($7.00). Today’s burger featured 21 day dry-aged grass fed brisket from Magruder Ranch. Farr buys a whole steer once a month and makes use of the entire steer. Each week the burger is a little different depending on how long the beef has aged and what parts he used. In addition to the fantastic sounding beef, the burger also comes dressed with a thin slice of Mezzo Seco cheese, a triangle of lettuce, red onion and a house made Thousand Island type sauce on a homemade scallion bun that is laced with parmesan and griddled with butter. Mmmmm, butter.
I watched as Farr commanded the gas grill that was packed wall-to-wall with dogs, burgers and chicken. He moved at blinding speed and appeared to be in trance- his concentration undeterred. Orders taken by the cashier were shouted out to Farr – “TWO CHEESE!” which he would immediately acknowledge with “TWO ALL DAY!” and take two balls of freshly ground beef from a cooler, sprinkle them with sea salt, hand form a patty and slap it on the grill. Once the burger was cooked to about medium rare, it was passed off to one of the helpers to be assembled and delivered to the customer. I was in awe of how he could remember all of those orders when they are coming in every minute or so and he has no physical order in front of him. I would have been lost after “two cheese.”
The first thing that I noticed about the burger as it sat in a red-checked cardboard tray was its size. It appeared to be rather small. The bun wasn’t the size of a standard hamburger bun – it was more like an oversized dinner roll. The cheese-draped patty and the wedge of iceberg lettuce far exceeded the edges of the golden bread that oozed secret sauce. No matter the size, it looked really tasty. Before I had even taken the first bite my hands were covered in sauce and juice. Once bitten, the cheeseburger dripped into the cardboard tray and a host of flavors danced on my tongue. Where do I begin? The bun, albeit small, was incredible. The hint of cheese along with the buttery crunch was heavenly. The meat was full of beef flavor and this week’s grind had some extra fat that was producing a great deal of juice. The Mezzo Zeco was subtly sharp and salty. The crunch of the fresh lettuce balanced the tender meat and the secret sauce was pleasantly tangy. It was a bit salty between the salted patty and the buttered bun, but other than that it was finger lickin’ good.
The size was deceptive at first, but the buttered bun and the nicely aged meat were rich enough to fill me up. If you’re really hungry, you can get an extra patty for two bucks more.
I will definitely be going back to visit 4505 Meats. I really want to try their hot dog that is laced with bacon and topped with chicharrones – a double pork whammy. I’m also considering doing one of Mr. Farr’s one-day butchery classes where he teaches you how to carve up whole pigs and other little farm animals. Next time you make it over to the Ferry Building farmers market, resist temptation to fill up on all the freebies and save some room for Ryan Farr’s really tasty burger.
San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
Hours: Thursday 10:00AM – 2:00PM
Saturday 8:00AM – 2:00PM