Have you ever looked in your refrigerator and saw that you had a pound of ground beef but no buns to make a burger? That happened a few times to my mom when I was a kid and we ended up eating burgers on regular sandwich bread. It’s just not the same as a traditional bun. How about if you had an extra hot dog bun sitting around? That is a pretty good substitute for burger bun – basically the same thing just shaped different, right? For two inventive San Franciscans, the hot dog bun metamorphosed the classic burger on a bun into the burger dog.
In 1950, Bill Parrish opened Hot Dog Bills, named after himself and his wife Billie. They set up a small trailer outside of the world famous Olympic Club golf course and started selling burgers and dogs to golfers. Bill decided to use hot dog buns for his burgers as a cost saving measure by only having one bun for everything on his menu. The golfers fell in love with the burger dogs and would often send their caddies out to pick up burger dogs for them while they played golf. Bill was eventually invited by the prestigious members only club to set up a stand on the golf course. Fifty years later, Bill’s daughter Candy continues to run the popular snack stands on the course and the burger dogs still sell like hotcakes.
For Chef Geeto, the head chef at the one year-old Frisco Fried in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, the burger dog was also somewhat of a cost saving measure. Geeto grew up in a San Francisco housing development with little money. He told me that as a kid they ate a lot of hot dogs but every now and again the family would splurge on ground beef. The dilemma of not having money to get hamburger buns led to his family shape their burgers like hot dogs and use the leftover hot dog buns in lieu of a traditional bun. When he opened Frisco Fried, he was excited to put his version of the burger dog on the menu – believing that he had invented the unique burger.
It isn’t too often that you hear of places serving burger dogs, except at a handful of golf courses or a restaurant that improvises when they run out of buns. I was really surprised that two burger dogs existed in such a small city and both burger dog purveyors were completely unaware of each other. Chef Geeto was shocked that a burger dog existed, asking me a few times about where it was made and what it was called. The same went for Ms. Parrish. She had no idea that another burger dog had emerged in the city and was eager to get to Frisco Fried and try one.
Since Chef Geeto says that his family started making the burgers almost forty years ago and Bill Parrish began serving his to golfers in 1950, there is no question that Hot Dog Bills has been making them longer. Ultimately, it isn’t really important who made it first, but who makes it better. Let the burger dog showdown begin.
I had heard about Frisco Fried a few months ago when some friends suggested that we go there for lunch for some of their chicken and waffles. I never made it to that lunch but looked on their website to see the menu and learned about their burger dog. The new soul food restaurant is a gem in an area that has seen its struggles in the past but has recently turned a corner and seems to be improving. The community oriented restaurant serves up “San Francisco style soul food” that is “fried with pride” and when they say fried, they mean it. From chicken to oysters, almost everything at Frisco Fried swims in oil.
Painted in bright orange and black, the spotless restaurant pays tribute to the San Francisco Giants and the 49ers. The Giants “SF” logo appears on their menu and framed jerseys of Jerry Rice and Joe Montana hang proudly on the walls. A friendly but somewhat shy young lady took my order for beef burger dog deal ($6.99 with fries and drink, or $3.99 for just the dog). Turkey is also available. I waited at a clean table next to a television that played a soap opera and watched people from the neighborhood trickle in for lunch.
The same girl who took my order delivered my burger dog in a red plastic paper lined basket. At first glance it looked like a regular hot dog until you looked more closely to see the cylindrical-shaped ground beef under all the condiments. The thing was stacked high with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, mustard, relish, mayo and ketchup. The first bite was interesting. It didn’t look like a burger, but sure tasted like one. The meat was well seasoned and tasted quite good but was cooked close to well done and suffered from dryness. Texture-wise, the meat was a little dense, similar to a sausage. All the other ingredients were good and blended well. Fresh veggies added to the overall flavor and having diced tomatoes made it easy to eat. Pickles would have been a good addition and I would have liked the bun to have been toasted.
Overall, my first burger dog experience was good. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as how the meat would be cooked so I went into it with an open mind. I would have liked it if there was a preference on cooking temperature. I think medium to medium rare would have yielded a less dense and more beefy tasting burger…er, um, dog. The fries were very good and I will definitely be back for their chicken and waffles. As I was leaving, I noticed a sign in the front that proudly displayed the number of burger dogs sold since they opened – 1450 confirmed sales and counting. Make that 1451.
Frisco Fried – RATING: 3 out of 5
5176 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94124
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 11:00AM – 7:00PM
Friday 11:00AM – 9:00PM
Saturday 12:00PM – 9:00PM
Sunday 12:00PM – 7:00PM
Hot Dog Bills at the Olympic Club
I had heard about the famed burger dog at the Olympic Club a few years ago from some friends that had had one during the last U.S. Open tournament held there. Since they were often mentioned as one of the best burgers in the city, I really wanted to try one but pretty much written it off since I wasn’t a member of the exclusive private club. Determined to try Hot Dog Bills, I made a few calls, talked with a few people and was able to secure a visit.
There are three Hot Dog Bills snack shacks on the grounds of the Olympic Club. I visited the one at the driving range where Candy Parrish was filling a huge order of burger dogs when I arrived. The small unmarked structure overlooks the driving range near a big Rolex clock. A group of well dressed men sat at a round picnic table eating their burger dogs and talking about the round of golf that they had just played. I put in my order for a burger dog with cheese ($6.00) and then watched as one person after another came up and placed orders for burger dogs. You could even specify how you wanted it cooked. Only one guy deviated from the plan and ordered a tuna sandwich.
Candy has worked in the stand for close to thirty years and took over operations from her father in the eighties. She really knows her way around the grill and has an amazing memory – greeting almost everyone that walked up to the stand by their name. I looked on as she placed the long rectangular molded beef dogs onto a hot griddle as her helper Patricia took care of drinks and dressing up the dogs as they came off the grill. The pair worked seamlessly together, like a well oiled machine.
The cooked to order patties would come off the grill covered in thin strips of melted American cheese, placed in a toasted hot dog bun and passed on to Patricia for the final touches. The burger dog comes standard with mustard, ketchup, a special sweet red relish and pickles. You can also have onions, grilled or regular, lettuce and tomato. I went standard, wanted to taste this dog the way the Bill had originally intended it to be. Once Patricia loaded up the dog with condiments, she placed it in a wax paper bag and placed it in my hands.
With the exception of the long rectangular meat versus the cylindrical patty at Frisco Fried, the burger dog looked pretty much the same. The one big difference that I noticed was the juices that seeped from this one. The meat was glistening and juices were starting to soak into the toasted bun. My first bite was heavenly. The fresh ground meat, that is delivered daily, was extremely juicy and was so tender that it practically melted in your mouth. It was cooked perfectly between medium and medium rare and seasoned only with salt and pepper. The condiments worked well, especially the contrast between the sweet relish and the sour pickles. I can now see why people line up in droves for one of these.
The fresh meat that was expertly cooked to your desired doneness made the Hot Dog Bills burger dog really stand out. Each bite produced tons of juice and full beef flavor that was so good, I almost considered getting another. Candy told me that the reason people like the burger dog for its simplicity and the freshness of the meat. I fully agree with that.
Hot Dog Bills at the Olympic Club – RATING: 5 out of 5
599 Skyline Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94101
Hours: Seven days a week 10:00AM – 5:00PM
Choosing between the two burger dogs was a tough decision. Although similar in concept, the two shared many of the same aspects but in the end were very different. They were both good and I would definitely have another from each place again. But for me, the deciding factor came down to the meat. I liked the seasoning at Frisco Fried but wasn’t a fan of its sausage-like texture. The Hot Dog Bills beef was insanely fresh, juicy and just fell apart in your mouth, like a gift from the burger dog gods. Hot Dog Bills is my choice for best burger dog in S.F.
If you aren’t a member of the Olympic Club but want to try one of these tasty dogs, you have two options. The 2012 U.S. Open will be played at the Olympic Club, buy a ticket, watch some golf and get a dog. The second option would be to go to the Silverado Country Club in Napa where Bill Parrish’s son runs the concession stands there and serves the same dogs as the Oly Club. If you hate golf and don’t want to make the trek to Napa, try Frisco Fried’s dog, you won’t be disappointed.