Burger joints pop up in the strangest places. For example, inside an unassuming Asian supermarket that is smack dab in the the middle of a Latino populated neighborhood of San Francisco, you will find one of the best burgers in the city. MSF: Mission Burger has a little spot next to the wine section at the end of a long meat counter inside the multi-cultured Duc Loi Supermarket. The burger they offer is something special.
The quirky burger spot is the brainchild of chefs Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint, two locals who have made big names for themselves in the culinary world. Bowien made his mark by winning the Pesto World Championship in Genoa, Italy back in 2008 when he was working at Farina. Myint, a market researcher who decided to jump into cooking, previously worked at Bar Tartine as a line cook before he founded Mission Street Food. MSF is an innovative venture that serves up haute cuisine in a borrowed Chinese restaurant two nights a week. The overhead is low, the food is inventive and the prices are reasonable. Profits from the dinners are donated to local charities, and that my friends is a sweet deal.
The menu at Mission Burger has only a few items, a burger and a fish sandwich along with fries and a daily special. The description of the Beef Burger ($8.00) left my mouth watering. Their 1/3 lb. patty is made up of fresh short rib, brisket and chuck from Harris Ranch that is granulated* and formed into a sort of beef log that they wrap in plastic wrap. Once formed, the patties are sliced from the log o’ beef and quickly browned on a griddle before being seared in a pool of freshly rendered beef fat that half-fills a cast iron skillet. Holy clogged arteries, Batman. The process is fascinating to watch and the result is spectacular. But wait, there’s more. The fat seared work of art sits on a griddled Acme bun, which has the top cut off to have full grill contact, with two slices of Jack cheese, caramelized onions and caper aioli.
I claimed a spot in the corner of the little eating area that is situated next to a shelf of wine and consisted of a couple chairs and a low coffee table. There might have even been a milk crate or two in the mix, the more the merrier. The burger took a little while to cook, but it was well worth the wait. It looked really nice with its toasted Acme bun and a big fat greasy patty. There is no way that the patty on my burger was 1/3 lb. It was huge, really thick, but manageable. I’m guessing that it was probably closer to a half pound, but what do I know. Just as I was about to bite down on the Beef Burger a woman sitting near me in the small seating area said under her breath “wow, that smells good.” She was so right. The taste was even better. The patty was cooked perfectly, just how I had asked. The time it spent bathing in beef fat left a crispy and salty outer crust surrounding a tender pink inside that dripped pure bliss with every bite. I get excited just thinking about it. The flavors of the aioli, cheese and onions came together really well. If I had to point to one thing that bothered me about the burger it would be the saltiness. Don’t get me wrong, I love salt, but this was just a wee bit too salty. Eat too many of these bombs and you might get an unexpected ride in an ambulance, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. Other than the obvious health risks, it was amazing.
A burger like this would easily drain your wallet at one of the fancy schmancy places around town. Bowien told me that he would love to use organic or grass-fed beef, but instead uses the Harris Ranch meat to keep the cost down. I’m all for keeping the price low. You’ll also be happy to know that one dollar from every burger purchase is donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. This is a fantastic burger with a ton of flavor, it’s a must try for burger lovers. Check it out.
*From the Mission Burger menu: “granulation is our term for the process popularized by Heston Blumenthal, a Michelin three-star chef based in London. Blumenthal combines strands of ground meat to create a loosely grained “meat column” (not Blumenthal’s phrase), then slices the column into patties. The result is, well, a delicacy.”
MSF: Mission Burger
Inside Duc Loi Supermarket
2200 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Hours: Open 6 Days Noon – 3PM