Don Pistos – San Francisco, CA

by justin on May 12, 2010

As I have said before, I love Mexican food just as much as I love burgers. I am more than willing to eat myself into a burrito induced food coma any day of the week. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I heard of a new Mexican style street food restaurant that had opened up in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco with a hamburguesa on their menu. Bring on the Mexi-burger.

Pete Mrabe opened up Don Pistos a few months ago in building that used to house an Argentinean steak house. The exposed brick room is simply decorated with a few paintings and furnished with rustic wooden tables and chairs. It’s a nice simple room that reminded me of a small winery tasting room that you might stumble upon in Napa. They don’t have a huge menu, just tacos, tortas, ceviche and of course, the hamburguesa. After being seated and given a basket of house made chips with homemade salsa, I ordered a burger ($9.00) and a cold Cerveza Sol.

As I sipped my beer and feasted on chips, Pete, the owner, told me a little about the hamburguesa. Everyday he takes Niman Ranch beef chuck and marinates it overnight in a mixture of bacon, onions fried in bacon fat, some spices and Worcester sauce. If you’re not drooling by now, there is something wrong with you. This is burger porn folks. The next day he grinds the meat twice and then makes the patties by hand. The made-to-order burger is cooked over mesquite charcoal on a grill that was left behind by the Argentinean steak place and is sure to give it a hint of smoky flavor. I can see an intermittent orange glow as I glance over to the small open kitchen where my bacon-marinated burger is being kissed by the flames. The anticipation is killing me.

Half way through my beer and after nearly eating an entire basket of the crack-like chips, the hamburguesa landed on my table.  Served on a freshly baked and beautifully toasted bun from the iconic Italian French Baking Company, the burger comes topped with guacamole and is plated with a roasted jalapeno, a lime wedge and a few bright red radishes, that’s it. What a gorgeous looking burger. I can wait no longer and tear into the thing like a rabid wombat. Drool runs from the corner of my mouth as I am transported into burger nirvana. The hamburguesa is a gift from a higher being.

The first bite had so many layers. The crunchy toasted bun that had a soft an airy inside sopped up any grease along with little bit of guac and the explosion of the infused patty. The flavor of the meat was incredible, a near sexual experience. The evenly charred meat was slightly smoky from the charcoal grill and the bacon followed by a salty and somewhat tangy flavor that had a subtle kick of spice. Don’t forget the bits of marinated onions that were ground into the meat. I loved the texture of the patty, just barely crisped on the outside and velvety smooth on the inside. The double grind made the patty a little crumbly but it held itself together very well and never came close to falling apart. From the first bite to the last, the hamburguesa was juicy, it never dried out. It was awesome.

The simplicity of the Don Pistos hamburgueasa is what makes it such a great burger. It’s all about the beef that has so much unique flavor that it would be a crime to add anything to it. I will scream if I ever hear of someone putting ketchup on it. Waiters should be instructed to sucker punch anyone who dares to ask for some A-1 or mayo. You can’t beat the price either. This burger would easily be $16 or more at one of the highfalutin foodie spots in the Bay Area. DP’s has my favorites things, burgers, tacos and beer. If they would add a bunch of anejo tequilas and some sangrita to the menu, I would never leave the place.


Don Pistos
510 Union Street
San Francisco, California 94133
(415) 395-0939
Hours:  Tuesday -Sunday 5:30PM – 12:30AM
Saturday -Sunday 10:30AM – 3:30PM  (Brunch)