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)


sfmitch May 12, 2010 at 8:26 am

I’ll be checking out Don Pistos after the stellar review.

Did you order the burger cooked to a specific temperature? If so, how do you order it? It looks pretty well done in the pictures.

I’ll be trying out the burger at 900 Grayson (Berkeley) today. It’s supposed to be great.

sampix May 12, 2010 at 8:32 am

It’s a good thing I’m the only one at work so far because it might be embarrassing if I stood up.

justin May 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

sam- please remain seated

sfmitch – I ordered it medium and it was just a tad over but still super juicy. 900 grayson is supposed to be really good. let me know what you think.

sfmitch May 12, 2010 at 4:14 pm


The burger at 900 Grayson is really good while the fries are average.

“Grayson Burger – Creekstone Natural Beef, Nueske’s Double Smoked Bacon, N.Y. White Cheddar, Crispy Shoestring Onions, House-Made BBQ Sauce & Herb French Fries – $11.00”

The Cheeseburger with bacon and onion strings was a winner (I asked for BBQ on side and didn’t use it). Cooked to a beautiful medium-rare, the burger was juicy, had lots of flavor and the bacon and fried onion strings added some decadence. The bun worked well with the burger. The fries were average shoestrings.

I would definitely recommend a visit.

1piñon January 4, 2011 at 9:03 am

i heard about this burger on KQED FM Forum in the fall of last year. They raved about it. Will require a special trip. Thanks for the droll-inducing description.

Obbop January 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

“Thanks for the droll-inducing description.”

The universe and the other multitude of planes of existence cry… NAY!!!! SHOUT OUT for an “edit function” to allow those placing comments to repair errors within their posts.

I may be wrong but I believe the odds are incredibly likely that the post I grabbed the quoted sentence from should have the “droll-inducing” word replaced with the more apt for the context “drool-inducing.”

No “grammar Nazi” tendencies dwell within my persona, psyche or within the marrow of my aged delicate bones. I just felt a compulsion to make clear a post due to a sad bit I believe correct tendency of far too many USA readers to be unable to self-correct what they read due to a pitiable lack of reading comprehension brought about by a lack of reading amount compared to past generations.

Not that the poster possesses a lack of writing ability!!!!! It is those reading the post that would likely not detect the boo-boo and be unable to comprehend the writer’s intent.

And, as with so many other entries within this burger-related blog; another mighty-fine post as yummy, I am certain, as the burger written about from Don Pistos.

fizbin January 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Many thanks, Justin, for leading me to Don Pistos! This is a truly remarkable hamburger, arguably the best I’ve ever had.

justin January 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm

glad you enjoyed, it. It is one of my favorites.

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