What's a burger anyway? A piece of meat between two pieces of bread with a varying array of toppings. In essence it's a glorified sandwich that usually comes with fries. Burgers are a dime a dozen in this town and pretty much on every menu from high to low end. Like pizza it has followers who find themselves on endless quests to find the perfect/best/most awesome burger either here in town or wherever their search takes them. There are innumerable blogs devoted to this sole activity of finding "the one" as if it's a mythical journey of epic proportions. I like them as much as the next person, but seriously folks, in the end it's just a burger, not El Dorado. While I guess for some folks eating them can be transcendent, for me I just want them to taste good. I guess that's what brought me to BurgerMeister in the Castro one day as I had a hankering for a hunk of grilled meat on a bun.
I used to live in the Duboce Triangle for a number of years and remember when this place first opened what now feels like eons ago. It was the second location from the original in Cole Valley. I was always on the lookout for new places to try and remember liking it first time around, mostly because the burgers automatically came with fries. Since I'd moved away a few years ago I hadn't been to this location recently and when I found myself in the hood I thought why not?
The space is pretty much the same after all the years--long and narrow with low ceilings. I'm sure when it's full it may feel a bit crowded but on a slow weekday afternoon it was empty. In a small way I kind of like that as I feel (incorrectly or not) that the cooks take time to do things right since they aren't rushed to push everything out in a timely manner. They have a lot more things on their menu these days--salads, hot dogs, chicken things--but burgers are what they are known for so I went all in and got the Western burger.
I got the small size, which is a 6 ounce patty of 100% grass fed Niman Ranch beef with bbq sauce, onion rings, bacon, Tillamook cheddar cheese on a buttered and toasted sesame seed bun. Fixings on the side (which I like) and a generous portion of fries. The meat was perfectly medium rare--a nice mix of red and pink--done enough to not be gummy like rare meat. The onion rings as well as the fries were both hot and crispy straight out of the fryer, something I will contribute to an empty restaurant as they were basically cooked to order (no complaints here for that). The sauce was a tad on the sweet side for me but the cheese had a nice sharp flavor that made it stand out and not be lost in a full bite. The bacon was somewhere between crisp and soft with a great smokey flavor. I added on the lettuce and purple onion for some crunch, but the tomatoes were a little mealy, the one real drawback on the plate. I don't usually leave the onion rings on, I take them off and eat separately--it's a way to get them without paying extra for them as a side instead of fries. Though I could have had a whole side as they were very tasty. And of course I am always a sucker for a bun that is buttered and toasted, yum.
This was a good burger and on par, if a little better than, some of the other gourmet yet quick burger joints in town like SmashBurger or Super Duper Burger. With multiple locations around the Bay Area now you always hope places that were good to start can continue to pump out delicious food without falling into the over expansion trap. BurgerMeister seems to have continued grilling up tasty burgers quickly and affordably--with a drink and tax my bill came to around $11--which is a deal in this town when you consider there's a plethora of just sandwiches which cost that much. And you get free drink refills when you eat in--SCORE! While this burger may not take you to the heights of Nirvana, it's still worth trying when you need a quick bread and meat fix--a delicious alternative to a sandwich.