Ask any two people where to find the best burgers in San Francisco and you’re likely to have a fight on your hands. San Franciscans aren’t merely passionate about the quest for the perfect patty, we’re downright fierce. From the color of the meat to the texture of the bun and the creativity of the toppings (not to mention the divisive mustard or no-mustard question), the debate rages on Yelp and beyond. There’s even an entire website that rates the city’s best burgers on a one to five-star scale, complete with lush photos and a hotspot map. We’ve scoured the best San Francisco restaurants and burger joints to compile this shortlist of our top-five favorites. Forget In-N-Out—burger superiority is just one of the reasons SF kicks LA’s ass.
San Francisco’s best burgers
Along with the brussels sprout chips and poulet vert, the Marlowe burger has become something of a legend in its own time, with many local foodies swearing it’s the best in San Francisco. Chef Jennifer Puccio combines beef and lamb into a hearty, drippy hunk, grills it to just medium-rare, and sandwiches it in a buttery Acme bun topped with caramelized onions, cheddar and bacon. It’s served with a pile of crispy, salty frites and a side of horseradish aioli. At $16, Marlowe’s is not the least expensive burger you’ll ever have, but after one bite, you won’t care.
When Napa Valley's famed slow food/fast food burger stand opened a branch at the Ferry Building Marketplace, the lines started forming before you could say, “Do you want fries with that?” Gott's offers ten different burger variations made from a hefty 1/3 pound of Niman Ranch Angus beef cooked to juicy pink perfection, as well as veggie, Diestel Ranch turkey and ahi tuna burgers. Try the classic cheeseburger or go rogue with a Western Bacon Blue Ring, topped with blue cheese, bacon, pickles, barbecue sauce and an onion ring; or the green chile cheeseburger with grilled Anaheim chiles. Definitely round out the meal with an organic Three Twins ice-cream shake or float—followed by a nap.
This homey, country French bistro from acclaimed restaurateur Jocelyn Bulow is among the best places in town for crępes, classic steak frites, and mussels in sauce, but the burgers are the pičce de résistance. The juicy, thick beef patty is flecked with sautéed shallots, parsley and herbs and set on a grilled ciabatta roll, then topped with tomato and onions and spread with house-made aioli. Add to this your choice of goat cheese, cheddar, Swiss or—ooh la la—a chunk of aromatic Roquefort or a slab of melty brie. Then take it one decadent step further with sliced avocado, bacon or a fried egg.
Zuni is one of a handful of restaurants that helped define San Francisco’s fresh, seasonal and regional style back in the 1980s, and it’s still considered one of the best places for California cuisine in the state. There’s simply no equal for their signature Caesar salad and brick-oven roasted chicken for two. The Zuni burger is a classic as well—made with house-ground Marty Ranch beef slathered with aioli and topped with house-made pickles and your choice of heavenly Beecher’s Flagship cheese, Bayley Hazen blue, grilled onions and portobello mushrooms—all atop grilled rosemary focaccia. Pair it up with shoestring potatoes or marinated olives. Burger is $16.
The name alone (nabbed from the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) should tell you that you're in for a ridiculously over-the-top experience, and Rickybobby doesn't disappoint. The signature Beef and Bacon Burger ($12) puts a gluttonous spin on a double cheeseburger. Beef and bacon are ground together and formed into two separate patties that are grilled and topped with two slices of American cheese. Sandwiched in a buttery bun, it's finished off with pickled onions, house-made mayo, plus a side of pickles. Pair the sumptuous sandwich with crunchy Sweet Potatertots, a fabulous twist on the childhood favorite.