To properly observe National Hamburger Day, everyone gets 24 hours to plow through the best of what San Diego has to offer. So, where would you go?
The sheer number of choices is crippling, but before you relent and wind up in the arms of a tickly frisee salad, just know that great burgers are about as common ‘round these parts as killer tacos.
It wasn’t always this way.
Granted, burgers have always, and will always, be popular among the masses. It’s nostalgia nestled in a toasty bun. And in recent years, chefs have capitalized on the fuzzy feelings they evoke, charging upward of $20 for prime blends of meat that don’t even include unicorn.
Back around 2008, I remember really wanting to try the burger at the newish Jayne’s Gastropub. But I could not bring myself to pay the $15, out of respect for my mother, who used to pan fry us burgers for dinner when she was feeling lazy.
But I had to know what all the fuss was about. Finally, I was able to bury the guilt of grandparents rolling over in graves, and forked over the equivalent of half a week’s salary in the ‘50s for a Jayne Burger consisting of Neiman Ranch beef, Vermont cheddar and pickled onions. Oomph.
A fellow food-writing buddy of mine is a staunch supporter of In-N-Out Burger. Like, I don’t think any of my burger bragging has ever gone without me having to compare the two for him. So, what’s better?
The short answer is, there’s a burger in San Diego for every taste and budget. To prove it, in 2013, Jayne’s burger garnered national acclaim in Sunset Magazine where it was named the best burger in San Diego.
If you’re a cheapo with guilt issues and strong moral obligations to preserving the burger’s working-class appeal, like me, then visit the Balboa Bar & Grill during happy hour when their namesake burger costs only $5.
Not to discredit Jayne’s, or any other award-winning burgers in town - and there are plenty - but there is no best burger in San Diego. When it comes to food writers naming the best, I’ll argue that we’re actually naming our favorites, because we’re talking about comfort food, and it’s personal.
Growing up, my mom fed us burgers with cheese and pickles only on them. Why? Because that’s how she liked to eat them. And, to this day, I love nothing more than a burger made the same way.
However, I’m a little more generous with my recommendations than my mom was with the ketchup. But it’s also me catching up and accepting that it’s OK for burgers to be held in the same regard as other delicacies.
Enjoy this list, which sees a collection of San Diego’s most influential and creative players in our local burger scene, along with a few of my favorites.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.