Meating Places

By Brandon Hernandez

Photos by Brevin Blach

(Published in the January 2011 issue)

Whether it’s a molten slice of cheese, crispy bacon strips or fresh avocado, nearly everything seems right at home atop a glistening patty of ground beef sandwiched between toasted buns. The versatility of the almighty burger allows it to adapt to anyone’s taste, making it a great menu staple for every type of restaurant from greasy spoon to gourmet.

Modern life may have us scrambling for cost-efficient comfort, but hamburgers can provide our palates with a taste of affordable luxury. Savor the richness by sinking your teeth into any of these man-sized, prime-beef numbers.

Bare Back Grill (pictured above)
This Down Under-themed spot is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to the sheer volume of toppings (and protein) on their Big, Bare and Dirty, a monster loaded with two organic beef patties, two fried eggs, bacon, cheese and an Aussie favorite, beet root. Bare Back...Australian for burger.
624 E St., Downtown, 619.237.9990
4640 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach , 858.274.7117

Burger Lounge
SoCal restaurants are at the forefront of the country’s responsible-eating movement, and this chain applies that approach to burgers on a grand scale. Their all-natural organic burgers are not only conscious-fortifying, but also delicious and one of the best on-the-go options in town.
922 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619.435.6835
406 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619.487.1183
1101 Wall St., La Jolla, 858.456.0196
1608 India St., Little Italy , 619.237.7

Canada Steak Burger

Rife with the scintillating scent of sizzling meat, this smallish urban outpost has been serving up burgers and gyros for decades. Both of these sandwich options are great, but carnivore nirvana is achieved when they slap a heaping spatula of slow-roasted lamb atop a freshly grilled beef patty.
3604 University Ave., Normal Heights, 619.283.4345

Encinitas Alehouse

This beer haven has been open just over a year and has already created enough buzz to justify the claim they’ve staked for their “locally world-famous burgers.” A favorite among their North County coastal clientele is the 10-ounce Wagyu (Australian version of Kobe beef) burger with gruyere and gorgonzola cheeses and crispy onion straws.
1044 South Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas, 760.943.7180
Public House opening soon at 830 Kline St., La Jolla

The Grill
Take a trip back in time to an American standard, courtesy of this golf-course adjacent Lodge at Torrey Pines eatery. Simple and straightforward, their Drug Store Burger is so juicy that the bottom half of the bun acts as a soft, delicious sponge, soaking up all that beefy goodness.
11480 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, 858.453.4420


The ideal of responsible eating is cool, but only when it resonates as well on the palate as it does with dietary dogma. Such is the case at O’Brothers at Horton Plaza, where everything is 100 percent organic, including not only the burgers, but also every topping and even all the beverages.
188 Horton Plaza, Downtown, 619.615.0909

Hodad ‘s

Being featured on the Food Network gave the place cred, but not as much as decades of mile-long, wrap-around-the-building lines of ravenous patrons have. Since 1969, the Hodad’s family of “burgermeisters” has been serving up hearty two-handers in Ocean Beach. In 2011, they’ll spread that beefy love to a second location, a downtown spot at 10th and Broadway.
5010 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach, 619.224.4623

Inspired by the unpretentious, yet thoughtful grub of international gastropubs, this East Village spot is the local cornerstone of a movement toward casual, ultra-modern consumption. Neighborhood’s burgers have a fine, homogenous texture rivaling that of any restaurant in San Diego. Now, if only they’d bring back the mushroom Masala burger!
777 G St., East Village, 619.446.0002

Five Guys

These guys have bucked the big-business trend by keeping it real-despite having more than 600 US locations, the mega-chain has adhered to an always-fresh ideology that has driven the company since its first location opened in Virginia a quarter-century ago. Everything’s fresh, including the laundry list of toppings customers can use to customize their burger experience.
1020 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach, 858.272.2105
2445 Truxtun Rd. (in Liberty Station), Point Loma, 619.223.1679

Rocky ‘s Crown Pub
Most pubs have a regular following of neighborhood denizens looking to knock back a few while brushing off the dust from a hard day’s work, but this spot enjoys a downright cult following for its lusciously greasy burgers that go down just as easily as the first sip of an ice-cold pint.
3786 Ingraham St., Pacific Beach, 858.273.9140

Chef Antonio Friscia’s menu at Stingaree is loaded with gourmet options, not the least of which is his Brandt Beef Burger, made with organic, locally-sourced beef topped with white cheddar, savory Nueske bacon and a secret sauce. The chef’s Kobe beef burger is also top-notch. And forget the guilt-even the extra calories that come with the side of shoestring fries are easily burned off on the dance floor.
454 Sixth Ave., Downtown, 619.544.9500

Crazee Burger

Exotic proteins are the name of the game at this North Park spot, serving up burgers made of everything from ground antelope and alligator to ostrich and kangaroo. With dozens of options on the menu, Crazee Burger is a great choice for burger fans craving the ultimate in variety.
4201 30th St., North Park, 619.282.6044
Second location opening soon in Old Town

When typical chain restaurants roll into a new city, they tend to try winning customers over with an already established style of food or take on a specific dish. This nationwide, Denver-based macro-burgery is different, having arrived bearing a different kind of gift: the regionally-inspired San Diego Smashburger, served with avocado, cilantro and chipotle mayo on a torta roll. Welcome, neighbor!
7610 Hazard Center, Ste. 507, Mission Valley,
1000 Prospect St., La Jolla, 858.750.2531
1555 Camino Del Mar , Del Mar, 858.461.4105

This cult favorite is stocked with a smorgasbord of top-shelf toppings. Choose from an astounding 15 cheeses, 32 sauces, 40 veggies and other toppings, but only after deciding whether all that goodness is to be piled atop a patty made from beef, turkey, buffalo, lamb, chicken or...bratwurst?! It’s all about building from the ground (meat) up.

4577 Clairemont Drive, Clairemont Mesa,

The Waterfront
When it comes to food, quality is often inversely proportional to serving size. At this beloved Little Italy sanctuary, however, quality comes in half-pound servings via an array of burgers that have helped kept the joint packed since it was actually on the water, back before the San Diego airport was built.

2044 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy, 619.232.9656

Dirty Birds
Tell the guys behind the counter to take your burger and stuff it! It’s not an insult, it’s how they do things at Dirty Birds, where the Ja-Colby, like the majority of the burgers on the menu, is stuffed with wholesome goodness (in this case, Colby Jack cheese) then topped with a mound of fried onion strings and slathered with their specialty “dirty” ranch sauce.

4656 Mission Boulevard, Pacific Beach, 858.274.2473

Nicky Rotten ‘s

Big, unwieldy burgers are the name of the game at this gangster-motif bar and grill, where no one goes hungry thanks to offerings like the Dirty Sanchez (chili, jalapenos, pepper Jack, guacamole), Pizza Burger (pepperoni, provolone, marinara) or Da Ultimate Burga: 2 1/2 pounds of beef with all the fixin’s (yours for free if you can finish it).

560 Fifth Ave., Downtown, 619.702.8068

The Local
At this popular drinking hole, a half-pound of beef (or a vegetarian Boca patty, for those so inclined) is regarded as a blank canvas on which to create a customer’s dream burger. They provide the basics-lettuce, tomato, onion-but beyond that, it’s a build-it-yourself deal, and no combination is out of bounds. Hankering for something as outlandish as Gouda, guacamole and teriyaki sauce? Can (and will) do.
1065 Fourth Avenue, Downtown, 619.231.4447

If you think these photos look good enough to eat, win yourself a delicious burger from any of these restaurants at


Bare Back Grill, Burger Lounge, Crazee Burger, Dirty Birds, Encinitas Alehouse, O’Brothers, Smashburger, The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole, The WaterfrontSee more photos