San Diego: Neighborhood's 777 Burger is a 10

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Neighborhood

777 G Street, San Diego, San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-446-0002; neighborhoodsd.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A juice- and flavor-laden burger that's both gourmet and simple at the same time
Want Fries With That? Yes! The chips are good, but sweet potato fries are worth the upgrade
Price: 777 Burger, $11

Having already covered most of the burger institutions that are routinely heralded in "best of" lists by all of the local publications, I purposely took a break from the big boys before working my way back to Neighborhood. 49 reviews later, it was time to finally see if the burger at this East Village bar/restaurant was worth the wait.

Neighborhood is one of a handful of downtown bars that has an impressive, constantly evolving tap list, which includes over two dozen well-chosen local, domestic, and imported craft brews. Despite having a diverse menu of worthy-sounding dishes like pork belly melts, grilled cheese sliders, and tacos, it's the burgers that people universally rave about.

The menu features a variety of burger options, including a Spicy Cajun burger (with pickled radish and pepper and cucumber slaw), the NH burger (with grilled onions, Gruyere, and blue cheese), and a portobello-topped black bean burger. I went for the 777 burger topped with baby spinach, plum tomato confit, and Bearnaise. (In celebration of fall, I toasted burger #50 with a goblet of Autumn Maple, brewed with yams and spices, from The Bruery.)

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The burger emerged from the kitchen cut in half, which is done to confirm the cooking temperature. Just like true love (or lust), one look was all it took to know this burger was worth the wait. Cooked perfectly to medium rare, the patty had a moist, red center that was dripping rich, beefy juices all over the bun. Though the flavor of the beef was reasonably intense, the Bearnaise sauce was front and center. The buttery, herbaceous sauce didn't just coat the bun, it seeped right into the patty, impregnating it with moisture and savory flavor. Remarkably, the spinach stayed crisp, allowing the slightly bitter flavor to register, along with the sweetness of the tomato. Also remarkable: The soft, fluffy bun stayed intact, despite housing such a juicy patty.

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Eating the 777 burger was an exercise in restraint that I ultimately failed. The confluence of so much flavor and so much moisture made it a burger that I inhaled in record time, despite my best efforts. Maybe you'll do better.

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Housemade potato chips come standard, but it's worth paying extra to upgrade to the sweet potato fries with sharp and salty crumbled cheese. Two dipping sauces are available: a potent garlic aioli and a peppered malt mignonette. Both were reasonably tasty, but neither of them really complimented the sweet potato fries. If you must dip, stick with the regular Kennebec fries with aioli, or ask for a side of chipotle aioli instead.