504 Broadway, San Francisco CA 94133 (map); 415-577-4951; nakedlunchsf.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Hand pattied, delicious beef gets good toppings and bun, but lacks a proper crust and falls apart
Want Fries with That? The hand-cut Kennebec fries tossed in piment d'Espelette are delicious
Price: The Cheeseburger, $10; fries, $4
Notes: Open Tues. to Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-late Sat., 11:30 a.m.-late, Sun., 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Although I'm of the school that less is more when making burgers, there are times when I'm blown away by burgers with paragraph-long descriptions featuring a few too many ingredients. More often than not there's the problem of one or two ingredients standing out and the others just being along for the ride, but sometimes all the ingredients come together in a balanced package. A great example of this is the burger at Naked Lunch.
The Naked Lunch burger ($10) features a 1/3-pound patty of natural ground beef from Golden Gate Meats that tends to be close to a 70/30 blend. The burger is griddled with salt and pepper and served on an Acme Pan de Mie bun with oven dried tomatoes, housemade pickles, caramelized onions, aioli, butter lettuce, manchego cheese, and a manchego crisp.
The burger is gorgeous. The pillowy soft bun squishes nicely around the meat and is very giving with each bite while having just enough crust to keep it from getting soggy. The addition of oven dried tomatoes is a genius replacement for out-of-season tomatoes. The roma hot house tomatoes are cooked with herbs and seasonings and stored in olive oil, and their flavor is a savory cross between ketchup and fresh tomatoes. Housemade pickles, caramelized onions, and garlicky aioli are all strong flavors to go up against the beef and tomato, but overall the burger is well balanced with no one flavor overwhelming another. The sharp flavors of the manchego work well on the burger, as does the salty manchego cheese crisp, which ups the texture of what would otherwise be a mushy burger.
My only problem with the burger is how the beef is cooked. The beef is flavorful and cooked medium-rare, maintaining most of its juice, but there isn't much crust or texture on the patty's exterior and it tastes mushy. The patty squishes out the back with the help of the lettuce and aioli. By the halfway point I had to scoop up deconstructed bits of burger and wedge them back between the buns; the burger lost the delicious balance that it initially possessed.
Make sure to add on an order of fries ($4). The hand-cut Kennebec potatoes are liberally seasoned with piment d'Espelette and served with ketchup and aioli. The crisp fries go great with the aioli—I finished them all way too fast. My only complaint is that I wish the serving were larger for $4.
Despite the burger falling apart, the first half was good enough that I'll go back to Naked Lunch, with fingers crossed, hoping that maybe I just visited at a time when the grill wasn't hot enough to give my burger the crust it deserved.