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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Canada Steak Burger

3604 University Avenue, San Diego CA 92104 (map); 619-282-6044‎; canadasteakburger.com
Cooking Method: Charbroiled
Short Order: Fresh and juicy sirloin steak burgers that can be topped with gyro meat
Want Fries With That? Sure; the light and crispy fries are topped with a dash of tasty seasoned salt
Price: 6-ounce charbroiled steak burger w/cheese, $3.84; fries $1.59

I noticed Canada Steak Burger on my first trip to San Diego and was instantly curious. Being Canadian myself, I wondered what the explanation for the name was. My initial guess was that the family-owned restaurant offered some Canadian dishes or was decorated with beavers (our national mascot), but neither of these suspicions panned out: It turns out the original owner was Canadian and the name stuck. My dreams of poutine were crushed, but my curiosity was renewed when I spied the menu, which goes way beyond the advertised steak burgers to an array of Greek dishes like kabobs, spanakopita and gyros. Best of all, only one item on the menu (a porterhouse steak) is over $10.

Canada Steak Burger makes their burgers from fresh ground sirloin patties that are shipped in daily. Burgers are cooked to order on a charcoal grill directly behind the counter and come fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard, ketchup, and onion. If you're looking to sample a little bit of both sides of the menu, consider adding gyro meat to your burger for an additional 99 cents.

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I ordered a 6-ounce steakburger with American cheese and a side of fries. The flame-kissed patty was flecked with char on the outside and exceptionally moist in the center. It patty was gently cooked through, but this didn't have a negative impact on taste and it was more than sufficiently juicy. The sirloin patty was equally delicious as a ground chuck patty, despite being a supposedly leaner cut of beef, and had a subtle steak-like flavor. Toppings were fresh and well portioned, and the soft, white bun created an ideal bread-to-meat ratio. I would endorse a dash of steak spice on the beef during the cooking process (or a shake of the seasoning that's used on the fries) and a few seconds less on the grill, but overall, the burger was still excellent.

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The square-cut fries were cooked just to the point that they were crispy on the outside and still being fluffy on the inside. The addition of seasoned salt gave them an extra shot of flavor, and livened up what would have otherwise been a fairly standard-issue side into something more appealing. For mass-produced fries that came out of a bag, they were completely satisfying.

Being located in City Heights makes Canada Steak Burger off the radar of most tourists, and cements its status as a hidden gem. The restaurant's 30 year history of attracting a loyal customer base (and the title of best burger in San Diego from KGTV two years running) is the surest proof that it is adored by locals, and for good reasons. From a quality and taste perspective, Canada Steak Burger beats the pants off every fast food burger for less than you'd pay for the same meal. For me, the existence of burger joints like this one are the ultimate argument against mass-produced fast food.

Canada Steak Burger may be a bit isolated, but the location does have a major plus: in the evening (typically after 5 p.m.) there's often a cart parked across the street where you can buy freshly fried and cinnamon sugar-coated churros for $3 (for a bag of 5). I've had the best luck scoring these irresistible treats on Saturday evenings, but the vendor is often there on weekdays as well.

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