San Diego: Not Your Average Burger at Urban Solace
3823 30th St, San Diego CA 92104 (map); 619-295-6464; urbansolace.net
Cooking Method: Charbroiled
Short Order: A tasty gourmet burger seasoned with fresh herbs and spices and topped with two housemade sauces
Want Fries With That? Yes, you do. Seasoned fries come with the burger by default, so you're set
Price: Burger, $9.75
Notes: No meal is complete without a homemade cheese biscuit with orange honey butter ($1.25 each)
Gourmet or "upscale" burgers are nothing new. Many restaurants have added their own interpretation of what is commonly thought of as fast food, and in doing so, have created a new genre of burgers. Typically, these gourmet burgers have a lot in common with their fast food cousins, but are made of higher-quality ingredients and are served on artisan buns. Urban Solace goes a few steps further.
The patty is what sets this burger apart from most. Urban Solace's burger starts with eight ounces of Niman Ranch ground chuck that's mixed with fresh marjoram, basil, organic Worcestershire sauce, lots of garlic, and a few secret spices, according to Executive Chef Matt Gordon. The patty is served on a squishy toasted egg bun with a slice of aged white cheddar and bibb lettuce. The finishing touch is a smear of smoked tomato jam on the top bun and creamy mayo-based house sauce on the bottom.
From every angle, this burger is packed with flavor. Savory beef accented with herbs and smoky tomato jam are the dominant elements. Despite there being so many ingredients mixed in with the beef, the end result is well balanced. The herbs are strong enough to be noted, but don't overwhelm the taste of the beef. Although the flavor may be reminiscent of meatloaf, it has the texture and density of a burger. You wouldn't come here for a classic hamburger, but if you're looking to expand your hamburger horizons, this is a great option.
The charbroiled patty had a thick crust with big flakes of char. Fortunately, despite being cooked past my requested medium-rare, the thick, solid, coarse-ground patty was moist, and any lack of juiciness was balanced by the tomato jam and the house sauce. Had the patty been cooked to order, this would have been an exceptional burger.
Hand-cut, skin-on Kennebec french fries come standard. The light and fluffy bronzed spuds are sprinkled a dash of smoky seasoning and are amply portioned, which is especially good if you're the only one at the table with fries on the side because there's enough to share.
The creative preparation of the patty plus upscale toppings make Urban Solace's burger simultaneously "comfort food" and "gourmet"—a great example of this particular burger genre done well.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a freelance food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. She always saves room for dessert.