San Diego: Quality Social Aims High...and Misses
789 6th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-237-7878; qualitysocial.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: An expensive, cheffy, egg-topped burger that's ultimately a disappointment
Want Fries With That? Yes. In fact, skip the burger and stick with the Belgian-style fries and aioli
Price: Hamburger "Our Way", $13; fries, $6
Notes: Similar menu and same owners as Old Town Social in Chicago
Quality Social, San Diego's "upscale dive bar" has been on my radar for awhile, but it wasn't until I sampled their fries during happy hour that I felt compelled to return to check out their burgers as soon as humanly possible. My reasoning was that if they could produce spectacular fries (which they did), the burgers had to be approximately the same caliber.
I can't say what happened between Friday night and Sunday, but the second time around, the fries weren't quite as delicious, and the burger, which was served à la carte, was a mess.
Burger options at Quality Social include a basic grilled burger, a griddled "drugstore" burger, and the "our way" burger, which features a half-pound of beef (ground daily, in house), topped with shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, house-cured bacon, aioli, and a sunny-side-up egg. On paper, it sounds spectacular, but in reality, it's a burger with a lot of room for improvement.
Despite having all of the raw ingredients in place, the "our way" burger never really came together. The meat was sadly under-seasoned and under-cooked, with portions of the interior rare beyond my requested medium-rare. On its own, the beef was bland and essentially flavorless. With the addition of excessively applied aioli and the runny yolk, the burger became a sticky, gooey mess that tasted primarily of egg and mayonnaise. Tragically, the deluge of egg even managed to overwhelm the crisp strips of house cured bacon—the one legitimately tasty element of the burger.
It's no surprise that a burger topped with about 1/4-cup of mayo and a runny egg would run into bun problems, and that's exactly what happened. After only a few bites, the bottom bun was dust, and the top bun was barely hanging in.
Fortunately, the excessively portioned aioli was an asset to the fresh-cut Belgian-style fries, which were dusted with herbs and sea salt. The fries were what brought me to Quality Social, and even though they weren't quite as perfect the second time around, they were still the best part of the meal.
The "our way" hot dog (also made in house) was a better buy at $7. But, like the burger, it was also served à la carte—a nicer way of saying, "No fries for you, sucker!" Can you tell this rubbed me the wrong way?
In any case, it's fair to say Quality Social's burger has potential, but I wouldn't return to give it a second shot, especially knowing there's a reliably delicious burger three blocks away at Nicky Rottens that's half the price and at least four times as good.
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, including all things sweet and sugary, for her dessert blog San Diego Sugar.