San Francisco: Burgers that Almost Live Up to the Name at Super Duper
2304 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114 (map); 415-558-8123;721 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103; (map); 415-538-3437;
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A high-quality fast food-style burger
Want Fries with That? They're good enough, but not stellar
Price: Mini Burger, $4.50; Super Burger, $6.50; add cheese, +$.50
San Francisco burger joint Super Duper is having one hell of a super year. In April, Mayor Ed Lee recognized its one-year anniversary by declaring a citywide Super Duper Day. And just this past week, the restaurant's new downtown location opened, reportedly to a substantial line of customers. If the burgers at the new location are anything like the ones that I recently tried at the original, I predict that those lines will remain long, because Super Duper serves a very solid fast food-style burger.
Super Duper comes from Adriano Paganini and his partners, folks who seem quite good at devising restaurant concepts that work and then expanding them. Paganini started his empire with Pasta Pomodoro. More recently, he introduced pizza and cocktails to San Francisco with Beretta (Slice review), and then opened variations on that theme at both Starbelly and Delarosa. Super Duper appears to be headed in the same direction, with a third location already in the works. Certainly, the bright orange sign, the wooden "cow puzzle" hanging on the wall, and—most importantly—the reasonably-priced burgers, all hint at the potential for a bona fide fast food chain.
The tag line at Super Duper reads "Fast food burgers...slow food values." This is, indeed, what they deliver, with patties made of fresh-ground Niman Ranch beef. You can order this beef as a four-ounce Mini, or an eight-ounce Super (really, just two Minis stacked). The griddle at Super Duper clearly burns hot, because the relatively thin patties arrive with a healthy flavor-crust, but still pink enough inside that the juice runs freely. And if the beefy flavor doesn't quite sock you in the mouth, it's definitely there, especially when you order the eight-ounce version. I'm not going to invoke the restaurant's name, but this patty tastes pretty darn good.
A standard "everything on it" burger at Super Duper comes with lettuce, tomato, red onions, and Super Sauce. This latter condiment left me a bit befuddled, not because I didn't like it, but because they described it as their own version of Thousand Island dressing, yet the white sauce clearly contained no ketchup.
Anyhow, jalapeño peppers and grilled onions also come free on your burger if you ask, and house-made pickles sit in self-serve jars at the condiment stand. A dollar more buys bacon, blue cheese, or some griddled peppers, and fifty cents buys a slice of gooey, perfectly melted cheddar. It's a veritable cornucopia of fixings for you to construct as you'd like.
Whichever of these dressings you opt for, the whole package arrives on a flavorful, light and airy, toasted sesame seed bun from La Boulange. Be warned that if you order the Super burger and choose to top it with griddled onions, the greasy-juicy combination can soak through the bread if left to sit too long (say, if you were busily taking pictures of your burger for a food blog). Solution: eat fast!
Super Duper's "slow food" approach to cooking certainly shows up in the extras on the menu. Pies and cookies are made in-house; Straus cream gets used for all milkshakes and ice cream. If you'd like, you can spike your milkshake with a shot of soju, though I chose to spike mine with a cookie instead. My very thick and very sweet chocolate shake came with chocolate chip cookie crumbled into the mix, and though the chunks sometimes clogged my straw, I'm a sucker for shakes where any given slurp can produce a little bit of cookie surprise.
My good-enough fries came skin-on and crisp, though somehow unevenly salted and not as spudsy as I might have liked.
Ultimately, whether Super Duper stops at three Bay Area restaurants, or grows into a global empire, I'll buy what they're selling. I imagine fast food-style burger enthusiasts will be right there alongside me. I just hope the line doesn't get too long.
About the author: David Kover is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and food enthusiast. Though he's an equal opportunity eater, there's a special place in his heart for crispy slices of pizza and juicy hamburgers. He thinks his current gig reviewing both for Serious Eats is pretty super duper.