Sea Rocket Bistro
3382 30th St. San Diego, CA (map); 619-255-7049; searocketbistro.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A substantial grass-fed beef burger topped with spectacular bacon jam
Want Fries With That? Hope not, because it comes with a salad (sucka!)
Price: Burger, $14 ($10 on Mondays)
Notes: Open for dinner at 5 p.m. daily (no lunch hours)
Sea Rocket Bistro is all about the fish. You can scoop up live sea urchin caught earlier that morning in Point Loma, or nibble on finned friends like black gill rock cod and white sea bass—not to mention the uni gelato on the dessert menu. So, what's a girl whose affinity for sea creatures begins and ends with fish tacos to do? Simple: get a burger. Sea Rocket's version, with grass-fed beef, smoked mozzarella, bacon jam, aioli, caramelized onions, watercress, and house-made pickles sounds particularly promising, not just a commodity burger tossed on the menu with a sigh and an eyeroll to appease the fish phobic.
On Monday evenings, burgers are $10, and clearly the major attraction. During my visit, nearly everyone in the dining room was forgoing fish in favor of beef, except for one couple who looked a bit jealous when the parade of burgers out of the kitchen passed by.
Patties are made with grass-fed beef from Open Space Meats in Newman, California. The beef is 100 percent grass fed, and not supplemented with any corn or grain. It delivers a superior taste: pure and straight-fowardly beefy...when it's cooked right. The first burger I got was cooked past medium rare, and I took the unusual step of sending it back, figuring I love grass-fed beef too much to suffer through a poorly executed burger. The server apologized, saying she'd have the kitchen fire me another burger "right away," so no harm. Twenty minutes later, it arrived.
It was worth the hassle. The second burger was a big improvement. The beef was moist, with pink throughout the center and little flecks of char on the exterior. Patties are hand-formed, and some were rounder than others. Mine came out thick and tall. It was an impressive sight, but the beef could have used a higher fat content. As moist as the patty was, there wasn't much in the way of juice.
What's interesting about this burger is even though you'd think the beef would be the bragging point, that honor goes to the bacon jam, without question. Under the previous chef, Chad White, Sea Rocket was one of the first places to popularize the sometimes divisive condiment, and their version is the tastiest I've ever tried. The jam is redolent with porky flavors and while it has a sweet note, it never crosses the line into tasting sugary. There's just enough of it to get the flavor in every bite, without masking the burger. If you've been wary of bacon jam until now (or still have yet to try it), eat it here.
Want some fries with that burger? Too bad. They're not available, but you can get some gnocchi—or, at least that's what the server said when the patrons behind me asked for fries.
The bad news is you're getting a salad. The good news, it's great. The fresh mixed greens were tossed with a zippy ginger viniagrette that had real bite. At the Monday price ($10), I was fine with the omission, but at the full price ($14) I'd definitely be wanting some spuds, or even some chips.
If you're going specifically for a burger, time your trip for a Monday night, around happy hour. You'll get the discounted price on the burger, plus $3 draft brews. On your way out, grab a jar of the bacon jam ($12) to go.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax