San Francisco: A Delicious, If Overcooked, Burger at Starbelly
3583 16th Street, San Francisco CA 94114 (map); 415-252-7500, starbellysf.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Hand-formed, Prather Ranch Beef shines in this simple, fresh burger showcasing quality ingredients.
Want Fries with That? Absolutely. The tasty pile of hand-cut fries comes with the burger and is generously seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Price:Burger and fries, $11 + $2 each for white cheddar, Pt. Reyes blue, bacon, avocado, or grilled onions.
Notes: My burger was overcooked, if still delicious—be clear about your desired doneness.
I've long loved Starbelly for their delicious, seasonally-inspired take on California pizzas, their tasty lunch options, and their bright, neighborhoody space complete with a back patio. So it was only a matter of time before I made it back to review their burger ($11), a tasty creation of Prather Ranch beef served up on a freshly baked bun from Pinkie's Bakery.
The beef and bun credentials speak to Starbelly's tendency to source local, and keep things simple. The meat, an 80/20 blend, is mostly sirloin, and has a rich, wonderfully beefy flavor. Seasoned with salt and pepper, the patties are hand-formed and grilled to order, resulting in a nice, loose grind, with a subtle char from the grill.
The problem? The burger was cooked decidedly past my requested medium rare—and with beef this tasty, I really want it medium rare.
Still, the overall order was a win. That Pinkie's bun is given a toasting on the burger-greased grill, and flavor-wise, was a great match. The bottom bun had a hard time standing up to the patty's juices, making for a messy end to my burger consumption (though really, there are worse things than licking burger juice from one's fingers). I added aged white cheddar ($2, Pt. Reyes Blue, bacon, avocado, and roasted onions are also available), which snugly blanketed the burger, and helped bring out the beefy funk without overpowering the flavor.
I knew I could count on Starbelly for fresh vegetable sides, and the lettuce-tomato-onion did not disappoint. Nor did the housemade pickles, sliced deli-style and lending good a good, vinegary punch to each bite.
A healthy pile of house-cut fries come alongside the burger and are included in the $11 price tag (which in this town, is not a bad deal at all). The perfect balance between crisp and potatoey, the fries are generously seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. "Fries are CRACK," my tasting notes read, to give you some indication of how tasty they are. They don't outshine the burger, but are certainly an added bonus for the price of admission.
Another worthy side is the split pea fritters ($5), served with an addictively tangy-sweet side of curried yohgurt (their spelling, not mine). Fried shatter-crisp and rife with sweet-pea flavor, the fritters are delicious as is, but prove to be a perfect vehicle for that yogurt (and can I take this opportunity to declare that curry powder really may make everything better?). You'll want to hang on to some of that for your fries too; trust me.
Overdoneness aside, Starbelly's burger is certainly one I'd go back for, though I may be more assertive in my medium rare request. Well-proportioned and well-seasoned, the quality ingredients are really allowed to shine. Actually, I'm going to have to go back and give the Doc's Way burger a shot—the secret, off-the-menu variation includes onion marmalade and a slice of pate. Too much, perhaps? I guess I'll just have to report back.
About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.