San Francisco: Don't Miss Mojo Bicycle Cafe's Tuesday-Only Burgers
Mojo Bicycle Cafe
639 Divisadero Street San Francisco, CA 94117(map);415-440-2338; mojobicyclecafe.com
Cooking Method: Pan griddled
Short Order: Juicy, delicious burgers with very high quality ingredients
Want Fries with That?Sides vary but you can always order a second burger if you are really hungry
Price: Cheeseburger, $10
Notes: Available on Tuesdays starting at 6 p.m.
"New favorite burger" isn't a phrase to throw around casually. Luckily, I live in a city with people like James LaLonde, who spends his day off making burgers worthy of this title. You can find them Tuesday nights at Mojo Bicycle Cafe, a small below-street-level cafe with a bike shop in the back. The sidewalk outside has a park-let, so on nice days you can have your burger—and beer—outside. This helps because Mojo doesn't have a stove, grill, or much of a vent hood. James brings in a portable stove capable of 12,000 BTUs and a couple All-Clad pans to grill up six-ounce patties with excellent crusts and juicy pink middles. Show up early and grab a seat outside because after sitting inside for a few hours you can feel grease on your eyeballs.
The burgers ($10) start coming out around 6 p.m. and go until the 15 pounds of coarsely ground grain fed beef from Golden Gate Meats runs out. The delicate salty char gives way to a juicy, red center that had me thinking about it all week (just writing about it makes me want one right now).
The first time I visited, the burger was served with cheddar, tomato, homemade fridge pickles, caramelized onions, and aioli on a La Boulange brioche bun grilled on both sides. To my surprise, the following week it came with charred padron aioli and was served on a homemade smoked marrow brioche bun. Yep I didn't just make that up: They replaced 60 percent of the butter in the recipe with smoked bone marrow. The bun was amazingly rich and tender. It was a bit more crumbly than the previous week's bun, but it made up for that in the extra dark, flavorful crust and a richness I assume was from the smoked marrow.
Six ounces was the perfect amount of burger. It didn't leave me weighed down and lethargic like half-pound burgers often do. However, it was so good I wouldn't mind having been weighed down by a second. The burger was so tender I could have eaten it with no teeth, and rather than taking one bite at a time and savoring it, I found myself trying to cram as much of the juicy, salty goodness in my mouth as I could. The beef was so tender and flavorful I would even consider eating sans bun and toppings.
It's hard to imagine anything making this burger better, but James does it right by adding a few minimal ingredients to accentuate the beef's flavor. A single slice of cheddar, caramelized onions, a thin slice of tomato, two slices of crisp vinegar fridge pickles, and aioli do a great job of adding a tangy element that rounds out the burger.
There are usually one or two sides that change based on what's fresh and what James feels like making. I had the roasted corn accompanied by a lime chili butter that outshone the corn itself. I found myself licking the cobb like a lollipop just to get at the sour spicy salty coating around each kernel. Yeah, the corn was good too, but you could put that butter on anything and I'd like it.
I held off writing this review for a few weeks because I wanted to keep this place a secret and stave off the crowds. But hell, this burger is so good I can't keep it to myself, and neither should you.
About the author: Wes Rowe is a photographer and eater based in San Francisco who believes there is no such thing as too many burgers, and when given the opportunity, likes to spend the whole day smoking brisket.