Sam's Anchor Cafe
27 Main Street, Tiburon CA 94920 (map); 415-435-4527, samscafe.com
Cooking Method: Chargrilled
Short Order: A solid patty of well-seasoned Niman Ranch beef makes up for a lackluster bun. The views don't hurt, either.
Want Fries with That? They come with and are perfectly serviceable burger accompaniments, especially when generously hot sauced.
Price: Sam's Burger, $15; w/cheese, +$1.50; +w/egg, +$2
It feels a little weird to talk about the gorgeous weather we've been having over the past couple weeks in San Francisco, considering the havoc that &!%*# Sandy has be wreaking on people I love back East. But, as Novembers go, this one's been pretty gorgeous in the Bay (New York friends! Come visit! I have ample couch space!).
We all have our warm-weather spots so that when the sun does make its appearance (in November but not July...whatever, Bay Area), we have surefire plans of attack. Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon is one such spot—featuring a sizable deck jutting into the Bay, it's a 30-ish minute ferry ride from San Francisco, and a 30-second walk from the ferry dock.
I've spent warm late-mornings at Sam's before, indulging in an overpriced and okay plate of brunch and more than a few drinks while soaking up some vitamin D. But until this last weekend, fresh off a camping trip on Angel Island, I'd never tried their burger ($15).
The half-pound Niman Ranch patty is 18 to 20 percent fat. They receive the meat pre-ground and handform the patties, which are simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. I added cheddar cheese ($1.50) and an egg ($2) to mine—it was brunch-time, after all.
The burger is cooked on a charbroil grill, and has some serious marks to show for it. Served on a sourdough bun from Boudin and with a side of fries, it's not an inexpensive burger, but it's a sizable plate of food for $18.50, including my extras.
What's more, this patty is good. Really good. Juicy and pink-centered (a shade past my requested medium rare) and with a decently loose grind considering the patty's wide, flat construction, the meat is nicely salty and has a great, smokey flavor that enhances the quality of the beef—think backyard barbecue burger. The cheddar felt a little greasy to me, but the egg was a great add. Runny and rich, it similarly worked to accentuate the beef while adding a little punch of extra depth.
The only losing factor here was that Boudin bun. Glossy-topped and chewy, it's a whole lot of not great sourdough—fortunately, they pull out the innards of the upper bun, but it certainly doesn't make this a valuable addition to the burger. A swipe of butter and a little bit of time on the grill would do wonders for both flavor and texture; as is, it's serviceable for holding the burger elements together, but that's about it.
The burger comes with fries that are perfectly fine—nothing revolutionary but have a nicely fried crisp exterior and creamy interior. Dipped in a pile of hot sauce-laced ketchup, and they were an excellent accompaniment to a bloody mary.
As food at Sam's goes, this burger definitely surpasses the Benedicts I've tried in the past—I'd certainly order it again. And really, a tasty burger with a side of Bay-view is a not-too-shabby way to spend a Sunday.
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.