San Diego: Great Burgers Don't Come Cheap at Bankers Hill
2202 4th Avenue San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-231-0222; bankershillsd.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty burger crafted with best-in-class ingredients hat comes at a steep price
Want Fries With That? Yes! The thin-cut truffle fries tossed with parmesan and parsley are served with a delicious chunky garlic aioli
Price: Burger, $15.75 +$3 for truffle fries
For my last San Diego burger review of 2012, I wanted to avoid suffering through a botched burger with bouncy meat, a patty of indeterminate animal origin, or a flavorless flop—all things I've done too many times this year. So, when two people I trust (Jason McLeod and San Diego Magazine food writer Troy Johnson) both praised the burger at Bankers Hill, I felt secure in closing out the year with a BH Burger—a half-pound patty topped with aged white cheddar, with pickled red onions, olives, lettuce, tomato, and a pickle spear on the side.
At $18.75 (including the $3 upgrade for truffle fries), the burger at Bankers Hill doesn't come cheap. In fact, you can get a flat iron steak with garlic mash and roasted vegetables for 25¢ less. When buy-in costs are this high, it's impossible not to start doing the math, just like Kenji did with his $26 chicken sandwich...but in this case, with an In-N-Out burger as the baseline. I couldn't help but wonder if the BH burger was 5.6 times better than a double-double. It's not a fair comparison, but at a certain price-point, I can't help but run the data (which, sadly, detracts from the pleasure of eating the burger that is right in front of me).
Here's what I know to be true: Bankers Hill does some amazing things with ground beef. The patty was loosely formed, coarsely ground, well seasoned, and everything that was on top of it (that perfectly melted slice of white cheddar), surrounding it (a squishy brioche bun), and beside it (assorted vegetable roughage, including pickled red onions and olives) was spot-on.
The one thing keeping me from heartily endorsing the burger is my patty was leaning towards rare, rather than my requested temp (medium-rare). Had the beef hung out on the griddle a little longer, it would have potentially developed some char (as delivered, there was none to speak of). I've sent back my share of burgers, but given the quality of the beef, I made an exception that paid off. Even though the patty was a bit soft (and mushy, in spots), the sharp cheddar and bitter bite of the onions made for a seriously tasty burger. I can only imagine how much better it would have been if the star element—the beef—was properly cooked to order.
The thin-cut parmesan and parsley-covered truffle fries were so spectacularly delicious that I lost all sense of everything around me, including my own stomach capacity, and could only think about dunking the crisp spuds in the chunky garlic aioli and getting them into my mouth as quickly as possible. Conversation halted, and I had to remind myself that the extra set of hands roving over the fries belong to my husband, whom I love very much (whereas my first instinct was to swat them away and growl, like a hungry cheetah protecting a fresh wildebeest kill).
In the end, whether or not you're willing to shell out nearly $20 for a burger and fries is up to you, and the relative weight of your wallet. If you're intrigued but not completely sold, I'd suggest hitting up Bankers Hill at happy hour for a cheeseburger slider ($3) and a bowl of truffle fries ($5).
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