San Diego: Swing and a Miss at The Corner
369 10th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-531-8804; thecornersd.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A burger that over-promises and under-delivers
Want Fries With That? The thinner sweet potato spears were tasty, but their thicker companions were still partially raw in the middle. Pass.
Price: Corner Burger, $9.50 (+ $1.50 for cheese); Jalapeño Burger, $10.95; sweet potato fries, +$1
The Corner isn't shy about extolling the virtues of their burger, calling them both "the tastiest, high-quality burgers in San Diego" and "the best damn burgers in town" on their website. It's a place I've walked by at least a thousand times, but since I never heard much about it (good or bad), I filed it away for a future visit. Over 100 burger reviews later, that time finally came.
The Corner may be proud of their burger, but the pickings are surprisingly slim. The line-up includes a classic burger, a serrano and jalapeño variation, a BBQ sauce and bacon burger, and a turkey burger—that's it. This wouldn't be a problem if the quality and execution of the burgers was excellent, but unfortunately, that's just not the case. I tried 50 percent of the burger options on my visit (the baseline burger and the jalapeño burger) and still left hungry.
Burgers are made from fresh (never frozen) USDA Angus beef that's pattied daily and grilled to medium (unless you request otherwise). You can choose a side (regular fries, sweet potato fries, or tater tots) and a white or wheat bun. I opted to have my beef fired to medium rare, which could have been the burger's undoing, for a simple reason: The beef wasn't that great, and it wasn't even executed well.
That's really the main take-away, and the reason both burgers floundered. The patties lacked char, flavor, and seasoning. They were also too tightly packed and not cooked to order. A rare burger is awesome when it's made from truly high-quality beef, but with the lower quality stuff, the middle of the patty just ends up tasting wet and a bit too cold.
A duo of pickled peppers, jack cheese, and chipotle aioli can save a lot of sandwiches, but it wasn't enough to revive the jalapeño burger, which was also undercooked and cool in the center. Though supposedly housemade, the jalapeños tasted mass-produced, and I couldn't detect the flavor of the serranos. Even the under-toasted bun was a bust. Momentarily deflated, I re-grouped and turned to the fries, hoping two types of starch could fill the void.
The Corner's baseline spuds are totally serviceable, and made better by the tingly wasabi aioli that comes with them. They're lightly fried, subtly salted, and perfectly good as a side, but it's the sweet potato fries that have real potential.
Instead of using frozen fries like most places, The Corner cuts giant sweet potatoes into thick wedges. The skins get crisped up beautifully and the interior is transformed into sweet fluff. They're excellent as-is, but a quick dunk in the chipotle aioli only makes them better. Unfortunately, hand-cutting the spuds results in some segments being thicker than others, and the heftier wedges didn't get completely cooked through, which meant they were starchy and crunchy in the center. Over half the wedges on my plate suffered from this fatal flaw.
It takes guts for any burger spot in San Diego to stand up and say they make the best in the city, and while I applaud The Corner for aiming to serve better than average burgers, their claim of having the best burgers in town just isn't justified.
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