San Diego: Go to Grant Grill, but Skip the Burger
326 Broadway, San Diego CA 92101, inside the US Grant (map); 619-744-2077; grantgrill.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty enough burger, but the real reason to come is for the atmosphere, service, and cocktails
Want Fries With That? Truffle fries are an optional side, but they'll cost you an extra $8. The chips that come complimentary are tasty enough to skip the upgrade
Price: Burger, $15
The restaurant inside the US Grant Hotel is one of my favorite places in San Diego. It's historic, stately, and timeless—a vastly different place than the tourist traps and "brostaurants" common in the Gaslamp Quarter. Service is excellent and attentive, the cocktails are as precisely crafted as they are strong, and the food, as a whole, is great. And while technically the Grant Grill is one of your finer options for dining, like most hotel restaurants, they also have a burger. It's made from a half-pound of fresh ground beef that's hand-formed and topped with aged goat gouda, confit tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and onion marmalade, on a lightly toasted potato bun.
The grilled patty had a nice crust on the outside, and was seasoned well. Inside, the red center was flush with savory juices. Toppings were good to excellent, with the confit tomatoes at the top of the class, and the fairly flavorless iceberg lettuce earning a satisfying (though not exemplary) grade. There had evidentially been a run on the advertised goat gouda, but the sharp aged white cheddar substitution was quite tasty, and melted about as well as you could expect of such a stubborn variety of cheese. I wasn't keen on the potato bun. Normally, it's a good choice for a burger, but this one wasn't toasted enough, so the dense, doughy flavor overwhelmed the beef. It also crumbled apart, making it difficult to set down the burger between bites for fear of slippage. Even so, the complete package was tasty and totally acceptable, but for $15 you can do better.
Truffle fries are an optional side, and they'll set you back another $8, so I'd stick with the spuds that come complimentary: housemade potato chips. If you require your potatoes in french fry form, go for it, but you get more bang for your buck with one of the cocktails or a dessert.
After tasting the burger at Grant Grill and being satisfied but less than wowed, my overall impression of the place hasn't changed: it's still a place locals should visit more often and tourists shouldn't miss. But, if you're looking for a truly great burger, I wouldn't get it here. You'd be better to steer yourself to somewhere more casual, like the downtown location of Hodad's on Broadway and 9th for a mini bacon cheeseburger, then stroll over to Grant Grill for a sweet bite or a stiff drink in the lounge. If you're there for a full meal, I'd make it either a late-night sandwich or a proper, fancypants dinner.
On your way out, be sure to check out the historic photos of downtown San Diego outside the lobby restrooms, and have a swig of the fresh, herb-infused juice at the front desk—it's like a virgin version of one of the seasonal cocktails, and it's free.
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.