San Francisco: Head Off The Beaten Path for a Great Burger at Ganim's
1135 18th St. San Francisco, CA 94107 (map); 415-282-9289
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Hand pattied, non-fancy burgers with great flavor and awesome crusts
Want Fries with That? Comes with lots of fries; ask for extra salt
Price: The Cheeseburger, $6.39; w/bacon, +$1.25; Jericho Burger, $7.49; Surf & Turf, $7.49
Notes: Open Mon. to Fri., 11a.m. - 9p.m.; Sat. 11:00 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Lately I've been on a quest to try many of the older non-fancy burger joints spread throughout the city, most of which are located on the boundaries of neighborhoods, off beaten paths, or disguised inside other buildings. Ganim's Market is in the latter of the three. If it weren't for the burger on the sign it could easily be mistaken for being a regular corner store.
My recent meal at Whiz Burger was a little disappointing and left me wondering if I was destined for mediocrity in my non-fancy burger search. Thankfully, Gamin's proved to be a place for great burgers at great prices.
Ganim's is a comfortable, casual spot with regulars who stop in to chat and buy beer. Since it's also a market it has a full selection of beverages and beer, good for whether you want a 12-pack of Tecate or a 22-ounce Anchor Steam (which is brewed a just few blocks away).
Typical burger toppings such as cheese and bacon are accompanied by non-traditional ones such as sautéed mushrooms and pastrami on the Jericho Burger ($7.49), or a house beer battered fish patty on the Surf and Turf ($7.49). Being a newbie to Ganim's and realizing how cheap everything was, I decided to try the previous two as well as their regular cheeseburger.
The 1/4- to 1/3-pound "100% Angus beef" patties are hand formed from a large chub of pre-ground 80/20 halal beef. The deceivingly large-looking-for-their-size patties sport one of the best crusts I've seen in a while. The patties were consistently cooked medium-well but were well salted and remained fairly juicy.
The cheeseburger was my favorite of the bunch for having the best balance between the toppings, bun, and patty. I initially felt discouraged when, while watching through the large window that looks into the kitchen, I noticed the meat being pattied out of a big plastic chub package, but the beef proved to be tasty. The fresh Kaiser bun, delivered daily from Pacific Coast Baking, was squishy and just slightly smaller than the patty. The toppings of perfectly melted American cheese, crisp shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise helped round out the burger. My only complaint was the mealy out-of-season tomatoes, but that's what you get in the winter, even in California.
The Jericho burger is basically the same as the cheeseburger but topped with delicious peppery pastrami and boring mushrooms that looked liked they were from a can. The combination wasn't bad, but it was more of a distraction than improvement on the cheeseburger. Or maybe it would've been fine without the mushrooms.
The surprise was the Surf and Turf burger, which I ordered solely on the recommendation of the gentleman at the counter. (I would've never ordered this on my own—and for the record I don't condone fish on burgers, except maybe shrimp. Sometimes.) This burger starts out the same as the cheeseburger but gets an additional slice of cheese and a battered and fried patty of tilapia. It's a huge burger, probably well over a half-pound. I was prepared for it to be different in a bad way, but it was surprisingly good. The crunchy batter on the fish and the salty beef juices complemented each other really well. The fish itself wasn't standout, but it provided a great texture that made for an all around good burger experience. Would I order it again? Maybe...but I'd probably just stick to the single or double burgers, which are pretty great.
Each burger came with a pretty large order of fries. The fries were nothing special and could have used a bit more salt, but in the end they added to what a great value this place is.
If you find yourself waiting in a long line for one of the fancier places in Potrero Hill like Chez Maman—or are just craving a Surf and Turf burger—head down to Ganim's, where they have plenty of beer and wine to go with some great burgers.
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. Follow him on Instagram @wesrowe.
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