3803 5th Ave., San Diego, CA 92103 (map); 619-295-8555; rock-firegrill.com
Cooking method: Charbroiled
Short Order: Get a tasty char-grilled burger served on a freshly baked focaccia roll at an amazing discount during lunch
Want Fries With That? Housemade chips come standard with the lunch combo, but it's worth paying extra for fries
Price: Lunch combo, $5 (burger, chips, and a fountain drink); thin fries, $2.45
Notes: Available Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
In search of a way to shake up my burger routine (which lately has been Hodad's and lots of it), I discovered Rockfire Grill, a fairly new spot in Hillcrest that specializes in flatbreads baked in a tandoor over smoldering lava rocks. For a small restaurant with a modest kitchen, they've got an impressively long menu, but staying true to my mission, I ordered the lone burger: a bacon cheddar cheeseburger ($5.75).
It's made with a juicy beef patty that's charbroiled to order, topped with cheddar cheese, a handful of mixed greens, bacon crumbles, and house sauce (a mix of ketchup, mayo, mustard, and ranch dressing). The burger is worth every penny at full price, but swing by during lunch (11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday) and you can get one (or any other sandwich) for a mere $5—and that includes housemade chips and a fountain drink.
The Angus beef patty has that unmistakable flame-broiled flavor that sparks nostalgia for backyard barbecues. Mine was cooked past my requested temperature (medium rare) and wasn't particularly juicy, but with the bacon and cheese in place, overall, the burger was really tasty. If you dig Thousand Island-esque sauces, a tasty version comes standard and helps to up the moisture levels. My strong aversion to anything containing ketchup caused me to nix it, but in the process I discovered an even more delicious alternative: housemade chipotle and ancho chile-spiked hot sauce. Its smoky flavor profile is the perfect complement to the beef. After adding a generous squirt, I'd estimate the burger became least three times as delicious.
The most remarkable feature about the burger isn't the beef—it's the warm, squishy, and slightly chewy focaccia roll. Flecked with crisp bits of cheddar cheese and rosemary, it's a delicious alternative to the standard hamburger bun.
The thick-cut, housemade chips that come standard with the lunch combo are tasty enough, but it's worth splurging on some lightly battered "thin fries" ($2.45) as well. They're crisp, perfectly seasoned, and you get a generous portion for the price. Hit them with the hot sauce and, just like the burger, they become significantly more delicious.
I'll be back for Rockfire Grill's $5 lunch deal, but now that I've fallen for the focaccia bun, I'm curious about other bread-focused, burger-related items, like the bacon cheeseburger flatbread pizza and bacon cheeseburger stuffed flatbread.