Editor's note: AHT reader Colin Parent started blogging about food while a law student in New York City. He now lives, works, and eats in his native San Diego, a city whose burgers we have unfortunately (and unintentionally) neglected. Noticing our our lack of San Diego coverage, he volunteered to fill in the gaps. Here's his first San Diego review, with more to come.
San Diego is often forgotten, stuck in the shadow of Los Angeles (a somewhat larger city to the north). But San Diego has excellent food, burger-related and otherwise. It's a more relaxed cuisine, with strong border influences and a growing emphasis on local and slow food. The center of San Diego is overwhelmed with restaurants catering to tourists, often with mediocre fare, but those hungry for more need only look at the periphery where the pubs and the neighborhood bistros are. There are hidden gems for serious eating in San Diego—you just have to seek them out.
One such gem is The Linkery, one of the first slow food restaurants in San Diego. Located in North Park, an old suburb of downtown, The Linkery and its neighborhood have both been leading players in the recent welling affection for local food and culture in San Diego. While there have always been excellent burgers in San Diego, the Linkery was among the first serious restaurants to include a kicked-up "fancy burger" to satisfy the burger-eating foodie set.
The Linkery's burger is served Australian-style with "the lot," meaning it arrives with a whole host of toppings. The burger doesn't just include house-ground pastured Spanish Oak Ranches beef—it's also topped with a fried egg, one slice of house cured bacon, rich smoky Gouda cheese, and thin slices of pickled beets. The menu tactfully omits the reference to the pickled beets, which are now served on the side, along with more traditional house-made cucumber pickles.
Why are beets served on the side? A few years ago, the owner Jay Porter told me that he simply stopped listing the pickled beets on the menu description because people would often request them to be withheld. He preferred a little culinary guerilla warfare, forcing patrons to at least try the beets before objecting to them on principle.
Unlike the beets, which aren't listed on the menu but come on the side, grilled pineapple is listed on the menu and appears on the burger in the thinnest, most imperceptible of slices. The reduced pineapple is a result of the years-long evolution of this excellent burger. When I first ate one while watching the World Cup in 2006, it was served on rectangular toasted shepherd's bread and was covered in an excess of toppings that made the thing simply inedible. The patty was delicious, a loosely packed, almost irregular shape of fatty, globular goodness. But the thing was so tall that when it was picked up, everything just slid off. I had to finish it with a fork and knife.
I would warn my eating companions that, while the burger was delicious, it was messy and impossible to eat. To my initial surprise, this description almost universally resulted in someone ordering it.
Although still a gut buster, the burger is now more orderly. The pineapple has slimmed down. The buns are now made in-house--both soft and a little crusty, they are more adept at corralling the burger's ample toppings. The pickled beets have become thinner, more like silver dollars, and are now politely served on the side. The adventurous eaters that opt into them are rewarded with a moderate bite that foils, but doesn't overwhelm, the beef's core fatty flavor.
This excellent burger makes a great addition to the pantheon of San Diego burger cuisine. (And vegetarians don't have to stay home: A meatless version replaces the beef patty with a grilled portobello mushroom and omits the bacon).
3794 30th St, San Diego CA
Fri. to Sun., noon - 11:30 p.m.; Mon. to Thurs., 5:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
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