Avedano's Meat Wagon
Proxy SF, 432 Octavia Blvd, San Francisco CA 94102 (map); 415-285-MEAT; avedanos.com/meatwagon
Short Order: A butcher truck that delivers a pre-made patty for you to cook at home made of a tasty mix of chuck and lardo butter
Want Fries with That? Sure!
Price: $9.50 per pound, ~$4 per burger
Avedano's Holly Park Market sits perched on one of San Francisco's many hills, tucked away in Bernal Heights. The location means it can be hard to access the sustainably-raised meat sold in their craft butcher shop. Or, that was the case until this past October, when Avedano's launched San Francisco's first mobile butcher truck and, like Moses descending the mountain, brought their meat to us. To go with a bounty of steaks and chops, they often bring along a stack of their signature lardo burgers, patties of grass-fed beef mixed with pork fat. These, my fellow meat devotees, are worth trying.
No mere cooler on wheels, Avedano's ferries its meat down the hill in a refurbished vintage Ford ambulance. Playing on the old-timey slang for an ambulance, they even call it their Meat Wagon. A cherry red paint job, a working siren, and a V8 engine under the hood make this get-up the kind of thing that's just as likely to attract gearheads as, er, meatheads. The truck parks Thursday through Sunday in Proxy SF, an outdoor food-art-culture space in Hayes Valley that also plays home to such delights as Smitten Ice Cream, a biergarten (called Biergarten!), and occasional visits from Casey's Pizza Truck.
Let's not get completely distracted by the sweet ride though. The Avedano's burgers are the brainchild of their head butcher, Chris Arentz. To make them, Arentz mixes house-ground, grass fed chuck from Sunfed Ranch with a lardo butter he learned to make working under Italian uber-butcher Dario Cecchini. Along with pork fat, the lardo butter includes some rosemary, thyme, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. It lends a mild herbiness and an extra richness to the burger, giving it a sort of sophisticated sausage flavor. Though it deviates a bit from traditional burger territory, we found it addictive.
The burgers come vacuum packed as pre-made patties of 6 or 7 ounces each. We were lucky enough to get a fresh-made batch, though Arentz says he's more likely to sell them frozen during this time of year. When demand goes up during grilling season, he makes them fresh weekly.
Of course, since Avedano's doesn't cook these for you, you're left to construct your lardo burger any way you please. Arentz suggests grilling, but we found a cast-iron pan worked quite well, cooking the burgers to medium so that their 30 percent fat content had melted completely.
After time spent sealed in plastic and then piled into my backpack, the burgers came out a bit compact, but still tender and flowing with little rivulets of meat juice that stained the bottom bun red on contact.
I'd special-ordered a case of Martin's Potato Rolls for the occasion—yes, I earned a few rather questioning looks from my wife when I opened the cardboard box marked "fragile" to reveal 48 hamburger buns. Lightly toasted and slathered with some mayonnaise, these served as a very fine base for our burgers. The patties have enough flavor that you'll be able to experiment with some more flavorful cheese, and we found a three year Cabot cheddar worked very well (though we could have been a bit more successful in the melting).
In our case, these burgers served as a very pleasant way to dampen the effects of an afternoon spent watching football with a fermented beverage in hand. Given that football in the Bay Area is going to last at least one more weekend, I'm hoping that the folks at Avedano's will be loading up their big red meat wagon with some extra lardo burgers this Sunday so we can do it all over again.