The Lion's Share
629 Kettner Blvd San Diego, CA 92101 (map); 619-564-6924; lionssharesd.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: An overcooked and over-salted burger that just doesn't meet expectations
Want Fries With That? If you can stand a lot of sodium, super salty fries with ketchup and mustard aioli come standard
Price: Wild Style burger, $20
Notes: Open 4 p.m. - 2 a.m., daily
Pricey, overly complicated burgers aren't usually my thing, and normally, I wouldn't bother reviewing a hamburger with such a steep price tag, but when San Diego Magazine's Eater in Chief (not his real title) tweeted about how great the burger at The Lion's Share is, I gave it closer consideration. It's hard to say what would make any burger worthy of slapping down a Jackson, but to start, it would need to have quality beef and toppings and be served in a comfortable, moderately-classy environment. In The Lion's Share's case, most of these requirements check out: The patty is made from grass-fed beef topped with wild boar bacon, crispy shallots, and a fried duck egg; and the dining area is consciously cool.
Going into the experience, I hoped to take a little flack from AHT'ers while cautiously endorsing a "special occasion" burger, but that's not how it panned out.
Some components of the burger were great, but unfortunately, many more things went wrong. I'll start with the good points: The standard veggie toppings were fresh and tasty, especially the house-made pickles, which brightened up the burger and cut through the fattiness of the yolk. The duck egg was cooked to a delicious sunny-side up, and the squishy bun stayed intact to the end, despite being drenched with yolk. The patty had a good amount of char, but was cooked past my requested medium rare and had little moisture to speak of. When eaten by itself, it had rich flavors of grass-fed beef, but the wild boar bacon and mustard aioli on the bottom bun all but obliterated the beef, not to mention the razor-thin slice of aged cheddar, which I couldn't taste at all.
Instead of being thinly sliced and crisp, the wild boar bacon was thick and leathery, like beef jerky. Making matters worse, it was massively salty. Any beefiness that may have made it past the bacon was taken care of by the intensely mustardy aioli, which was the dominant flavor of the burger. It's an ok burger if you really, really like mustard, but not if you like the taste of beef, or anything else besides salt and mustard, for that matter.
Parmesan truffle fries come standard, and though the spuds had the right texture (crisped up skin and light, fluffy interior), and the truffle oil was measuredly applied, there was so much salt that I couldn't get past four measly fries, despite being hungry enough to finish the entire serving, and then some.
The main problem with offering a $20 hamburger is living up to inflated expectations. Unusual ingredients like wild boar bacon and a duck egg will get you part of the way there, but if the burger is overcooked and the toppings don't work, the effort won't be worth it. I know it's not fair, but every time I eat a burger that's more than $15, I can't help but do the "burger math", using a cheaper alternative, like the $10 burger at Nicky Rottens or the $2 cheeseburger at In-N-Out as a comparison. The Wild Style burger costs twice as much as Nicky's and 10 times as much as In-N-Out, and sadly, wasn't half as good as either.