The Broken Record
1166 Geneva Avenue, San Francisco CA 94112 (map); 415-963-1713, brokenrecordsanfrancisco.com
Cooking Method:Griddled on the flat-top
Short Order: A greasy, satisfying, flavor bomb of a burger packed with bacon flavor. Just give in and fall in love.
Want Fries with That? The fries are undersalted and boring. Go for the sweet potato tots instead, ideally with some blue cheese for dipping. Or even better: an order of their transcendent crawfish grits.
Price: Beef and Bacon Burger, $10; sweet potato tots, $5; crawfish grits, $11
Notes: You may want to show up early, or be prepared to wait (they have a nice beer selection, and whiskey on tap to help pass the time).
You see, The Broken Record had been high on my list of "places I must try otherwise I'm just kidding myself with this being really serious about food thing" for, oh, years. Years! And why? Because it's in the part of San Francisco that many (self included) may even hesitate to call San Francisco proper. An admittedly paltry excuse to not try a spot that manages to blend dive bar charm, whiskey on tap (!!!), and, so I'd heard, pretty damn incredible food, courtesy of chefs James Moisey and Shane La Valle. Not least from the man behind the Mission Street Food burger, which, if you are a lover of all that is glorious about beef on a bun, you know means something.
So, thank you Anthony for lighting a fire under me. The Broken Record was worth the trip (which, when it came down to it, was 15 minutes on BART; cry me a river, lazy), and then some. But lest I wax poetic about their beer-friendly windowsill seats, their dog-friendly policies, and their jukebox selections, let's talk about this burger.
The Beef and Bacon Burger ($10) is comprised of two flat-top griddled patties—bacon is ground in with the beef, causing every bite to burst with smokey, fatty, bacony flavor. The patties are topped with dripping American cheese, house mayo, ketchup, and—if you so desire—onion and housemade pickles.
Let's get this straight: this burger is not f*$#ing around. This is a greasy, glorious, flavor-bomb of a sandwich; it's meant for rabid late-night consumption, for chowing down on when you come to a place to drink whiskey on tap (Four Roses, in case you were wondering). So while the burger may lack the rosy pink of medium rare I tend to seek out, you can be certain that it will be fatty and juicy thanks to the bacon. It also isn't a burger you eat for the intense beef flavor—but isn't that a part of the bargain when you're ordering something with bacon ground up in it? Despite their fattiness, the patties managed to have a decently loose grind.
Some beef flavor does come through, and balances the bacon-flavor levels, somewhat. The cheese and house mayo add a drippy messiness to the burger, but be sure you opt in for the onion and pickles. The sharp crunch and tang of both cut through the rich fattiness—it lends every bite a multi-dimensional flavor. Even the bun, brioche-like in appearance and texture (though not sweet), adds a butteriness to the overall affect.
Is it a burger I'd eat every day? No. But it's damn delicious, and well worth the trip out.
Perhaps even better (if I dare posit this opinion) are the crawfish grits ($11). When the hefty, steaming bowl was set down at our table, with a float of shrimp broth and chili oil grazing the surface, all I could do was inhale. The rich, savory smell promised great things; the bite exceeded all expectations. Perfectly cooked, cheddar-cheese infused grits (apparently, they are basic grocery store grits...wow) are studded with plump bits of the proudly described "low-country lobster" and crumbled pieces of sausage. Packed with flavor and contrasting textures, the grits were a big bowl of perfect happiness.
Skip the fries ($2 for a side). They're undersalted and boring, though the more whiskey you drink, the more appealing they'll become. The sweet potato tots ($5 for a side) are a much better side-spud option. The crisp exterior gives way to a creamy, just-sweet-enough interior. The mayo they were served with was underwhelming, but we found they were pretty stand out when dipped in blue cheese (ask for a side of it).
These iterations of classic bar/comfort food are reason enough to make the trip back. But to give you some insight into the kind of chef-driven menu we're dealing with here, it's worth noting that the evening's specials included lobster potato skins and Early Girl tomato soup with cheesy croutons.
And then there's the lobster mac 'n' cheese, served on Fridays and Saturdays. Worth a trip back? Oh, hell yes.