Jason McLeod is San Diego's only Michelin-star chef, having earned a pair of stars in Chicago. He's helmed kitchens and opened restaurants everywhere from Whistler to Costa Rica, but has settled down in San Diego, and was recently tapped to be the new Executive Chef for all of the Consortium Holdings restaurants, including Neighborhood, Underbelly, Craft & Commerce, and Polite Provisions/Soda & Swine, a dual-concept spot slated to open in December.
He loves a classic burger and says a great bun is essential (and often woefully overlooked). At home, he's all about the Dutch Crunch buns at O'Brien's bakery, and when it comes to toppings, he plucks a few items from the fast food column (Thousand Island dressing and American cheese), but also loves homemade pickled veggies, like thin slices of zucchini, fennel, and carrot on top of his patty.
In-N-Out's Double-Double (Animal Style) is his go-to burger because it's cheap, quick, and tasty, but he also praised several other options. Here, Jason describes his top five burgers in San Diego:
I'm a huge In-N-Out Double-Double fan, Animal Style of course. I could eat those all the time. I just love the simplicity of it all. I even love the french fries, which i know a lot of people don't. I love it when people visit because I get to take them there, especially my family, because we don't have In-N-Out in Canada.
Multiple locations in San Diego in-n-out.com
I like Bankers Hill because their burger is simple and pretty classic. They also serve pickled onions with it, and I love those. I love homemade pickles and I think that the onion brings a great pickle flavor. It's nice and a bit different than just serving regular pickles. A lot of burgers are really rich, so I like the contrast and bite the onion gives it.
2202 4th Ave., San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-231-0222; bankershillsd.com
I love the burgers at Beaumont's. Their Beaumont Burger has puréed sundried tomatoes folded into the beef—it's got an almost tart, tomatoey bite to it. It's served with feta cheese and balsamic onions, and I'm a big fan of feta cheese. That burger is really great. They sell millions of them; it's their number one seller, by far. It's just a good value.
5662 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla, CA 92037 (map); 858-459-0474; beaumontseatery.com
I love a fried egg on a burger. The first time I ever had an egg on a burger was back in 1999 in Coffs Harbour, Australia and I'm a huge fan. Quality Social adds some beautiful house cured bacon, fried onions, and Gruyère cheese. Hard to beat this combo.
789 6th Ave., San Diego CA 92101 (map); 619-501-7675; qualitysocial.com
Burger Lounge does a good turkey burger. I'm not a huge fan of their beef burgers, but I was really impressed by their turkey burger. Anything with Thousand Island on it is good; it really helps. I like the cheese they put on it, too.
6 locations in San Diego, full list at burgerlounge.com