Soda & Swine
2943 Adams Avenue, San Diego CA (map); 619-269-7632; sodaandswine.com
Cooking method: Griddled
Short Order: A giant meatball reimagined as a burger. Delicious!
Want Fries With That? Hell yes you do. Oh, and get the fried pizza knots too
Price: Meatball burger, $8; fries and aioli, $3; fried pizza knots, $5
Do all meatballs dream of becoming hamburgers when they grow up? Probably not, but some have got to. I mean, pasta is fine company, but it doesn't compare to a bubbly blanket of cheese, and a warm, toasty bun.
At Soda & Swine, you can get your meatballs à la carte, as a slider or submarine, on top of spaghetti (all covered in cheese), or my personal favorite: an extra-large meatball that's smashed into the shape of a burger patty on the flat top, fired, and topped with all of the standard burger accoutrements. The final product is what might happen if you left a burger and a meatball alone with some booze, candles, and a Barry White CD on repeat. It's neither a burger nor a meatball sandwich. It's both, and it's delicious.
Meatball burgers are made with the "bovine" meatballs (beef, marinara, and mozzarella), one of the five kinds of meatballs Soda & Swine makes, so when they're smashed and griddled, they transform into something closer to a Jucy Lucy than your standard beef patty. The heat of the griddle gives the exterior some crunchy char while gently melting the cheese mixed into the beef. It doesn't goop out of the patty (even when you cut it in half) or blow out the sides—it just hangs out, fully saturating the beef and moistening every bite with its creamy flavor. The marinara sauce was so lightly portioned that it didn't register at all. Flavor-wise, the meatball was beef and cheese, all the way.
Just ball and bun would have been plenty, but Soda & Swine loads up their meatball burgers with bacon, cheese, tomatoes, thinly sliced and lightly pickled cucumbers, and iceberg lettuce. The only missteps were the raw onion (pickled would have been better) and the sauce...but only because I was expected the advertised chipotle mayo, and got Thousand Island instead.
Burgers come à la carte, but it's well worth the extra $3 for a side of fries. The skin-on spuds are just about perfect: crisp, golden brown, and with just the right amount of salt. Once you dunk them in the malt vinegar aioli, you can officially retire your willpower. Until they're all gone, these fries will own you.
While we're on the subject of side order subjugation, you'll definitely be needing an order of the fried pizza knots. These flaky, chewy nuggets of deep-fried dough are stuffed with melted mozzarella. Dip 'em in the marinara for a pop of acidity, or spoon a little right into the center.
If you make it to dessert, there are a few rotating flavors of house made soft-serve, pie, and beer floats. Want a craft cocktail with your burger? There's always the option of eating it next door at Polite Provisions, the adjoining bar that's styled after drugstores of bygone eras.