Zak Silverman cooked at Berkeley's Elmwood Café, did a sort of apprenticeship with Suzanne Schafer and Shari Washburn onboard Ebbet's Good to Go, but it was all preamble, every bit of it. Silverman ― just 25 ― knew he wanted to roll out a truck of his own.
Two weeks ago he did. After a couple months of occasional appearances at Mission bar Homestead, Doc's on the Bay launched full-time this month, with lunchtime hours at various spots in Emeryville most weekdays. Silverman has his eye on San Francisco ― read about his efforts to secure permits downtown, in the Mission, and in Lower Haight, where some residents are pushing back. When Doc's does make the move from East Bay to west, it'll be the city's first dedicated burger truck. "The Financial District is basically Emeryville on steroids," Silverman says.
Technically, Doc's specializes in American comfort foods, what Silverman calls "straight-up Americana," produced via a sort of collaboration with Doc's cooks Lauren Smith and John Babbott. Credit Silverman's love of Americana for the truck's name, a nod to the marine biologist beardo protagonist of the 1945 novel by John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, an idyll of friendship in a scuffed-up microhood.
Doc's menu includes really tasty mac and cheese ($4), crackling with roasted poblanos and jalapeños and a topping of crushed cornflakes, and a pulled-pork sandwich brightened with slaw ($8). But the menu's centerpiece is the classic burger ($7), made, Silverman tells SFoodie, according to the so-called Midwestern smash-burger method.
Silverman sources organic, grass-finished Black Angus beef and mixes in a good measure of chopped onion. The meat hits the griddle in ball form, and gets flattened into patty shape only after browning and sizzling a bit. Final step: The bun joins patty and Tillamook American cheese in the burger's final stages on the griddle, so it wicks up the juices.
It's a hefty burger, with a noticeably tender patty (thanks to that Midwestern smash technique?) and a powerfully savory onion persona. The best part might be the bun, a firm-soft challah specimen from Emeryville's Firebrand Artisan Breads. That, and Doc's secret sauce, a blend of ketchup and mayo ― both house-made ― tweaked with Dijon.
Doc's also serves up a house-made veggie burger ($7), a black-bean patty with jicama slaw on a Firebrand French roll.