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Monday, October 19, 2009

Should S.F. Be Taking to the Barricades to Demand RN74's Super-Posh Burger?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 10:48 AM

RN74: Sworn enemy of democracy? - PAUL TRAPANI
  • Paul Trapani
  • RN74: Sworn enemy of democracy?
Tom Robbins once wrote: "Columbus discovered America, Jefferson invented it, Lincoln unified it, Goldwyn mythologized it, and Kroc Big Mac'd it. It could have been an omniscient computer that provided this land with its prevailing ambiance, it might have been an irresistible new weapons system, a political revolution, an art movement, or some gene-altering drug. Isn't it just a little bit wonderful that it was a hamburger?" In September's burger-themed issue of Saveur, contributor Leslie Brenner, restaurant critic for the Dallas Morning News, less loftily echoed his sentiment, calling the hamburger "a potent symbol of good old American ingenuity and entrepreneurial independence."

Ironically, at Michael Mina's RN74 in the Millenium Tower down on Mission Street (301 Mission at Beale), the iconic hamburger is not something pretty much anyone can enjoy. If you want to munch on this restaurant's luxurious rendition of the standard -- a rich grind of rib eye and brisket, topped with Burgundian mustard and sandwiched between halves of a brioche roll -- you'll need to fork over nine times what you pay at In-N-Out -- and own one of the building's multi-million-dollar condos.

click to enlarge cityofburgers.jpg
As quoted in Grub Street late last week, Mina's weird, grammatically iffy rationale for excluding non-owners from hamburger heaven ("We really have a restaurant concept that we want to keep the way it is.") strikes us as completely silly. Restaurants often prepare a signature dish on the sly. However, they don't usually keep most of their customers from ordering it. How does this aspect of RN74's "restaurant concept" affect the dining experience? Are non-owners bummed they can't tuck in their ties, terrorize some herb fries, and attack a burger that most assuredly delivers on the promise of its pedigree? Do they despair, even as they order delicious-sounding yet less exclusive dishes like pumpkin soup with bacon-rosemary dumplings, and juniper oil and prime beef carpaccio? Do proud owners gloat as they douse their buns in ketchup? If an owner dines with a non-owner, might the non-owner, under the circumstances, have a burger? Does anyone really care, especially when the San Francisco outpost of Hubert Keller's Burger Bar opened Friday?

According to one man quoted in a Sept. 25 article in The Street, RN74's de-democratizing of the burger has proved no sticking point. "It is the hottest restaurant in the city of San Francisco, period," reportedly said Rich Baumert, managing director of Millennium Partners, which -- naturally -- owns the Millenium Tower building. Of course he thinks that -- he can have all the hamburgers he wants.

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