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Food & Drink

Best Burgers 

In a foodie town like San Francisco, burgers come in all shapes and sizes and prices. Here are some of our favorite places that answer the eternal question, "Where's the beef?"

Pearl's Deluxe Burgers
708 Post (at Jones), 409-6120

Pearl's stands apart from other psychedelically inclined hamburger venues by starting with an exemplary example of the burger griller's art — charred and smoky on the outside, perfectly pink and juicy on the inside — and taking it from there. The Teriyaki is particularly tasty, employing a sweet, smoky sheen of sauce and lots of meaty, earthy mushrooms; the Bula piles on the bacon, Swiss cheese, and pineapple; and the Spicy Sly (cheese, onions, and hot peppers) delivers one eye-opening kick in the head. But our favorite is the Pesto, in which an incredible basil sauce contributes its pungent Mediterranean essence to the meat and woodsmoke and thick slices of candy-sweet tomatoes. All burgers are available in mini (quarter-pound) versions.

Balboa Cafe
3199 Fillmore (at Greenwich), 921-3944

Enjoy a hearty, hand-shaped ground beef patty in the old-timey-saloon setting of the Balboa Cafe: big wooden bar, stained-glass windows, white linen tablecloths. The oval baguette burger ($10.50 at lunch, $11.50 at dinner) is eight ounces; the old-fashioned bar burger ($9.50 at lunch), served on a round bakery bun, is six ounces. They both come with housemade pickles and a haystack of thin, crisp fries fresh from the fryer. Insider's tip: If you ask for a Marty's burger (not on the menu), you'll get the eight-ounce patty, shaped to fit the round bun. Goes well with Balboa's fine Bloody Mary.

Acme Chophouse
24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third St.), 644-0240

If you like the distinctive flavor of true grass-fed beef, star chef Traci des Jardins' Acme Chophouse is the place. Its top-notch $13 burger (add cheddar or bacon for a buck), from local Marin Sun Farms, can be enjoyed at lunch, or at the bar during dinner hours.

Kezar Bar and Restaurant
900 Cole (at Carl), 681-7678

Kezar Bar offers a solid charbroiled burger on a house-baked onion-poppyseed bun. Enjoy it in a quiet neighborhood restaurant-cum-sports-bar hangout with a Cheers-like atmosphere still popular decades after the 49ers left nearby Kezar Stadium. The burger is also available as a gardenburger, turkeyburger, lamb burger, or the rarely seen patty melt with grilled onions and Swiss cheese on New York rye. Homemade fries can be ordered spicy Cajun-style, too. Only drawback: short hours (5 to 10 or 11 p.m., depending).

333 Jefferson (at Jones), 800-786-1000

Sometimes nothing but a Double-Double with extra onions will do. Since San Francisco discourages chain stores, your only option is the small and rather startlingly futuristic In-N-Out Burger in Fisherman's Wharf between 10:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. (1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). This branch isn't a drive-through, alas, so good luck finding parking.


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