Of All The Burger Joints In All The World
Night was just beginning to settle over the horizon and the last hint of light was draining from the windows through the blinds of the tepid, dirty little office that Drew called home, and had for as long as his whiskey-soaked brain could remember. But now that daylight was finally waving goodbye it was time for him to rise from the dirty third-hand couch he’d been sleeping on and at least make an effort to pretend he was a worthwhile citizen of this fair city.
His hand reached for the nearest bottle of Missing Papa whiskey. Without even looking he could tell he hadn’t left much inside before falling onto the sofa, drunk and exhausted. He brought the bottle to his lips and plugged what little was left into his mouth and felt it burn as it slid down his throat. He coughed hard from the effort and tossed the now-empty bottle into the trash.
“Good morning,” he gurgled to himself as he watched the last sliver of sun give way to nightfall.
Drew tucked his shirt back into his pants, although neither item was clean it made him feel like less of a train-riding hobo. He rubbed his eyes and surveyed the room as he found his way behind the old oak desk, the one that used to stay empty from papers and cigarette butts but now looked like it hadn’t been used in months. He picked up a stack of papers, thinking maybe he’d missed something the last time he bothered.
“Bill, bill, bill,” Drew muttered as he flipped through the notices, many marked with warnings of impending danger if they remained unpaid. “All bills. Not a damn job in the bunch.”
Drew had been a Burger Blogger, and one of the best. When he and his gang roamed the streets they were unstoppable, hitting burger joint after burger joint and getting noticed in all the papers. But those days seemed to be years ago, now. They hadn’t seen each other in ages and Drew’s prospects were getting slim.
He slid into the chair at the desk and tossed the papers back onto the mess in front of him. Regardless of what they threatened, he couldn’t pay them if he wanted to. He needed some Burger Blogging to come his way, and fast, or his goose was cooked.
His red eyes found their way to a picture at the edge of the dusty mess of a desk. He picked up the frame and studied the image. It was the old crew. George, the man-about-town, and James, the weirdo. They were all there, even Marci, who had left the team to go jumpstart her lounge-singing career up in Canada. They hadn’t all been together in years, and Drew contemplated the thought that they might never again.
Just then, a knock came at the door. Drew hastily placed the picture back on the desk, patted down his disheveled hair and tried to look like he hadn’t spent about six months on the verge of bathing in cheap bourbon.
“Come in,” he said loudly towards the door.
In walked a woman he’d never seen before in the Burger Blog world. She was clearly not from around here. She walked straight over to the desk, pushed aside some dirty clothes that were in the chair in front of the oak desk and sat down.
“I have a job for you,” she said. “My name is Lola. And you’ll need your whole crew back together for this one.”
Holy crap! Can it be? Is it real? You betcha, burgerteers! We’re back, and I mean all of us! After a long-ass absence your favorite burger crew in the entire burgerverse has returned with a vengeance, complete with ALL the members and a few special guests! Well, Domingo isn’t with us, but Domingo was never all that popular with anybody but a few old chickenhawks who enjoy a handsome Latino ladyboy. We’ll miss him, but those Go-Go shorts aren’t going to wear themselves.
But otherwise, the gang is indeed all here! James, Marci, Joe, George, Chris, Leila, Erica and Drew…
And, because it just wouldn’t be right to wait this long between posts without something special, we have some guests joining us for the review as well. As longtime readers - or at least longtime Burger Blog fans who don’t just skim the pictures - know, your humble Burger narrator hails from the wilds of Michigan, where a man can be a man and a tractor is a viable form of transportation. Well, most of our family still resides there, and on this particular occasion we got a visit from my one and only sister, Lola.
Lola had two requests before coming to San Francisco - first, she wanted to smoke some of this so-called “opium” in one of those “dens” she’d been hearing so much about. Lola was reading some pretty outdated promotional materials before she came.
But she also wanted to join the esteemed Burger Crew for a trip out to review some San Francisco burger action. Seeing as how we hadn’t done a review in ages, it seemed like it was time. I climbed to the top of City Hall to turn on the Burger Signal to get the crew in action. Then, after being released from jail for climbing to the top of city hall and drunkenly shouting something about a Burger Signal, I used Gmail to schedule the trip.
We were also lucky enough to be joined for the journey by our esteemed friend Will, who keeps us laughing with his sexy limericks and, oddly enough, hardcore racial vulgarity. Who’da thunk it? We’d been trying to get Will to join us for a burger run for years, but his parole officer finally gave the okay and here he is!
So, where would we go? What place could possibly stand to get reviewed by San Francisco’s most volatile, intense Burger Crew after so long an absence? Would it live up to the hype? Can we, after such a long absence? Of course we can. Let’s do this.
Custom Burger is a stylish little shop located in San Francisco’s SoMa district, which means South of Market, aka where the warehouses used to be and where the new rich people are building condos. Just a short hop from Union Square or the crack-tastic goodness of the Tenderloin, Custom Burger offers a menu with several options for beef - including Kobe - and promises lots of options to customize (cough cough) your burger, anyway you want it. Like Burger King, but without old people arguing in the booth next to you.
The menu is so extensive, in fact, they offer handy little sheets for you to mark up with your order preferences as you line up to make your selection. It is, after all, very difficult to remember what type of beef, cheese, toppings and bun you prefer if you’ve spent the day taking pulls from a half-gallon of Thunderbird at work. Not mentioning any James - excuse me, names - but you know how it is.
The menu is still on the complicated side, however. You’re picking between meats, toppings and even sauces.
If anybody in the world knows what Hoisin Glaze is, please let us know. The somewhat gruff staff at Custom Burger grunted an explanation at us but it was of little help, and upon trying to search for it online all I get are YouTube clips of Jerry Lewis screaming at women while wearing funny glasses.
Custom Burger also goes by our favorite ordering system of ordering and paying at the counter. This is very handy when you plan on stiffing your server, or if your server acts like you just insulted their mother when you ask for more water and deserves the old two-bits-and-pocket-lint routine. But the menu was so intense it took most of us quite a bit of study to pick out what we wanted. Even with the worksheet it took most of us 5-10 minutes to make our final selections.
Finally, we all completed both the math and verbal sections of Custom’s odyssey to make our final orders, hunkered down and awaited the results. Would we be blessed, or would we be damned?
In our typical Going For The Gusto/Diabetes fashion, we all ordered up quite a few of Custom’s sides, which started coming out pretty quickly. George made sure to get some onion rings, because it’s not a meal without onion rings!
The regular fries are also nothing to shake an insulin stick at, either. Custom serves up their sides in cute little mini-fry-o-later tubs, just to remind you that a few moments ago they were taking nature’s pure, wholesome goodness and dipping it in boiling fat before loading it with salt and carrying it to you. Take that, wholesome nature!
It should also be noted that while Custom offers the standard bevy of sodas and a few milkshakes, they don’t sell beer. However, nobody said anything when George ran to the nearest Check Cashing/Boozeporium location and grabbed a few tall boys in paper bags. The lesson here is, if a lot of you are wearing shirts and ties, you can get away with almost everything, including drinking in an establishment before Noon while almost everybody else is eating breakfast. Take note, kids. It comes in handy.
So, after enjoying a few fries, onion rings and pulls from booze bottles in paper bags the real reason for our trip began to emerge. Get ready to put on the red lights, Roxanne. It’s burger time!
Ahh, good old reliable George. “Keep them fancy sauces and new-fangled cheeses away from me!” shouts George as he waves his fist in the air. George went with Custom’s standard 1/3 lb. Angus option, cooked medium rare with his Straight Outta Maybury veggie combo of lettuce, tomato and onion. George also made sure to let them know to keep mayonnaise far away from his burger at all costs. You tossed that frisbee in my yard and now it’s mine, you rotten kids!
Erica also got the 1/3 lb. Angus burger, topped with Pineapple and Cheddar. Custom throws in a pickle spear with every burger, and you get to choose from five different kinds of bun, including Potato Pepper, Brioche and multigrain, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Lola got the 1/3 lb. Angus burger with some Arugula, tomato and Red Pepper Feta Tapenade. Actually, I could be totally wrong on that, because my notes for her burger look like I had a stroke in the middle of a car crash, but I am also a genius who can look at things and guess relatively accurately.
I was among the members to opt for the 1/2 lb. Kobe beef patty, topped off with pepperjack cheese, black olive tapenade, sauteed onion and “secret sauce.” I also ordered the Potato Pepper bun but got the Sesame Seed, and while complaining about something like that would make most people feel like they were the person at the coffee shop complaining about the barista only getting their espresso up to 130 degrees instead of the standard 143, it began to point to a trend of some lackluster effort behind the counter.
James, also nicknamed Ironguts Von Greasenhammer, got the 1/2 lb. Kobe patty, topped with Pepperjack, jalapenos and chipotle mayo. James once again wins the prize for Gutsiest Order Ever Prior To Having To Drive For An Hour. For a guy who looks like the goody-goody member of the Statler Brothers he likes to live on the wild side.
Leila got the 1/3 lb. Angus with cheddar, arugula, black olive tapenade and a side of pesto mayonnaise. If you get one of their special mayo items they come in a handy little cup that attaches adorably to your burger tray. It also makes it dangerously tempting to dip your fries/onion rings/mozzarella sticks/fingers into it.
Joe ordered up a 1/2 lb. Kobe burger with jalapenos, tomato, raw onion and Custom’s special Ketchapeno sauce, which also sounds like a game my Filipino in-laws play at the nearby casino. First one to Ketchapino pays for the first round of coffee at karaoke!
And last, but most troublingly, is Chris’ burger. I don’t say it was troubling because it was a 1/2 lb. Kobe. We love our 1/2 lb. Kobe burgers. And I don’t shy away because it also had bacon, swiss cheese and roasted garlic aioli, all of which just transform an awesome burger into HELLA AWESOME. This burger was troubling because despite Chris having specifically asked for it to be cooked medium rare, it came out somewhere between medium well and shoe leather. In fact, for the first time - the very, very first time - in Burger Blog history, a burger was sent back to be remade. Not a good sign for Custom Burger. Would they recover? Could it be true? We all dug in to see what the final outcome could be.
Let the judgement begin!
Why I Oughta, You Dirty Rat: Meat Quality
Custom Burger gets their meat fresh daily from the Golden Gate Meat Company, which is a fine reputable source who not only grind up solid burger, but also make some great sausages and other products. Plus, most places who take the time to keep Kobe on hand are trying to make sure a hardcore burger fan can really enjoy the experience.
However, on our trip the Kobe was the wrong way to go. In fact, just about everybody who got the 1/2 lb. Kobe commented that it was overcooked and pretty flavorless, especially in comparison to the other toppings involved. Custom Burger has the policy of cooking everything to Medium Well unless otherwise specified, but even those of us who ordered it Medium Rare got a nice hard light-black disc of meat instead of the gooey, slightly pink orb of goodness we were planning on.
On the other hand, the people who went with the 1/3 lb. Angus patty were pretty happy with their preparation results and had them cooked to the level they’d asked for. If you find yourself in Custom and are wondering whether to spring for the Kobe, in our experience you’re better off with the Angus. It came out prepared properly and doesn’t have the added frustration of springing for extra bucks for a cow that was allowed to have feelings.
But come on; if you’re going to bother to have Kobe on the menu don’t overcook it. Even after they “fixed” Chris’ order it was still nothing resembling a quality burger. That cow probably knew how to speak several languages; we can at least show some respect before we eat it and turn it into poop.
I‘m Gonna Plug Ya: Final Meat Score - 3 Hot Dames out of 10
You’ll Never Catch Me, Copper - Sides Score
The rumor is that Custom Burger actually makes their own sides, although the crew we were dealing with seemed to be hungover, had just found out they were all being audited, lost a bet and realized they were out of underwear all on the same day, because any and all questions were met with some lovely one-syllable “yes” or “no”-esque grunts, so I can’t be sure.
However, in this case we were all lucky enough that you have to try pretty hard to ruin making french fries and onion rings, and they all came out pretty tasty.
For those of us who’d swung for the fences with the Kobe, the sides were the only saving grace. Custom also serves up some pretty solid sweet potato fries and mozzarella sticks, even though by the time they came out we’d all tried our burgers and some of us were worried they could mess up frying cheese. Lucky for us, it apparently can’t be done. They were delicious.
Swim With The Carbs: Final Sides Score - 8 Cement Shoes out of 10
You’re Gonna Pay Fer This: What Happens After Score
So, you settle in at Custom, order yourself a Kobe and then find yourself hunkering down to meal of crushed hopes and dreams and the most expensive 1/2 lb. of sadness you’ve ever eaten. How do you feel afterwards?
Well, thanks to the quality of the product from the Golden Gate Meat Company, you feel pretty good! In fact, yours truly finished mine off and then was able to go for a long walk and a trek across the Golden Gate with my sister. And yes, almost all of us finished the burger. Unfortunately, they all required far more sauce/mayo/ketchup/mustard than most of us prefer to put on them in order to lube the charred meat down our throats, but we did it. Somewhat out of spite. Some of us, because we’re fat greedy bastards. But also because none of us wanted to know what the things would taste like after a day in the fridge.
So, the good news is, other than possibly choking on your rage from having a Kobe burger ruined you’ll be sitting pretty! Engage in water polo, go for a run, do naked leg-lifts - no matter what, you’re in good shape for that active lifestyle of yours. You will also be fine to fall asleep with Netflix streaming on your iPad without a problem.
You Ain’t Heard The Last Of Me: Final Aftermath Score: 8 out of 10
So, should you go to Custom Burger and get yourself one of their specialty burgers? According to a fair amount of internet folks over on Yelp, quite a few say the preparation is typically very good and exactly to order, the staff is friendly and helpful and it’s a positive experience. When we were there, this was not the case. They were as efficient and professional as one would hope, but the ridiculous amount of overcooking on the Kobe burgers is not reassuring. Our teammates who got the 1/3 lb. Angus were all pretty happy, although nobody said it was among their favorite burgers of all time.
The general consensus is that even the best of Custom’s efforts were workmanlike and not overly exceptional. Price-wise it’s on the more expensive side, making it a little bit hard to recommend, especially considering one of our favorites is right around the corner at Pearl’s Deluxe.
For most of us the best part of the whole trip was getting the band back together for the first time in about nine months, and Custom was a bright, comfortable spot to hang out again as a group. If I was determined to get a good burger I would probably just stick to the nearby Pearl’s, but I would also be interested in trying Custom again when they’ve got their A-team behind the grill. But in the meantime, we’ve gotta give Custom a SKIP IT.
And with that, once again we must bid you adieu, burger fans. It will be less time before the next review, as Leila and I made a sojourn with another team not long ago and I’ll be posting up that review in a few weeks. But in the meantime, we’ll be planning our next trip before too much longer and to tide you over, here’s a picture of George using an iPhone. Seriously, this never happens. Thanks for reading!