Parental Warnings In The Wake of Surf And Turf Evil
It might seem silly to believe in prophecies, but beware, fair Burger reader…for to ignore them is to court danger. Too many have come true for them to be total nonsense - for instance, some gypsy palm reader on the Jersey boardwalk once told Bon Jovi that he would see a million faces and gently prod them at best, but his curse would be to believe that each face had been rocked. America’s been in a dark artistic drop ever since, and no amount of poofy hair has stopped it.
But another prophecy once fell upon my family, and lo, it has come to pass. Many years ago, my mother visited the doctor when she realized she wasn’t feeling well. The doctor informed her that she was with child, and she was nervous and scared but excited as she walked out of the doctor’s office. As she made her way to her stylish Buick, she crossed paths with an old woman that she had never met before. The woman looked at my mother, and just then her eyes went totally black like shark eyes and the sky went dark, as she grabbed my mother by the arm and uttered the prophecy that would change all our lives.
"You will give birth to a boy," the woman uttered in an unholy tone. "He will grow large and pretentious, and one day he will travel to a golden city where he will meet a bunch of weirdos and they will ride around, eating meat between bread and say stupid things about it."
"How do you know this?" my mother asked the old lady. But by the time she asked the woman’s eyes had returned to normal and she looked just as confused as she was. She shook her head, then looked back at my mother.
"Is this the way to the yard sale?" she asked.
Welcome back, dear readers! As always we could make excuses for the reviews appearing less and less, but once again we’ve stocked the review in our favor and we have not just the usual cast of characters but a slew of guests, including my parents Doug and Holly visiting from Michigan. The snow let up for a few minutes so they took advantage and hopped a flight out.
That’s right, these are the two who gave life to the genius that sits down to type these magnum opuses, now at the rate of about two a year! They hadn’t been able to make the trip out to San Francisco for a couple of years, so we knew we had to show them a good time while they were here. And ain’t no party like a burger blog party, ‘cause a burger blog party only stops when you’re out of Lipitor.
Also joining us for this review were our associates Cece and Ryan, who had both wanted to join in on the burger fun for ages but hadn’t had a chance, because our initiation involves a lot of late-night old lady muggings, and that stuff is hard to fit into your schedule. And we’re also happy to announce the return of a member thought lost and gone to the ages…
Marci’s back, everybody! That’s right, the cool and casual voice of reason has returned, although she did allow some of the dumbest nonsense the Burger Blog crew has ever attempted on this particular review, but she’s been gone for a while and once we get a dumb idea in our heads, it’s hard to put on the brakes.
So, the members have been assembled, let’s get all up in that burger review.
Tower Burger is a small-ish, nondescript little joint located on Portola Drive in a neighborhood called Miraloma Park, as in, “no, I’ve lived in San Francisco for six years and never heard of Miraloma Park.” It’s among the few areas in San Francisco where (a) you almost HAVE to drive there and (b) there is plentiful parking. But it’s also still San Francisco, so even with a big parking lot outside there were still hungry parking meters that required the low, low rate of about a dollar for every fifteen minutes. But still - parking!
Tower Burger boasts a current Yelp rating of 4 out of 5 stars and sells fresh Niman Ranch beef, both of which intrigued us. They also employ our favorite lunch-style ordering system where you put in your request at the counter and pay, they give you a number and start hauling out the food. So we all perused their menu and made our choices.
Tower has a selection of about a dozen of their own burger recipes, and they also offer a Garden Burger (blech) as well as salads and their own fish & chips recipe. We’ll have more on that one later. In the meantime, we all started putting in our orders and gave the kitchen quite a workload to start with as we got our drinks and settled in.
Marci and Cece decided to split a good old-fashioned chocolate milkshake, which Tower makes using Mitchell’s Ice Cream, as well as the secret ingredients of love and milk. Both gave the sweet beverage high marks.
As we’re known to do, the crew also ordered up some extra sides of fries and onion rings…just for good measure, of course. It should also be noted that while Tower Burger is a classy joint, they only offer beer and wine for booze options, so if you need whiskey or tequila you’re out of luck. But fearing they wouldn’t have anything (their menu online doesn’t mention beer and wine) George quickly sniffed out the nearest check cashing/payday loans/Four Loko-esque emporium and came back with one of those bottles in a paper bag that totally fools everybody while keeping the possessor in a DT’s-free hops-happy warm and fuzzy place.
It wasn’t too long and the burgers started coming out of the kitchen…and unfortunately, they got a little spaced out. Although to be totally fair, we were among their first guests of the day at about 11 a.m. and we hit them with about a dozen orders in a matter of minutes, so we won’t be docking them any points for it. But enough of that…off to the races; it’s Burger Time!
If you’ve read any of our prior reviews, you know two things for sure: (a), we do NOT trust Whitey. That white-skinned devil will trick you at every turn. And (b), George only orders his burgers one way: medium rare, regular with lettuce, onion, pickles and tomatoes. Fries on the side. Then he slathers it with mustard, Likes Ike and jitterbugs it down his tum-tum, preferably with some of that new-fangled Jazz playing on the Rockola.
Marci went with Tower’s California Burger, featuring Jack Cheese, sprouts, the perennial Cali topping Avocado and also a hands-free cellphone law that nobody obeys. The burger ran two red lights while talking to its life partner about doing hot yoga later while on its way down to be digested.
Erica got the regular cheeseburger, medium rare with Tower’s aged cheddar. It was so aged it looked at George’s burger order and said, “groovy order, brother.” Erica opted to skip the fries and onion rings, in lieu of planning on “having a waist” and “living a long time.” Kids these days, huh?
Cece’s order was a conundrum for me, because as you can see she didn’t order a burger and instead got their Mushroom Chicken Sandwich, which is a grilled chicken breast topped with freshly sauteed mushrooms. Normally I’d be forced to ridicule her for the chicken, but Cece is also prone to stomach issues when she eats beef - so while I think it’s silly to order a non-burger on a Burger Review, I can also appreciate not wanting to spend the following 36 hours in the fetal position, rising only to curse God and eat Tums. And hey - at least she didn’t order a salad or garden burger. There’s no excuse for that.
Leila ordered up their specialty Tower Burger, which gets topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, your choice of cheese (Leila got cheddar) and everybody’s favorite party guest, bacon! Leila also got a side of onion rings to go with the onion rings we’d also ordered as a side. If there’s anything my digestive tract has taught me, it’s that you can never have enough onions.
Holly ordered up the California burger as well and gave it a healthy dollop of mustard, with the always-classic side of fries to go with it. It should be noted for longtime residents of California that most other states do not come up with specialty burgers or sandwiches to name after their state; in most of the Midwest if you ask for the regional specialty at a burger restaurant they just point you in the direction of the nearest corn field with a large coffee can filled with ranch dressing.
Both my father and I ordered the bacon cheeseburger with cheddar; he got his cooked medium and I got medium-rare. Even as a young lad I remember him telling me, “a burger is always better when two animals had to die to make it happen, son.” A proud family tradition we carry on to this day.
And this is where things started to take a turn into the ridiculous. You see, little did I know that some of our crew, so excited to be back on the case, went ahead and ordered not one, but two entrees. Above is Joe’s regular cheeseburger with cheddar, cooked Medium. But that would not be enough for Joe…
Joe also thought it would be a wise idea to get Tower’s two-piece fish & chips plate. I applaud his gumption and willingness to sacrifice the rest of his day for burger blog glory. But not to be outdone, James also went for the gusto…
Being more brave or more foolish than the rest of us (or a combination of the two) James got not just the California burger, but also Tower’s Chili Burger, which comes with a bowl of their house-made chili for you to distribute as you see fit on your burger, like the King of Calories you are.
Not wanting to be left out of Tummypocalypse ‘13, Chris took a gander on the menu and decided he didn’t want a burger doused in chili…but fries? Yeah, better get on that.
They may misspell Chili on their menu (they call it “chilli”) but they don’t mess around with their Chili fries, going for a simple process of taking a large pile of fries, coating them in as much chili as they can carry and then dousing it with the meltiest, neon-iest cheese in the land. When you’re going for a heavy influx of fat, grease and carbs, it’s good to keep it topped with a color that does not occur in nature.
Chris also got a bacon cheeseburger with Swiss cooked medium-rare. Man cannot live on chili fries alone! Well, he probably could, but he would probably also be cool with having chili fries AND a bacon cheeseburger.
And finally, Ryan ordered up a Tower Cheeseburger with cheddar, cooked medium rare with a side of fries. He also helped Chris on Chili Fries duty, because no man should go into battle alone.
And thusly, the eating began!
Being famished when we walked in, Fancy McBowTie here was among the first to dig in and finish his burger, but not until he’d also made sure to sample both the fish and chili from other members. He may look like a gentleman, but deep inside is the heart of a seagull.
Somewhere in between dignity and bottoming out, a fiendish idea started to pop up in the brains of Joe and James. Joe was becoming exhausted with shoveling in food from multiple plates, and with the knowledge that we’d encountered a Surf-N-Turf burger at other locations, Joe began constructing a Frankenstein’s Monster Burger, topping what was left of his cheeseburger with some of his fish, complete with tartar sauce and topped off with hot sauce just for good measure.
Oddly enough, the flavor wasn’t what he’d hoped - the combination of burger, cheese, ketchup and mustard and fish, tartar sauce and hot sauce made him question his actions and vow to destroy the creature with fire.
The other thing we discovered is that while not terrible buns, Tower’s bread had a hard time holding up in the wake of the messier burgers. A chili burger is hard to keep together regardless, and finally James opted to go to the knife-and-fork routine. And while he was at it, he topped it off with some fries. Because it was that kind of day.
And with that, let the judgement begin. Does this burger joint “tower” over the rest? Or will they be terrible, like that pun? Onto the numbers!
To The Windows, To The Walls: Burger Quality Score
Tower is serving up a solid burger with Niman Ranch beef, which they get delivered fresh, as they also do with the veggies they top the burger with. They also did a good job of cooking them exactly to order, with those of us who prefer things medium-rare getting a little extra juice and goo in the buns, just like we wanted, whereas those who went for their burger slightly more done were also cooked to perfection; not as much juice but also not turned into shoe leather that is only edible if you’re drenching it in ranch dressing or are 90-years-old.
For those of us who avoided going too nuts with the toppings the flavor was good, with the cheese and veggies accompanying the meat well, while not overpowering the burger’s flavor. Those who went with chili or fish, tartar sauce and hot sauce were not as pleased, but in that case Joe was quick to admit that the blame for that monstrosity was entirely on him; Tower didn’t offer their own Affront To God burger, he had constructed that one all by himself. But Tower’s regular options were all pleasing and well-received.
'Till The Chili Drips Down My Face: Final Burger Score - 7 out of 10
Ride The Calories: Sides and Stuff Score
Tower also says they get their veggies delivered fresh and daily to prepare their sides, salads and toppings. Unfortunately, the onion rings and fries don’t necessarily taste like they were lovingly prepared that morning.
And that’s not to say they weren’t tasty - in fact, not many fries or onion rings survived our visit. But the overwhelming opinion is that it was hard to tell if these were prepared fresh or had been pulled from the freezer and dumped in the grease - but in any case, we all made a valiant effort to eat every iota of carbohydrate and fat-laden brown goodness on our plates. So, fresh or not, they did the trick.
And then there was the fish, perhaps the most controversial item of the review. Joe, who sampled it both in its intended, plain form and combined with everything else but the kitchen sink, as nobody intended, said that regardless of delivery method it was basic bottom-feeding fish coated with breading and fried and wasn’t much to write home about unless you had a few dozen pints of Guinness in your belly first, when any plate of fish & chips will have you chim-chim-cheree’ing all the way to the Loo to paint the bowl the colors of the Union Jack, God save the queen.
On the other hand, George (who finished his burger early and began scavenging immediately thereafter) said the fish was great and that he enjoyed every bite. The question was, would we believe Joe or George? On one hand George is older and wiser, but he also got the fish for free and we all know he loves free food. Joe also has a pretty good palette, but he’s Italian, and we all know they’re a filthy mobster race who are not to be trusted any more than you can throw a bloody wifebeater out of a slow-moving Cadillac. Hard to pick which one to believe.
And Carbs For All: Final Sides Score - 6 out of 10
The fries and onion rings were good but not great, and one glimpse at the fish led most of us to believe it wasn’t the freshest catch of the day. Not a bad showing but not the best we’ve ever seen.
Behold The Coming Darkness: Aftermath Score
So, how did we all feel after the burger feast? Most of us were in tip-top shape, with Tower’s charbroiled preparation keeping the burgers from getting overly greasy, and the fresh ingredients paid off as well. In fact, yours truly took the parents to a favorite bar afterwards to wash it down with some whiskey and Irish coffees and still felt great.
There was a little grumbling from the hardcores who had racked up multiple orders that they were a bit uncomfortable, but those get chocked entirely up to their own greed. Just like in Aesop’s Fables, when you review burgers and go too far, your fate is sealed. Chubby Icarus shouldn’t fly too close to the burger sun, because he’s already kind of sweaty.
Too Big To Fail: Final Aftermath Score - 8 out of 10
So, should you saddle up and make the trek to Tower Burger? It’s a nice joint and the service was pleasant but not overbearing, with fresh Niman Ranch and veggies with a few specialty items that we all enjoyed, if not loved outright. It’s certainly a trek to get there and I wouldn’t call it a Destination Burger, but if you’re visiting nearby Twin Peaks and need some beef to fuel your hiking or reward yourself afterwards, Tower is a great option.
Final Review Score: 7 out of 10
And so it goes, another review is in the books. Thank you all for reading, and in the meantime if you’d like to keep yourself entertained your humble burger blog writer has recently started a podcast, so you can put me directly into your head without all this troublesome reading. And you can still find us on Facebook and all that good stuff.
San Francisco Burger Blog on Facebook
Chucklepedia - The Podcast
And I’d also like to thank my parents for coming out to visit San Francisco and enjoying a burger with us. Thanks again, everybody! We’ll see you soon.