With Beef Power Comes Beef Responsibility
Aloha and salutations, burger fiends. Summer is in full swing and your favorite crew of burger-chomping mad men (and women) have returned. We meant to be back sooner, but all of us went to see “Transformers 3: The Hunt For Transformy’s Gold” and the 3-D gave us all aneurysms. Except for George. George was fast asleep.
Summer is a weird time in San Francisco anyway; the temperature doesn’t really go up but the city fills with tourists from all over the world, places as obscure and backwards as Lithuania, the Czech Republic or Florida. And of all the people, the Floridians usually have the weirdest habits - seriously, TWO fanny packs? Well, I guess one is just for all the cigarettes they need in a six-hour time span and the other is filled with Disney Dollars, but seriously - get a backpack. Preferably one without a Bon Jovi decal.
Even with our mild weather, however, San Franciscans still like to find an excuse to enjoy some barbecued meat, including burgers. And it was just our luck that only recently a brand-spanking-new burger joint opened up on Market Street near Union Square, complete with plenty of rave reviews and a line out the door. Those are usually good signs. But can they stand up to the hype?
Super Duper Burgers now has two locations, the first being in the Castro and the second being their new Market Street restaurant. Within a matter of the Market opening we were getting e-mails, Facebook messages, Tweets, Google+ invites, Friendster requests and carrier pigeons suggesting - nay, demanding - that we try it. And since it’s in a location I walk by relatively frequently, I had seen and smelled the goods beforehand. All of us were eager to give it a chance. And other patrons were probably happy that the fat guy was going to stop standing over them, sniffing their burgers and staring at them while they ate.
The place looks small from the outside, but once inside you realize it’s pretty huge. And it’s a good thing, because Super Duper is typically swamped for the lunch rush. Another note: if you don’t live in the area and are driving there, you may want to meditate, take a Xanax or pound a stiff drink or two beforehand. I don’t want to encourage drunk driving, but operating a motor vehicle around Union Square and attempting to park in the summertime is the mental equivalent of having to compete in a kickboxing tournament blindfolded. Unless you’re (a) Jean Claude Van Damme, (b) high on cocaine or (c) both of those things at the same time, you’re not gonna have much luck.
Eventually, the whole crew assembled and we grabbed a large table on their second floor tier, giving us a great view of the goings-on and the gigantic line that formed shortly after we arrived and ordered. Super Duper utilizes the counter ordering method, then leaves you to fend for yourself for a table. Not a terrible method, but considering their popularity if you arrive after Noon you may find yourself in a knife or pickle fight for a seat. And once a San Franciscan gets a seat, they tend to enjoy lounging there for a while. Be prepared.
On the positive side, Super Duper gets their beef ground fresh daily, AND it’s Niman Ranch, typically a great sign for the flavors soon to arrive into the faceholes. They also don’t have a set menu of specialty burgers - just a menu of toppings for you to choose from. The first few come free, with extras and some more awesome toppings - bacon, fried egg, etc. - costing another sheckel or three. With a little belt-tightening you could feasibly walk out with a burger and fries inside you for less than $10, but I doubt many who read this are in it for the tightening of belts. They just get tighter on their own.
So we ordered, and we waited. Despite having a big crew in the kitchen, the food did take a little longer than expected. But it was still fresh and hot when it came out, so we won’t dock them too many points.
The wait WAS long enough, however, that George felt the need to order a beer and fries as an apertif - the “Gentleman’s Repast,” as we called it - prior to his burger. And with legs like that, who can argue?
Chris bided his time with one of Super Duper’s alcoholic shakes. They make all of their shakes with organic cream from a local dairy, and for a little extra you can get booze in it. Finally, all our teenage girl dreams came true. Never again shall we have to resort to Kamchatka in a Shamrock Shake on the sidewalk. And then finally, the food began to come. By the power of Beefskull, here comes food porn!
Erica got the “Mini,” meaning a 4 ounce patty with lettuce, tomato and onion. She didn’t ask for onion, but she got it. She also got cheese, which comes in one variety: orange. Seriously, check the menu - you either want cheese, or you don’t. I’d guess it’s American, because that’s a pretty American way of offering something. If ya don’t like it, git out! *insert Tobey Keith guitar riff here*
Joe got a Super Burger, meaning two 4 ounce patties for a half-pound of delight. He topped it off with everything, including Jalapenos, because Joe is a spicy fellow who enjoys the conga beat. Joe also opted to get his regular fries with Super Duper’s three dips for an extra buck, which they describe as “Super Sauce,” “Homemade Mayo” and “Chipotle.” And by the way, those pickles are homemade and free! Free! FREE! with purchase. My grandmother would be happy, if her heart didn’t stop from eating too many free pickles.
Our guest Christina got a mini with grilled onions, jalapenos and and order of fries. Super Duper offers regular and garlic fries, and as you can see they come in a heaping pile that would make most residents of Oklahoma shout, “Awww shucks and crawdaddy pipers!” They say that in Oklahoma, right?
Chris got a Super Burger with the Lee Greenwood cheese, lettuce, red onions and grilled onions. He also lived life in the fast lane by ordering his fries with their signature three dipping sauces, not to mention his spiked vanilla shake. Elvis would be proud.
James stepped up to the counter, took a long hard look at himself and contemplated the long drive he had ahead of him after the meal and decided to take it to the limit. If we were a band, James would be the lead singer who starts out all wishy-washy and within a year is shooting drugs into his eyeballs and puking on the audience. James ordered a triple burger, meaning 3/4 of a pound of meat, WITH cheese and everything else except for the pickle and onion. Vegetables would have just gotten in the way.
I had felt pretty awesome about my order until seeing James and his stack of beef. I got a Super Burger with cheese, lettuce, onion and a fried egg, and also on the tray is Leila’s burger - a Super with tomato, onion, lettuce, their special “Super Sauce” and the ‘merica cheese. We also got an order of regular fries and garlic fries but went with plain old ketchup. When you’ve got an egg on your burger, dipping your fries into mayonnaise just seems a little too “I’m gonna die on a toilet”-y.
And never to be forgotten, our man George got a regular burger with his standard toppings - lettuce, tomato and onions. He did, however, mistakenly get the Super Sauce instead of his regular mustard. It’s the first time he’s had a variation on his burger toppings since you could smoke in a hospital.
And thus, the diggin’-in began. One thing we all notice pretty quickly was that the grease quotient at Super Duper is on the higher side - not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you could walk in wearing a white shirt and walk out looking like you sat up front at a Gallagher concert, and nobody wants to be accused of that.
James especially had his work cut out for him, but nobody puts baby in a corner - he attacked with gusto and made it work without a single drop on his clothing. Truly, a foppish dandy of the highest order.
So, what did we think and how does Super Duper stack up? Read on, compadres…
Great Burger’s Ghost: Meat Quality - for being a freshly-ground Niman Ranch burger, almost all of us were a little underwhelmed with the flavor of the patties. They were a little on the bland side and tended to be outdone by the toppings, especially in the case of the lone 4-ounce patty burgers.
Luckily for San Franciscans, Niman Ranch is becoming de rigueur (that’s a San Franciscy way of saying common) at burger joints, much like sourdough bread or the table filled with loud Asian people who chug coffee like overnight security guards. So, maybe we were less impressed with it than we should be, but many of us noted that more seasoning was needed - nothing special, just a bit of a devoted mother’s love. Barring that, some salt and pepper would be great. By the time you add the veggies, cheese, bacon or fried egg, the greasy patty gets left behind. We showed up ready to be impressed, and were sadly nowhere near as happy as we’d hoped for.
Another issue: Super Duper prepares all their burgers the same, around a Medium done-ness. It appears all their beef is rolled up into 4 ounce balls, then smashed onto the flattop when the time comes to be cooked and eaten like a kid in a nursery rhyme. And just like their cheese, Super Duper gives you one option: cooked. For those of us who like a little “moo” left in the meat, it was acceptable but a little disappointing.
We’ve also been told that the Portabello mushroom burger is fantastic, but that would have involved ordering something that hadn’t been alive to know hopes and dreams, so we have no idea.
Burger-Man No More: Final Meat Score - 6 issues out of a series of 10.
My Sides, My Vengeance: Side Dish Score - Super Duper has two sides to go with your burger; fries or garlic fries. There’s also salad, but let’s be serious here. Luckily for all of us, the fries are none too shabby. The regular fries have a great ratio of crispiness-to-chewiness to them and aren’t overly salted to the point of resembling the flavor of a dead clown’s alcohol-ravaged skin. The garlic fries are essentially the regular fries doused in garlic and were decent, everybody who tried them gave a thumbs-up but as a crew I think we all favored the regular fries and gave them high marks.
The dipping sauces, however, didn’t get much fanfare. While none of us could claim to be totally innocent when it comes to occasionally dipping fries in mayonnaise, or even a strange mixture of mayo and ketchup that I like to call “Awesome Sauce.” But after forking over an extra buck for three small containers of the various sauces, nobody was very enthused. Joe went so far as to begin referring to them as “rips” instead of “dips,” because Joe is the Oscar Wilde of the Burger Blog. Bon Mots like that are wasted on the rubes and should instead be uttered between sips of champagne and cucumber sandwiches!
On another plus, though - the pickles. Super Duper really does just leave it up to you how many of their pickles you greedily pile on to enjoy with your burger, and they make them themselves. Some of us thought that perhaps the pickles could have stood to have spent a bit more time in the briney deep, soaking up the pickleriffic pickle-ness, but they still had a nice bite to them. If pickles are becoming the hipster snack of today, then Super Duper is offering a nice incentive to stop by in your tightest pants, hoodie and sense of ennui and pose as you eat pickles.
The Dark Pickle Saga: Final Sides Score - 8 consumed planets out of 10
The Power Cosmic: What Happens After Score - So, Super Duper has clearly carved out a handy niche for area burger fans to stop by on their lunch hour and grab a burger. And the line was out the door almost the whole time we were there. But is their beef suitable for a professional to consume, then return to work, or will there be missed meetings, uncomfortable afternoons and lots of excuses for those weird noises that happen when people hold in farts?
First up, afterwards James felt pretty terrible. But let’s face it - the guy ate a triple burger. Given my habits of drinking the demon rum and only utilizing my gym membership for bathroom breaks while walking between bars, I clearly do not expel a lot of energy respecting my own body. And I never even considered getting a triple burger. Buy the ticket, take the ride, as they say.
The rest of us felt pretty good with little to no ramifications. The quality of the Niman Ranch beef helped us remain solid citizens who were able to function within polite society, whereas James spent the remainder of his waking hours in the fetal position. Maybe that will teach him. But I sure hope not.
Galactus Feeds: Final Aftermath Score - 8 cosmic heralds out of 10
And the final verdict? For the most part, we put Super Duper as a middle-of-the-road burger joint. George, always having to be a special snowflake, stood out as saying he loved it and would put it near the top of his list. Chris was solidly at “meh” and Erica compared it to In-N-Out Burger, primarily in presentation and topping options.
And in all likelihood, yours truly will be stopping by Super Duper again in the future. The beef needed a little extra mustard to spice up the flavor but they had a decent flavor, especially when combined with the regular fries and some of their homemade pickles.
Our strongest recommendation, however, is to avoid the lunch rush. Get there early or come mid-afternoon, because if you show up between Noon and 1 p.m. you’re going to be forced to queue up like you’re at the DMV, except without the promise of those golden personalities of a government employee at the end of the line. Awww naw you didn’t!
If you’re a burger fan, Super Duper is a must-try. But be sure to time your visit properly, or you’re going to be chewing on frustration waaaaaay before you get to a burger.
As always, thanks for reading, burger fans! We’ll be back soon with more burgerventures. Same burger time, same burger channel.