Super Duper Burgers, 721 Market Street, San Francisco

An excellent smashburger; crisp and greasy in all the right ways

Burger source

“Fresh, quality produce, meat, dairy and buns, sourced from partners located just miles from our restaurants, are the ingredients to making the perfect burger,” is the ethos of Super Duper Burgers. In practice, this means: “All our beef is Brandt Farms, humanely-raised, 100% vegetarian-fed, ground fresh daily, and sourced from a family-owned ranch.”

Fast food burgers with slow-food values, apparently. Founder Adrian Paganini feels passionately that ‘a burger shouldn’t cost $3’ and has structured the chain to offer the best combination of quality and value. This means a simple menu – few sides, few variants on the burgers – and prices in the mid-range for quality burgers. There was a queue when I popped in on a Sunday evening…

The order

I had a ‘super duper’ burger with cheese and bacon – two 4oz patties smashed and scraped off a hot griddle with a ‘sharp’ spatula. Cooked medium, you’re warned to expect grease, and the burger has the restaraunt’s proprietary ‘super sauce’ (think; lighter burger sauce) and a portion of fries. Together with a ‘fountain’ drink – unlimited refills from a soda machine – the meal came to about $16 as part of a combo order.

The meat of it

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This is a good burger; a fresh, soft bun (standard bun, non-brioche), fresh salad (red onion, lettuce, tomato), super-melty cheese and super crispy bacon, held together in paper that also holds back the grease and spillover super sauce. So far, so super.

On first bite… you get all the crisp, charred, salty wonder that you’d hope for in a smash burger – so called because patties are pressed down onto a hot griddle and crisp up as the fat melts out, and they’re then scraped off the griddle to capture all the crispy elements. The (American) cheese binds the whole thing together wonderfully and the faint hint of the super sauce in the background, alongside the tomato and lettuce, adds a slight sweetness to this glorious, greasy umami-fest.

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In cross section, you can see the glory of the smash; the melt on the cheese and the vivid freshness of the salad. The bacon is quality, thick, crispy streaky bacon. The bun has a good stability to it; it holds up to othe grease well but doesn’t interrupt the burger experience with unnecessary flavour. If anything’s wrong with this burger at all, for me, it’s on two minor counts. 1) I’d have liked more/thicker/richer/sweeter burger sauce to temper all the saltiness a tiny bit more and 2) I’d expected pinker meat in a 4oz patty smash. If they’d done the burger as a 2oz patty smash then there’s no room for pinkness in the middle; as it was I felt it was a smidge overdone. But just a smidge.

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The fries were good; well-seasoned, crisp on the outside and squidgy in the middle, and clearly made from a high grade of potato. But they need sauce, and I didn’t plump to spend the additional $1.50-2 for a variety of sauces and/or toppings. Next time I will make the investment!

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 4.5/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – 4/5 -might have scored better with sauce
Value – 4/5 – $16 for a combo meal of a high grade burger in a fast food environment. Very good value for SFO but SFO is an expensive city!
Burger rating – 4.5/5 – a very, very good burger I’d be happy to have again.

The deets

Super Duper Burgers sells $30m of burgers a year around San Francisco and its environs. Find your nearest branch here.

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Big Fernand, Issy-les-Molyneaux, Paris

A juicy Gallic smashburger (smashburgé?), worth travelling for.

Burger source

Ok, I’ll freely admit – I googled ‘burger restaurant’ near the hotel we were staying at for a business trip and Big Fernand jumped out. I liked the pictures so we headed down.

However, having Google translated the copy on the webpage for this review, I’m SO pleased we went as would TOTALLY travelled for this even if it hadn’t been convenient:

“In the middle of a small Parisian street, at the end of a restaurant of district embalmed with the smell of herbs and fresh bread. A band of mustachus is busy at the rhythm of the sizzling meat just chopped to revisit a dish known by all: the hamburger. Their Hamburgs caress the sweet dream of seducing the most refractory skeptics and offer a second romance to the lovers convinced of the burger. This is how Big Fernand was born: a mixture of popular culture of a dish that brings together people from all backgrounds and products gleaned throughout France.”

There’s only one right reaction to this: wow.

The burgers are cooked as ‘smash’ burgers -a healthy portion of the mince is rolled into a ball and squished down onto the grill with a heavy spatula, cooked in its own fat until crispy, scraped off the grill, flipped for a lesser version of the same treatment before being topped and stacked on the bun, then wrapped in grease-proof paper to serve. By coincidence, my favourite food blogger/scientist Kenji Lopez-Alt has just released a video on the art of a smashburger which explains this technique in a bit more detail (although Big Fernand use MUCH bigger patties and manage to carry it off).

The order

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Pat and I both had the Bartholome, Beef, Swiss Raclette, bacon (lots of bacon), caramelised onions and chives, topped with Big Fernand’s own BBQ sauce. I admit, I ‘doubled up’ for €4, having only had a salad for lunch, which added a second patty, more bacon, cheese and an entire (totally unnecessary) portion of fries. Pat opted for ‘herb fries’ and I went for Paprika fries. All that for €14 (€18 for my double) – with our choice of soft drink. We were offered a choice of how we wanted the burgers cooked and both opted for medium.

The meat of it

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Holy moley. This was a monster. The slightly floppy, very simple seeded white burger bun barely stood up to the heft of a single patty, much less my double. The raclette was copious and melty, and the bacon in plentiful supply, providing a salty chew. The BBQ sauce provided a necessary sweetness, cutting back on the incredible umami from the rest of the burger. Whilst Pat detected a hint of sweetness from the onions, they were lost in my behemoth of a burger. Not a terrible thing given the general deliciousness of the burger as a gestalt.

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The meat itself was a cooked a bit over medium (unusual for France, where the colour ratings on meat are usually one down on what we order in the UK – i.e. medium is usually medium rare etc)., but the high fat ratio of the beef (essential in a smash burger) meant it was no less juicy for it, and the cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce complimented it beautifully. I think they could improve the bun – a sturdier potato roll or even a brioche bun might have stood up to the burger slightly better – but this is really a very minor concern in what was an otherwise magnificent mound of meat (and stuff).

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The fries… were slightly chewier than I’d expect for ‘freshly’ cooked fries (perhaps our batch wasn’t that fresh), and Pat’s herb fries were reminiscent of Honest Burger’s rosemary fries. But the seasoning was nice. They were served with a garlic aioli which was unnecessary (chips needed sweetness, not further saltiness!). Not bad as a combo at all!

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 4/5 – €14/€18 translates to around £12-£15  for the burger, side and drink, and that’s definitely not bad, but probably a little on the high side vs. the very good value burgers you get in London these days. That said, this includes the ‘Brexit’ depreciation tax, given the value of the pound now vs June 22nd 2016…

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – I am totally going back the next opportunity I have to be in range. Fresh, delicious burgers, great service with amusing, interested staff happy to practice their English with us… and lots more to try.

The deets

Big Fernand has lots of locations, but the one we went to was here:  30 rue Ernest Renan, 92130 Issy-Les-Moulineaux. +33 1 41 90 72 55.

There’s even one in London if you can’t wait for the next Paris trip!  12 Percy Street W1T 1DY Londres, +44 207 81 32 586.

Dip & Flip, Battersea Rise

Surprise contender for best burger in London?

Burger Source

I can find surprisingly little on the web on the genesis of this small, seemingly independent chain of burger restaurants. I can tell you what they say about their beef: “West country beef, forerib, chuck, and a little added fat make our 180g patties. They are then smashed onto our imported chrome griddle, which is super hot, sealing in the flavour and creating a wonderful crust, so no flavour is lost on our grill. Served in a soft brioche bun with French’s mustard, ketchup, American cheese, cabbage slaw and pickles.” And, crucially, given it’s a signature feature, what they say about their gravy: “We roast a selection of carefully sourced beef bones to a rich golden brown. Then we simmer them, with organic vegetables and herbs, for a long time. This bone broth is the heart and soul of our gravy. Roasting juices from the bottom of the pan are added to the broth along with a few other little secrets (All beef related) to make our delicious gravy which we serve with almost everything for dipping.”

It’s all pretty delicious.

A little bit of web investigation reveals that “Bob Francis Double Dip Limited”, the company that has registered the dipandflip.co.uk domain name, was founded in February 2013 (as far as Companies House knows), and has one director – presumably company founder – Timothy John Lees, whose past ventures include “Lees Library Consultancy Services Ltd” of Dundee, a company which was wound up in 2014.  Oddly, I was ignored on Twitter when I asked for someone to email some questions to about the company’s history…

Regardless, nothing to see here, so let’s get to the beef.

The order

I went for the bacon double cheeseburger, which was just greedy really. F&D’s 6oz patties are plenty for a single, so you probably don’t need more – I certainly didn’t, but that didn’t stop me finishing it.

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I wasn’t keen to try the actual dip & flip specials, which feature sliced roasted lamb or beef soaked in gravy on top of a burger bun – and felt validated by the choice. Whilst I’m sure it would have been good, I wanted the textural contrast the crispy bacon promised, and didn’t feel that I needed that much gravy. Sides featured regular fries and chilli, gravy, cheese and bacon fries.

The meat of it

Holy moley, this was totally unexpected. The beef patties had a rich, crispy  crust, which surprisingly held a deliciously juicy, perfectly medium patty. The coarsely ground, loosely packed beef was incredibly well seasoned and topped with gooey, delicious cheese. The bacon strips were curled and crispy and packed with salty flavour. Two crisp, large but thin pickle slices, supported by the promised cabbage slaw, protected the underside of the thick, sturdy brioche bun from the intensely beefy juices which dropped out of the burger with each bite, a gift of the burger’s sensibly high fat/lean ratio (I suspect 25%:75%). On initial cross bite, I was worried the burger might be overcooked, but it was just edge factor – the middle of the burger was a perfect medium pink. The (fairly) sweet brioche provided a necessary counterpoint to the umami fest that the rest of the burger represented. Wow. Just wow.

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The fries were crispy but slightly overseasoned. The chilli/gravy/bacon/cheese fries were, on the other hand, perfect. Not soggy till the very end, delicious cheese, a light kick from the chillis and a delicious crunch from the same bacon that topped the burger.

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Almost everything about this meal screamed ‘outstanding’.

But wait, I hear you ask, what about the dip, the gravy? Even the normal burgers come with the gravy which is, admittedly, excellent. Just not wholly necessary; I enjoyed it more with the fries than I did when dipping the burger in it; the burger just didn’t need any further savoury-ness. If anything, something beyond the salt and sweet of meat and bun – perhaps a little more mustard, in the fry (in the style of Dirty Burger) would have sorted it.

Drinks wise, friends had a couple of hard shakes (I had a taste – outstanding) but I stuck with bourbon – a nicely bitter taste to clear the palate in and amongst huge meaty mouthfuls.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  5/5 – even if you don’t normally like Brioche, it’s the perfect companion for this burger
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  5/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 5/5 – £18 a head including tip between six of us, with drinks, felt reasonable

Burger rating – 5/5 – This is now in joint first place for best burger in London for me, alongside Bleecker Street and Lucky Chip (which may get a re-visit during its ‘Stranger Things’ month). Amazing.

The deets

There are a couple of Dips & flips around Southwest London, find the locations here. We ate at Battersea rise, 5 minutes walk from Clapham Junction station, by the Northcote pub.

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