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The one thing I crave almost every day is a good burger. Oddly, I rarely ate burgers when I lived in the states. But for some reason nowadays, I just can’t get enough. Go figure.

sf burger

So we went to Serpentine, whose burger was exalted in the virtual world, as well as in print. For some reason, as soon as we sat down, I was craving a cocktail. I haven’t had a cocktail in ages since aside from Mojitos, Parisians don’t drink mixed drinks.

(I once made Cosmopolitans for my friends and they barely got halfway through the first one without becoming close to falling-down drunk. And when you live in a rooftop apartment, having inebriated people milling around your place—or worse, stepping out on the roof for a smoke, is not really a good thing.)

A whiskey sour sounded good. Except I wasn’t quite sure what a whiskey sour was. I asked the friendly waiter, who replied, “I don’t know.” I guess I’ve been living in Paris too long because I appreciate honesty rather than faux-cheeriness. So I ordered one.

And because I’m such a nice guy, I chipped in $2 for his health care, too.


The burger came piled up on a bun with mesclun lettuce (no!), a slice of a real, honest-to-goodness farm-ripe tomato (yes!), cheddar (not sharp enough), and turmeric pickles (yes!) The beef in the burger was just on the underside of underseasoned, making the fantastic salty pickles a must. So we asked for more, and the waiter brought a petit ramekin with a few slices for us to share.

(I guess they were concerned about my health, too, so were rationing them out carefully. But I have national health care and don’t have to worry—so bring ’em on!)

The fries were good, but just on the edge of being done. Thirty seconds less and they wouldn’t have been cooked enough. Thirty seconds more, and they would’ve been perfection. Yet mine were gone before I’d made it halfway through my burger. So take that, les frites de Paris. (Although France gets points in the health care department.)

I liked Serpentine well enough, although my craving hasn’t subsided. Last night for dinner I had a giant S’More just before my talk at Charles Chocolate*. I know that’s probably not the best thing to have for supper, but I reasoned that since it was roughly the same size as a grilled cheese sandwich, it’d do. Plus being stuck in a monster Bay Bridge traffic jam for 1 1/2 hours, well, let’s just say it was well-deserved. (Although a cocktail would’ve been bien mérité, too.)

Tonight is round #2 in the burger bonanza, since I’m not yet down for the count. I’m going to pass on the S’Mores for dinner, but the cocktails?

Those will be mandatory.

Related Posts

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My Schedule

Where to Find a Great Hamburger in Paris

L’Hippo Burger


    • Barbra

    The title of this post implies that it is the first of a series, a series of slow stab wounds to my envious, burger-craving heart. My question: Can I get a bourbon-coke float with that?

    • Mary

    Beretta for cocktails! See you Monday @ Omnivore.

    • A

    Bar Jules has that burger beat.

    • chris

    I 2nd beretta for cocktails. get an Il Gitano. those guys behind the bar are truly masters. nice to know that for once it is san francisco and not paris who can boast something with artisnal quality.
    absinthe does a nice burger. i am partial to the ones served at Pearl’s

    • Joanna

    I’ve often wondered what a s’more is, so thanks for that link. And now it looks as if I’ve solved another trans-Atlantic culinary mystery … can it be that a graham cracker is actually a digestive biscuit???

    Hope you enjoy Blogher


    • MakiB

    I totally understand the craving for burgers. Especially after a long, cold winter. Love to fire up the bbq as soon as I can. As soon as I saw the picture of your post, I immediately wanted one.

    • craigkite

    Just last week I was thinking of your cheeseburger problems in Paris as I fired up a few on the grill. My wife and I agreed that we would work out a solution if that were our only problem with living in Paris. Welcome back to “les estats” for a visit. Are Parisians really so enamored with les tomates cerise that a big old beefsteak is no longer cool? Olivier Magny had a great entry on his blog about cherry tomatoes, but I do not see them replacing the big kids on burgers or BLTs when the garden is full of those plump red beauties! Don’t forget the burritos while in town.

    • David

    craigkite: Unfortunately they are enamored by the cherry tomato (those too-perfect ones, obviously grown in a greenhouse in Holland.) And it’s nearly impossible to find real, farm grown tomatoes in Paris anymore. One Frenchwoman told me last week that- “All the tomatoes for sale in Paris were grown in France.” (huh? Guess she never saw all those tasteless “on-the-vine” specimens at the market.)

    And another told me that “You have to go to specialty markets to get real tomatoes.” When I said that it was perplexing that the regular markets didn’t have them, she said, “The markets are for everyday food and they’re for ‘the people’ to do their shopping.” So I guess real, ripe tomatoes are “special occasion” food. Or only for ‘special people.’

    That said, I was at the marche d’Aligre a few weeks ago and saw a noticeable improvement in the tomatoes and saw some decent-looking ones, and I was even invited to a CSA-style “pick up” of 2 kg of real tomatoes for only €12! (I was leaving the next day for the states, so couldn’t partake.) If you get out of the city, you can find good ones. But it continues to baffle me why they’re not more widely available in Paris. It’s like people stopped caring, or forgot about what a real tomato is supposed to be.

    Joanna: Graham crackers are made with whole-wheat (or whole meal) flour, and have a bit of cinnamon added, too. They’re a bit different than digestives, I think, but you could make S’mores with Speculoos, if you live in Europe.

    • Dawn in CA

    David – are those pickled red onions I see on that burger? Yum. I am always amazed how hard it is to find “the perfect burger.” The best ones I’ve had have been from my own grill. If you like sour cocktails, you should try a Hennessey Sidecar. It’s a classic San Francisco cocktail, and really yummy. Kind of pricey, but so good… especially if you order it from a real bartender who actually knows what he/she is doing. Have fun this weekend – doesn’t look like the BlogHer ticket is going to work out, but thanks for the tip! :)

    • Rachelino

    If you do go to Beretta, get the Rattlesnake! It’s a rye cocktail with maple syrup, citrus juice and a very thin but luxurious layer of egg foam on top. Might sound weird (and there are several ingredients I forgot) but it took away my troubles…an old-fashioned American cocktail.
    For David and anyone else craving a burger in SF, my friends are working their way through 7×7’s Top 10 list (plus 10 runners-up)
    But I haven’t tried any of them because when I crave a burger, I go to a tiny burger and breakfast joint tucked under the BART tracks in El Cerrito Red Onion . It’s good enough that my Dad craves them and wants to go there when he comes to visit me.

    • Elliot

    Alembic got best cocktails in best of the bay this year. You can find me there at least once a week. I’d recommend their Mint Juleps, Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, and Alaskas. I had a rattlesnake there on Savoy cocktail Book night and it was way better that Beretta’s (their drinks are too citrus reliant).

    • eric

    There is a place in Carrizozo, New Mexico called the Outpost that advertises “Ho-Made Chile” on the side of the building. Now, I’ve never seen the hoes, but the green chile cheeseburger is one of the best in a state famous for green chile cheeseburgers.
    And the fries? Order a small, you will wipe them out, but it will still be too many.
    Just sayin’, since you’re in the neighborhood and all.

    • Pablo – Young Executive

    I recommend you come to Brazil (or find local restaurants, although I do not think you’ll find outside of Brazil) and savour TUCUNARÉ hambugueres, Duck TUCUPY and AÇAÌ desserts. I would like to disclose these Brazilian delicacies in France, UK or USA. They are natural flavors with a taste of Brazilian rain. I never found anything like it in the world. I would like you taste someday.

    • Sheila

    Too bad you aren’t in Seattle. Lunchbox Laboratory has the best burgers I’ve ever had.

    • dawn

    the char around the bun? oh my god, that is, heavenly!

    • L

    Mmm… turmeric pickles. Wonder if they’re easy to make. Or find readymade in the States.

    • Alona Martinez

    I don’t really steer from el vino, but I did take a bartending course twenty years ago where I was introduced to the Raging Bull: a short and stiff drink: perfect for 1 1/2 hour traffic jams. . .

    • Linda

    That delectible burger creation looks suspiciously like the one I had a few days ago here in Seattle at the newly-opened westcoast outpost of Terrance Brennan’s Artisanal Brasserie of all places! (see my review here: Salty Seattle: Artisanal Brasserie ) It’s funny, it was the best burger I’ve had in a long time, yet it came from a French Brasserie, which is completely counterintuitive to your quandary. I hope you are enjoying the remainder of your visit, but I more fervently hope that the next time you make the journey stateside, you add Seattle to your list of destinations.

    • Alyssa

    I think it’s interesting that you’re dropping more French into your writing now that you’re in the States. I wonder why that is…?

    Enjoy your time in SF! And good luck finding a burger to satisfy your craving; I haven’t had much luck in this city.

    • Jean Marie

    David – you need to come to Washington, D.C. one of these days and go to Five Guys for a burger. Soooo good. Or BGR or Ray’s Hellburger. Then, go on up to Capitol Hill and do a little health care lobbying!

    • ritanyc

    I must be really old school, because it baffles me when waitstaff answers a customer query with “I don’t know” (unless it is about health care reform).
    Anyway, how cute that you ordered a whiskey sour! Hopefully you get a good one somewhere in that boozy town, perhaps made with fresh lemons. A great sour is also about the proper interaction with ice. Maybe why cocktails are not so popular in
    your (other) home town.
    Thanks for staying in touch while travelling. We love you!!

    • davidsl

    ack! i live a block away from charles chocolates in emeryville and i’m a member of their facebook page and i still missed you!

    yeah, the traffic sucked last night. what other bay area events are you doing?

    • davidsl

    oops, just noticed the two events listed at the bottom. d’oh!

    • maggie

    i was one of the first people to get my book signed (and even a picture). you’re super nice and charming! :)

    • maggie

    oh, and thank you for coming back to the states. enjoy your stay.

    • Nadine Frush

    Great Burgers In California
    1. Betty’s Burgers – Santa Cruz: They say Carpo’s is great, but I don’t crave their burgers. But Betty’s Burgers has the best, and the 1950 low key atmosphere.

    2. Ikeda’s – Auburn – This is a must stop on the way to Tahoe. Now if you have been skiing and are returning to the bay area, you’ll devour everything including the onion rings and milk shakes.

    • Lesley

    Funny: I developed a craving for burgers as soon as I moved to Mexico. They sell them here, but it’s not the same. The first time we grilled them on our patio, I’d made homemade buns and… oooh. It was heaven. Also, if you ever happen to be in Atlanta on a book tour, you must try the burgers at Holeman & Finch! They’re not on the menu, but they serve them every night at 10 p.m. Seriously the best burger I’ve had, ever.

    • dave

    funny. i’m so NOT a burger person usually. nothing against them, but i never crave them. until this week. the piece on “e-kitchens” in the NY Times food section this week ( included a recipe for Smoky Pork Burgers With Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw, and for some reason that really got my burger mojo going. So today I went to the old butcher in the L.A. Farmers Market and had him grind a few pounds of pork sirloin and a thick slab of bacon for me. Tomorrow I’ll get the Weber fired up and welcome autumn with some hopefully very juicy burgers.

    • Miss Kris

    What about good ol’ In-n-Out? Yeah, it’s fast food, but when I’m craving a burger, theirs usually satisfies. It’s pure indulgence for me.

    • Tammy

    Hi, David. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed your book! I read it through the first time like a novel and now I am going back through to try the recipes. Wishing you continued success.

    • Beth

    Something about living outside the USA that makes one crave burgers, pizza, burritos and the like. That looks like one darn good burger. I’m salivating

    • Judy

    Hope you are coming to Portland on this tour. It is food paradise.

    • Libbie

    Your San Francisco hamburger reminds of the ones I loved when I lived in that most beautiful city 30 years ago. The places was called Bill’s and it was in the Richmond district, I think, or possibly on Clement Street. I still remember them after all this time. The other thing I remember is Paula’s Pizza in the Mission — the most garlicky pizza ever.


    • Libbie

    Bill’s is still there! I googled and found them:

    Go have a good ole’ greasy burger at Bill’s!

    • john

    David…in SF
    The Balboa Cafe, on Fillmore just down the hill from Union St. (cow hollow) has a great traditional burger, one’s on a baguette…and all the waiters have white aprons, so you’ll feel right at home, great spot…Perry’s on Union used to have a good burger too, but haven’t been in years…
    The best Paris burger in the old days used to be at that jazz spot on on rue St. Martin (i think?)…an Afro-American jazz guy ran it? in there somewhere…probably the best then, but understand now there is a good place on the Left Bank…
    And, there was a place on rue Ponthieu, off the Champs called Cactus Charlie’s, a French guy who had lived in Houston opened…pretty decent chili burger….this is when you get really desperate and don’t ask too many questions after 7 or 8 months away from the states….but it beats the hell out of paying $13 for a can of Denison’s chili at Fauchon and trying to do it at home with hachee’
    Have a great time in SF…

    • Vanessa Cherry

    Speaking of graham crackers…David, Miete Bakery at the Ferry Building sells thee most wonderful graham cookies the world. I am absolutely sure of that one
    thing. (Miete has another location in the city somewhere). I hope you’ll get to try some whilst your here. When I go to the Ferry Building I buy two containers-one to dole out one a day with my coffee and the 2nd to share with others….because they simply must be hoarded, and shared.

    • Little Miss Cupcake

    I’m sitting here over a cup of Mariage Freres Chandernagoor tea and a bowl of Special K. That burger looks killer. Wishing I was back in the US to sample them with you. Enjoy your stay!

    • Nutrition to kitchen

    Funny, whenever I go travel I also crave a burger and I rarely eat them!

    • Cheese Spread

    That reminds me of my weekend lunch menu. Thanks for the recipe sharing!

    • Karin

    Three letters: Y. U. M.

    I’m envious a) because I am in Paris, not in SF eating a burger like that, b) my crappy food intolerances won’t let me have a mouthwatering bun like that anyways, and c) S’MORES. MmmmMmmmMmmm. Foodgasming now!

    It’s why I like your site though. Vicarious living and food porn at its best! :) Thank you, as always. Enjoy the further burgers!! BTW: I think the some of the best burgers are home-grilled buffalo burgers. My dad grills up a mean one. Have you had one before? If you get a chance, do so. Y.U.M.

    • Annalynn

    Since you’re on a burger tour in SF, you might want to check out “Burger Bar” inside Macy’s. I’ve been to the one in Mandalay Bay and fell in love with their burgers, but I need confirmation that the burgers are awesome because I may have been influenced by all the libations and Vegas lights inside the Mandalay.


    • eatlivetravelwrite

    Uh yeah – when a burger looks like that, how could you NOT want one?

    • Alta

    It’s 8am here, and now I want a cheesy burger. With those turmeric pickles. Is it a sin to have one for breakfast?

    • Leonidas

    I’ve noticed, sadly, that most of the luminaries of the gastronomic world don’t seem to know too much about decent cocktails or mixology—you should try taking the blue pill sometime, and see how far the rabbit-hole goes…

    • The Teacher Cooks

    The picture of the burger looks divine. If you are in Atlanta you should try the burger at Six Feet Under in Grant Park. And they do know how to make cocktails.

    • Manny

    Cheeseburger in paradise
    Medium rare with mustard ‘be nice
    Heaven on earth with an onion slice
    Make me a – cheeseburger in paradise

    I like mine with lettuce and tomata
    Heinz 57 and FRENCH fried potata
    Big kosher pickle with a cold draft beer
    Good God Almighty which way do I steer for a
    Cheeseburger in paradise.

    – A little Americana from Jimmy Buffett

    • David

    leonidas: I love cocktails, but since they’re awfully potent, I can only limit myself to a couple. And living in France, where cocktails aren’t served with the same fervor that they are in the states, I don’t have much of a chance to imbibe. Thankfully, this week, I’m making up for (some of the) lost time!

    Alta: I don’t think so. I checked the Ten Commandments and there wasn’t anything on eating hamburgers for breakfast, so I think it’s okay.

    • absinthe

    Mmm, now craving a burger in a bad way. Do you also have the cryovacced hamburgers in buns at your local grocery like we have here in Holland? Scary looking. I haven’t seen a tomato grown outdoors since we’ve lived here, and sorry to hear Dutch hydroponic tomatoes are being inflicted on other European nations. But hey, our local market had a few weeks of the Reine Claude plums which *almost* made up for the tomato dearth.

    S’mores on speculoos–that calls for a taste test. Off to the store. Enjoy your time in the states!

    • sweetbird

    As a veteran of the restaurant industry I can’t help but applaud the efforts of Delfina and the other restaurants that are taking a proactive approach to the healthcare issue. I can’t count the number of times myself, or others in the restaurants I worked, were unable to receive proper care for a serious illness or injury simply because we couldn’t afford it. Bravo.

    Also, I really, really want an In-N-Out Burger now.

    • Susan

    You struck a chord I recognized when you said that you never really ate hamburgers when you lived in the states but now here you are planning where to get your next burger on this visit. . A similar thing affected me when I lived in the Philippines except it was with coffee. I was only an occasional coffee drinker in the U.S but once it was, not unavailable, but wasn’t what I was accustomed to drinking, I suddenly felt this unsettling need to have it! Luckily, (or maybe not) I found a source at a black mkt store and was able to fulfill my desire. But now that I think about it..I became a regular coffee drinker that needs her morning joe to kick off the day.. It’s not a bad thing, but like, why did I even get myself started on it when I didn’t ever do it before? I know, that’s a little different than a burger, but… isn’t it the damnedest things that get under our skin when we can’t get satisfaction somewhere?

    • chasse

    You must try the burger at NOPA. Really good fries too.

    • Shelli

    God, those pickles look like the best thing on the plate. Gorgeous!

    I too was invited to the upscale tomato sale and arrived to find that I should have called to reserve because they were all spoken for. I blogged about it here:

    But I did find some heirloom tomatoes at a stand at the Richard Lenoir market a few days later. Cut them up, add a little chevre, some olive oil, delicious…

    And I’m glad I caught you at the end of the book event at the bouquiniste; we’ve both read your book and enjoyed it a lot.


    • Karen M.

    Hi David,
    Wish I had time to catch up with you while you’re in the Bay Area… sigh…

    It will probably be considered sacrilege by some who read this, but whenever I’m leaving the US (like a trip to Cambodia/Vietnam a year or so ago) for my last meal stateside before the airport, for some odd reason, I crave an In-n-Out Burger, specifically a “double-double, animal style” with “well done fries”.

    This is American fast food at it’s finest! Sure, it’s not a designer style burger, but quintessentially American and it sure hits the spot (for me anyway) especially when I know I have weeks of anything but ahead of me (and I love anything but!)

    Conveniently, there is a branch just across the freeway off Millbrae Avenue from SFO!

    But don’t forget, make it a double-double animal style and well done fries!

    • Katrina

    I attended Food BlogHer today and just wanted to thank you for your fun chat at the end with Ree and Elise. The best hour of the day! I fell in love with you ;) this summer after buying The Perfect Scoop and an ice cream maker and making lots of your delicious ice cream recipes! LOVE your Philly Style chocolate ice cream and the apricot sorbet was awesome and the chocolate sorbet and…..well, I haven’t made one I didn’t like! Thanks!

    • Kelly

    When I lived in Paris 2 years ago my friends and I used to go for l’Happy Heure at Bobar on Blvd Henri IV, SW of the Bastille. At the time they had a nice mojito.

    • cakebrain

    I shall not say, “typical man…wants whatever he can’t have!”
    Bet you haven’t had a WhiteSpot burger (only in western Canada, you know!) It`s perfect.

    • Parisbreakfasts

    I have sadly given up burgers except maybe 2 x a year and BOY do I miss them!
    And all red meat in fact…
    oh well I can live vicariously through you David :)
    Wish I was at that Blogher foodie event…too

    • Mrs. Leon

    I completely agree with the ex-pat cheeseburger thing. I never ate cheeseburgers in America, but I crave them and hunt then down in Japan. Last time I went home for a visit all I wanted was to eat sandwiches and fabulous Pacific northwest quinine. Next time it’s going to be all about California’s In n Out burgers and chocolate shakes!!

    • Sandra

    The photos say it all–YUMMMMM!!! Could definitely do that!!
    Enjoy San Fran–and hope the weather and everything there is as you remember it—just don’t take advantage of American healthcare—-I only wish that the powers that supposedly “be” here would realize that the French have the better system—and enjoy eating the burgers, wherever you may be!!

    • Kris

    Hey there! Saw you at BlogHerFood yesterday. Really enjoyed the closing session. If you’re still in town and are craving a burger, you should come to Marin and go to Picco in Larkspur. They have the best little burger on the menu. And other fabulous food. Enjoy your time here in SF.

    • Kimberly

    I agree that there is nothing like a good burger. I recently replied on a thread on about burgers (since the restaurant I work at, quite possibly has one of the best) and was eaten alive. When you find the best burger in Paris let us know. In San Diego, I would say it would be Restaurant at the Pearl’s burger and Starlite off India Street. “Organic, delicious and oh so hardy!”

    Do you prefer thin pomme frites or thick fries?


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