I’m not all that into red meat. I can do without pork. I’d never order steak at a restaurant. But, given the option, I’d be hard-pressed to turn down a good burger. (Add chili to the equation and I’m a goner.)
It was with great enthusiasm, then, that I finally tracked down the pop-up Wes Burger at the Pizza Place on Noriega. Wes Rowe, the man with the mission, has a true passion for patties. He’s the owner of the covetable title “burger blogger” over at Serious Eats’ “A Hamburger Today” column. What’s more, he’s able put his money where his mouth is. On a weekly basis, he infiltrates kitchens throughout San Francisco and throws together insane sandwiches for the general public. His “Hot Wes” creation took the grand prize in the most recent citywide Burger Brawl. The man ain’t messin’.
Dining at pop-ups, however, does require a bit of premeditation. On a Tuesday night, the stars aligned — we were available and he was staked out in a sleepy part of town (read: no crazy lines or traffic). We headed on over and got our burger on.
To my delight, the combination of the night was the aforementioned Hot Wes: a gut-busting mess of ground brisket, topped with beer-battered onion rings and doused with a spicy homemade queso. It’s served on a well-buttered, freshly baked brioche bun, griddled to optimal crispness. The only green on the plate: a healthy dose of pickled jalapenos. What, did you expect health food from a burger modeled after Jack in the Box’s “Hot Mess”?
As you might, the thing was delicious. We didn’t specify doneness, but both burgers came out medium-well with an excellent crusty exterior and super-juicy center. We got some powerful, contrasting flavors and textures from the rich cheese sauce, tart peppers, and crispy, savory onions. Surprisingly, however, the burger was smaller than we’d expected (likely a good thing, considering how intense it is!). Jay, still hungry, filled up remaining stomach space with an excellent slice from the host restaurant. The Pizza Place on Noriega, by the way, is a place where you can unbutton your shirt collar and just have delicious, unfussy pizza, sans artisanally aged salami and sticker shock. It’s the kind of joint you want in your neighborhood and a fitting setting for a burger pop-up.
One Hot Wes in this lifetime is enough for me/my arteries, but I’d definitely stop by the pop-up to try new and future combinations. Consider me a Wes Burger believer.
Information at Wes Burger’s Facebook page
The Pizza Place on Noriega
3901 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122