Burger Joint sign
Photo by Loi Almeron

After 25 years at Valencia and 19th, Burger Joint last month flipped its last patty. Owner and longtime Mission resident Nidal Nazzal confirmed that he has decided to not return to 807 Valencia St. after mandatory seismic retrofitting on-site is completed.

Opening up the business was the “right thing to do 25 years ago,” Nazzal said. It was “pioneering then to offer quality meat” to customers in the Mission. 

“It’s bittersweet,” he said about the decision to close. “But it’s time to move on.”

Over the years Nazzal founded more than a dozen local businesses, including Valencia Whole Foods and Dolores Park Cafe — both of which now have other owners — and the Mission Bar & Grill, which still has a location at the San Francisco Airport.

Nazzal said that opening a business usually started with him searching for something in the neighborhood, and that was the case with the Burger Joint on the corner of 19th Street.

“I was looking for a good burger place and there wasn’t,” Nazzal said. “So why not open one?”

“We saw a whole generation grow up,” at the Burger Joint he said. 

He lived only two blocks away from the business, and so it became a “pit stop” for him and his three kids. “It was a family affair at one point,” he said. He remembered customers taking up seats in the restaurant’s round booths by the window and how his kids would mingle with other kids in the restaurant.

“But demographics have changed,” Nazzal said. “Families are not there as much anymore.”

That change was only one of the many challenges Nazzal encountered more recently. The booming food delivery service was another. Nazzal said that delivering burgers could not give customers the same quality of food off the grill.

Moreover, employees became more difficult to find. Even offering above minimum wage, it was “almost impossible to find quality labor,” he said. 

All of these reasons came to the fore when the restaurant had to close while the building’s owner complied with the city’s Mandatory Soft Story Program (MSSP).

MSSP requires “the retrofit of older, wood-framed, multi-family buildings with a soft story condition” that are susceptible to strong earthquake damages, according to the Department of Building Inspection. The program identified that such buildings are “most commonly found” in five San Francisco districts, including the Mission District. 

Nazzal said that the retrofitting started in early December and should be finished by mid-February of this year.

“We initially made the decision to come back after retrofitting,” Nazzal said, adding that his landlord wanted the business to stay and would have accommodated his return. “But the reality of the decision came when we started to look at everything.” He said that it was “too much to come back,” adding “it wasn’t sustainable going forward.”

Now in his mid-60s, Nazzal is still pursuing new projects. He wants to expand the Sidewalk Juice franchise (to open at the San Francisco Airport in July) and is working on other healthy concept projects.

The Burger Joint’s San Francisco Airport location is still open.

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  1. We miss sitting at those round tables, talking with the friendly owners, watching the flames shoot high and the burgers flip. The burgers were perfect. The fries were perfect. The prices were so amazing. We miss Burger Joint. It was very nice to read this article. I had no idea the owners had so many businesses. I wish them well!

  2. New tenant improvements have been happening in the old BJ space. Signage is now up on the exterior reading “Chic n’ Time”. I haven’t been able to find any leads on who they are other than their business registration locally.

  3. I have fond memories of taking my son to the Burger Joint when he was growing up. The service was always great. Thanks for providing a fun place to eat! I wais Nidal good luck with his future ventures.

  4. Correction: Dolores Park Cafe was co-founded by the above mentioned and its current owner, Rachel Herbert. We are sad to see so many of our beloved restaurants and cafes disappearing from our SF Landscape

  5. Third party delivery services are parasites on the restaurant industry. They are a huge contribution to the demise of brick and mortar establishments.

  6. It’s sad to see a very unique place like burger joint closing . The Identity of Valencia st it’s been changed so many places are closed or changing hands.
    Good luck for Nadal in his new venues . and no doubt he left fingerprints in the mission

  7. I wish the best for Nidal. I remember when his only business was Cafe Nidal, down the block from where El Tecolote was located back in the mid-1980s. It was where I first started drinking coffee (latte, the gateway drug) and conducted some interviews for El Teco. Nidal’s brother and sisters were there, too, and it had a good family feel. I miss those days.

  8. Losing Burger Joint is loss for the neighborhood. Add Valencia Pizza and Pasta (for rent sign is up) and Amnesia, and the block is decimated.

  9. This was a place that I liked.
    It had a good quality burger. And there owners were people you knew, and had trust for.

    The deeper sadness is that its so many.

    Burger Joint Thanks for the good times, and good luck in your new endeavors!