The burger and tots. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Julian, (early) 30-something, and Mark, 70-something, are out to find the Mission’s best burger. If you have suggestions, write a comment — or send an e-mail to Julian at julian.mark@missionlocal.com. You may remember Mark and Julian from the best fried chicken sandwich series

Mark — 

I know you and your dog love to get blazed together on weekday afternoons — so WesBurger N’ More is the place for you. 

I, for one, have largely stayed away from the kitschy burger stop on Mission between 18th and 19th streets since it opened in 2016. 

Why? 

I respect myself and try to live without regrets. This week, after ordering from WesBurger not once, but twice, I’m full of regret. And shame. Perhaps even some anger. 

Of note, WesBurger is acclaimed. Though not recently, it made Zagat’s 2015 Best Bay Area Burgers list. It also got the nod from Thrillist. And it holds 4.3 stars out of 610 reviews on Google reviews. 

What’s the big deal? In the words of a Bay Area millennial, WesBurger seems to sell up its dankness — an adjective usually used to describe really gooey and overpowering weed, but can also describe extremely gooey and overpowering food. Dank weed and dank food usually go hand-in-hand, and while miraculous in the moment, the combo can make you feel like a trainwreck in the morning. 

Some people want that. 

But after a few times eating “The Hot Wes” ($12), a monstrous amalgam of burger and onion rings drenched in “queso” — which makes you feel like a trainwreck immediately — I don’t want that. I’m now 31, and I need to get my act together. In the words of Detective Murtaugh, “I’m too old for this shit.” 

So I ordered the “Original” smash burger ($6.50) — meaning the patties are smashed thin on the grill, making them extra charred — and added an extra patty. 

There are no fresh veggies on this burger. In fact, it seemed created in the image of a basic Mcdonald’s cheeseburger, except it contained much better meat and a better bun. Ketchup, diced onion, and pickles hide inside — a delightful surprise in what otherwise resembled the senior member of a gas station hot case. 

It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t all that dank and it wasn’t particularly…good. Heavy. Unhealthy feeling. A perfect item for when you’re in a state of mind best described as “David Hasselhoff.” 

After it was done, I was stuffed but unsatisfied. Adding to that effect were the extra fried tater-tots — I’d say like ½ potato and ½ oil. E, my burger consigliere, theorized that WesBurger tots have such a thick shell so to withstand all the gooey fixings on the “Queso Tots” ($7) and the “Deluxe Tots” ($9), both of which are“dank af” as the cool kids say. After eating enough of the naked tots, though, you begin to feel like one. 

All and all, I would take my friends to WesBurger, but I would refrain from eating there myself. Every person should try it once or twice. (“It’s all about the experience, bro.”) But just like burning down the best, gooiest, dankest weed — the WesBurger just gets old. 


The burger and tots. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

 

Lighten up, Julian.

Why? “Because” as Wes says on his website, “burgers are fun.” Nothing dark, nothing dank — just pure old American fun. 

You make eating a burger sound like a job. 

Or, says my dog, who prefers philosophy to burgers, like an existential crisis.

Writing about a virus every hot, smoky day tends to get me down, so I was in the mood for some fun – even if delivered in a bun.  

Wes features a “Covid Menu.” Is that a joke? Doubtful. Probably means little choice.  Because I intended to eat the burger while watching the presidential debate, I decided on the “All-American.”

The menu sums up America as a six-ounce beef patty with tomato, lettuce, onions, “special sauce” and, of course, American cheese.

As WesBurger does not permit variations in cooking intensity, the patty was … call it Bidenesque. Middle of the road. Not pink, but the taste had not been fried out of it. The patty was seasoned, which, like makeup on a man, made it come alive.

As I contemplated watching Dark Ages Donald on stage for 90 minutes, I ordered bacon to go with the burger. The bacon was good and did what bacon does, but the beef, more or less, like Biden, held its own.

The “special sauce,” a variation of special sauces you find these days around the Mission: aioli and chile, made a mild appearance and did not mask the beef or the bacon. Though not very spicy and soaking the bun, the “special sauce” rendered the American cheese superfluous, and reduced the shredded lettuce to a soggy yawn. Kind of like Chris Wallace.

The tomato and onion appeared and tasted as if they had not come out of the freezer a half-hour earlier. But their role, like Ivanka and Melania, was strictly ornamental.

I can’t believe you trashed the tater tots. Wes gives you lots of tots for your bucks and they have the potential to be the highlight of your WesBurger meal. They’re double-fried to give the mashed potato inside a crispy shell. No sagging, no slouching, no insolent indifference like many of the “fries” I’ve lately been served. Just fun-loving tots.

Unfortunately, I ordered the queso tots. You must tell E. that the outside crisp cannot withstand the onslaught of Tex-Mex cheese dip, which, like a well-known reality TV star, would not shut up, reducing the tots to heavy mindless goo.  

Although the night was wretched, the burger Wes slung was better than expected. In 2020, “better than expected” qualifies as quasi-miraculous.

Even fun!

See others from the Burger Wars here.

Ratings as of October 5, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Just had to let you guys know how much I enjoy your burger wars. I’m a vegan, but read these pieces all the way through just for the writing, cuz it’s that good – and fun, which as Mark noted is in short supply these days. Thanks.

    1. It’s very unfortunate that Counter Offer inside Bender’s is closed for COVID, because that is hands down the best burger in the Mission

    2. I second this sentiment burger wars is an entertaining read. It feels good to smile and think of how lucky we are to spend time exploring the Mission District. Thank you!

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