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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You may remember Mark and Julian from the Fried Chicken Sandwich Showdown.
Julian, you’re probably too young to remember when a burger was just a burger. You know, a beef patty pressed between two circular pieces of bread called “a bun.”
Then, burgers became fast food — a method to mainline cow flesh, fat, and assorted industrial chemicals into your body — a psychological ploy that hit just the right American buttons.
(And people wonder why Trump got over 70 million votes!!!)
Then, in response to globalized gentrification, burger joints worldwide began to experiment with the essential formula, embarking on a gastronomic odyssey which, after decades of burger boom and burger bust, brings us to Son’s Addition.
The restaurant bills itself as a “fresh take on approachable fine dining,” and they want you to know the owner is a “Chef,” a former sous chef under the famed Traci des Jardins, who was “classically trained in French cuisine.”
Keep that in mind.
Son’s Addition does not skimp on the meat; they give you a generous slab of beef.
But it didn’t bleed or drip. Though it stood up for itself, it didn’t stand out.
True confessions. Though I was asked for “preferences,” I forgot to specify “medium rare.” Am I to blame for my lack of experience in approachable fine dining?
Maybe. But the real problem is getting to the beef in the first place. I had to work through a virtual chorus-line of white cheddar cheese, a scallion aioli and bacon-onion marmalade.
Bacon-onion marmalade? Mon Dieu!
Why are the French never content to let the food speak for itself without all the fuss and fluff of the ancien regime?
Don’t be fooled – this is no aristocratic burger. To me, it tasted decidedly proletarian. Why? Because all the ingredients — beef, bun, cheese, aioli, scallions, bacon-onion marmalade — blend together in an indistinguishable mush. Only on a rare bite would evoke sweet, or tangy, or cheesy. Meanwhile, the taste of beef must have remained in the Son’s Addition kitchen to flirt with the sous-chefs.
Oh, I forgot the shredded lettuce. Amidst all the foppery, believe me, the shredded lettuce is easy to forget.
Like the bun.
Don’t forget the French fries. Seriously, has anyone ever taught the French how to make fries? OK, they weren’t heaven, nor were they hell. More like the kind of fries you eat while people-watching on the Champs-Élysées. Substantial, but decidedly unglamorous.
Finally, like a dying empire, the meal stuck with me for a long time afterward. And not, as is often true with French food, in a good way. I decided to walk it off, and am glad I did. It turned out to be a wondrous night, and the moon became the most memorable part of the meal. — M.R.
I hate to break it to you, Mark: The burger at Son’s Addition is a young people’s burger.
It’s saucy, tangy, heavy, juicy — and, after midnight, it sloshes around in the system like a drunken teenager in the hallway of a crowded dormitory. It thrashes its limbs and howls with a t-shirt tied around its head, screaming: Who is ready for the next keg stand!?!
“I’m trying to sleep,” I reply. “I thought the party ended at dinner time.”
So, Mark, I’m getting old. I turn 32 in February, and I’m getting curmudgeonly. I look forward to the simple pleasures slipping on a soft pair of socks, or a good dose of Bengay on my tired, tennis-worn calves.
But you’re older, so consider this your warning.
My burger arrived from Son’s Addition via delivery in what looked like a grease-soaked bag. If sometimes we use the “grease-to-bun” metric, we should also consider a “grease-to-bag” metric in the Age of Covid-19. For this burger — and for a place whose high-class concept and high-priced fare gentrified an entire corner of 24th Street — the grease-to-bag ratio was higher than it should have been.
The burger also arrived cold. But Son’s Addition was one step ahead, providing reheat instructions on its website in the name of “maximum pleasure.” That meant “deconstructing” the burger and essentially microwaving it in sections. (First the patty, cheese, and onion marmalade, and then the bun, but “do not heat lettuce.”)
That was cold comfort. The lettuce was shredded, already soggy, and integrated into the patty and cheese. And really, why did I need special instructions to throw something in the microwave? I just ate it cold.
But it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was great. The Son’s Addition burger has all the desired attributes of a $17 ground beef sandwich: medium-rare grass-fed beef, a toasted bun, tangy white cheddar cheese, fancy-schmancy aioli, unimposing vegetation, and onion marmalade that swings between sweet and umami.
The first bite is a clean, explosive crack off the bat, and the more you get to the center, the more the intense flavors become — an oil painting, an awakening, a rager after midnight. It reminded me of my youth.
But as I transition into my autumn years, I’ve learned that all good things come at a price. The night of the burger, I tossed and turned, my stomach a cement mixer of grease and decadence. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I dreamed about mooing cows and ticking clocks.
“Was it all worth it?” I asked myself in the morning.
And, of course, the only answer was: Of course. — J.M.