Jake's Steaks storefront
Jake's Steaks on Valencia Street.

“He is a friend, Jerry. He is reliable. He is considerate. He’s like your exact opposite.”

“So he’s Bizarro Jerry. … Like bizarro Superman — Superman’s exact opposite — who lives in the Backwards Bizarro World. Up is down; down is up. He says hello when he leaves; goodbye when he arrives.”

Mark — 

Last week we reviewed Jay’s Cheesesteak, and this week we’re reviewing Jake’s Steaks. It was like that Seinfeld episode in which Elaine befriends “Bizarro” versions of Jerry, George and Kramer. They looked the same, had similar names and lifestyles — except they acted more like Jesus Camp counselors as opposed to the selfish nihilists we all grew to love over nine seasons of the hit ‘90s sitcom. 

And there’s a reason the latter remain timeless characters while the former were empty fleeting plot devices: Messy, chaotic, unGodly is just a bit more mouthwatering than their Bizarro counterparts. 

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That was my experience with the burger at Jake’s Steaks. 

I ordered the “Mission Burger,” their jalapeño burger, to measure it against Jay’s. 

The bun was untoasted and soft. The burger patty was perfectly round and kind of dry. The cheese, lettuce, tomato, and jalapeños — even though technically smashed together between two buns — seemed disinclined toward one another, like masked strangers in a sterile waiting room. While the jalapeños overflowed from the chaotic mess that was Jay’s burger, Jake’s provided just the right amount needed for it formally qualify as a jalapeño burger. 

The burger provided me with plenty to chew on and it filled me up. It was reliable, considerate — but bland, uninspiring. A token menu item in the end. 

That, however, says nothing about Jake’s actual cheesesteak, which my burger buddy E. ordered. That was a mess of greasy steak, peppers and cheese whiz. I took one bite and was immediately transported out of the Bizarro world. 

I just wish I ordered it. –J.M.

Congratulations on your award, Julian. But what do they mean “emerging?” Emerging from what, or where, or when? I feel like I’ve been emerging all my life. I don’t see any particular reward in that, but here’s hoping your recognition brings a wider attention span to our emerging — burgeoning, really — burger reviews.

I wonder if Jake’s Steaks emerged from Jay’s Cheesteaks — they do share a kind of family resemblance. Like the multiple-choice test you take every time you order. 

But there are differences. Instead of Jay’s 20, Jake’s Steaks offers a more reasonable 12 choices, or twelve circles of hell for the poor beef patty, which could get smothered in BBQ sauce, topped with grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce, tossed like a fried egg, or turned into “100% plant based.”  If I were a patty, I’d stick to the freezer.

After an hour going through the pros and cons of each option, I also chose the Mission Burger. In part because you did; in part because I wanted to compare it to The Mission Burger.

No sooner had I solved one problem than another one arose. Jay’s patties are one-third of a pound, while Jake’s are a quarter pound. Would a quarter pound be enough to cover an episode or two of Ted Lasso? Would a half pound be too much? 

Imagine a half pound of cow flesh. I did. 

And I can’t say I was sorry. Disappointed, yes, but not sorry. 

As Jake, like Jay, doesn’t advertise the origins of his beef, or its sustainable journey from pasture to slaughterhouse, I had no right to expect anything more than your standard fresh frozen slab of industrialized meat. And although I ordered medium rare, only one of the two patties showed a hint of pink (which had probably been painted on at the factory).

Unlike Jay’s sad-tasting ground round, I found Jake’s to be relatively beefy. Yes, with a half pound, “beefy” should not come as a surprise. But there was something dull about it, almost boring, as if the beef had long ago surrendered its soul to The Company.

Or maybe because it was drowning in sriracha aioli.  OK, I admit I had to look up “sriracha aioli”  which is, according to Dictionary.com, “a hot condiment sauce made from red chilis, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and salt, used especially in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.” Odd. Is that how Jake thinks of the Mission? Anyway, it didn’t taste Vietnamese, Thai, Central American, Mexican or Mission. But it did water down the beef, and swamp the defenseless bun.

Besides the aioli, Jake adds grilled jalapeño chips, which do give the sandwich a spicy kick that it otherwise lacked.  

I then had to confront not a handful, but 36 unique add-ons, including Cheese Whiz. Has anyone ever ordered all 36?

I passed on the Cheese Whiz, but got bacon as a preventative. My bad. Never have I met a couple slices of bacon so shriveled and devoid of personality. I felt my faith in bacon had been challenged.

I’ve got nothing good to say about the lettuce and tomatoes, and the less said about the bun will be best for all concerned, especially the bun.

Jay has more to choose from when it comes to fries. With Jake it’s all about waffle fries: waffle fries with marinara sauce, waffle fries with garlic, waffle fries with Cheese Whiz, you get the idea. 

I got waffle fries. Unlike Jay’s, Jake’s fries waffled. Not soggy-soft, but no difference between outside and inside. Starchy, but no style. As they cooled, they offered no resistance to my indifference.

I rate Jake’s Steaks higher than Jay on carnivorous points, but Jake’s Mission Burger is not in the same league as The Mission Burger. Next time, I’ll order a cheesesteak.

On second thought, there won’t be a next time. –M.R.

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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.

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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1 Comment

  1. I didnt like Jays cheese steaks. Im going to Jakes next time for a cheese steak.Poured on melted cheese whiz is the right way to make a cheese steak. MMMMM sounds good…John.G

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