City of Burgers: Mission Burger at Duc Loi Supermarket

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A. Simmons
These used to be pretty. Really.

Sorry for the picture. The aïoli drips, errant dabs of chili-garlic paste, and grease spots are the result of a tortuous trek from Mission Burger's makeshift digs at Duc Loi Supermarket on Mission and 18th to an apartment seven blocks away, on Capp. The burgers slid across the counter on red-and-white cardboard trays, unshielded from the elements by protective paper wrapping. Five minutes later, they were on a huffing, capricious 49 bus, bouncing around the insides of two flimsy white bags clutched in desperate hands belonging to a tired, unbalanced body jolting back and forth in accordance with the vehicle's sudden stops and starts. By the time they arrived home, the burgers were beauty queens no longer. 

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You're better off eating these in the store, sitting on a cardboard box, hunched over your crumb-strewn lap, trying to avoid raining splashes of condiments down onto your shoes. The meat burger ($8), with its Blumenthal-inspired patty, a granulated dream team of brisket, short ribs, and chuck, is a squishy little leviathan of flavor. The silky, salty strands of beef clump fairly loosely together, their deep richness accentuated, sort of to the point of absurdity, by caramelized onions, a slice of Monterey Jack, and a generous slick of caper aïoli, all pinioned above and under halves of a perfect toasted Acme bun. Sandwiched in the same kind of roll, the vegan burger ($7) oddly feels just as sumptuous, a fried square, hard, dark-brown, and crunchy on the outside, and delicate and flaky within, like some unholy cross between falafel and fish. The crust shatters with the first bite, revealing beads of edamame, shreds of roasted kale, and sliced shiitake and maitake mushrooms, the earthy, mineral-y bits suspended in a fava-chickpea cloud, tumbling out to mingle with miso mayonnaise, bright, clean fennel slaw, and avocado.

Duc Loi kind of exemplifies the waves of change this neighborhood has seen in the past six years. In 2003, this corner housed a run-down, supercheap market with an awning and unspectacular produce laid out in bins on the sidewalk outside. Then, it disappeared and became a dirt lot. Then, it became condominiums with empty commercial space filling the first floor. Many expected a Whole Foods to settle in, but Duc Loi re-emerged, with windows, lights, a meat counter, and somewhat better produce. Now, it's the setting for Mission Street Food's latest expansion, and that, if taste counts for anything, is a really good thing.

Duc Loi is donating $1 from the sale of each burger to the San Francisco Food Bank. Lunch service begins at noon and continues until the ingredients disappear. At this point, Mission Burger is open every day except Thursday.

Mission Burger at Duc Loi Supermarket 2200 Mission (at 18th St.), 551-1772


 


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