No. 31: Lark Creek Steak's Steakburger

John Birdsall
The steakburger ($12.95) at Lark Creek Steak in the Westfield San Francisco Centre.
SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

​We're a city of burgers: the homely, the buttery, the embarrassing. And while it's relatively easy to put out a good-tasting burger if you've buried the thing under aioli, bacon, and onion jam, it's hard to do minimal well. To be perfect, each object in a very limited field of elements has to be exactly right.

Lark Creek Steak's steakburger comes close, thanks to scraps. New chef Ismael Macias (longtime sous at another Lark Creek property, One Market) explains that what makes the burger so delicious is that it's a sort of byproduct of Lark Creek Steak's in-house butchery. The kitchen takes all the bits and off-cuts from its Marin Sun Farms rib eyes and New York steaks, Wagyu filets, and other flotsam of prime-meat trim and sends them through the grinder a couple of times. "All the ends, all the bits of fat," Macias says, "all the meats that come in every day."

But one person's scrap bin is another's dream patty. Coarse-ground, in an 8-ounce disc the cooks don't salt till it's already on the grill (stays juicier that way), blackened ― even at medium-rare ― over a mix of mesquite charcoal and almond wood on Lark Creek Steak's spitjack grill ― this is a burger that stands up to the elemental. Within its exoskeleton of char, the meat's soft, infused with the campfire sweetness of wood smoke. It's sheathed in a sesame brioche bun from Panorama that convinces you it tastes buttery from seeds alone, a bun that collapses just enough. It doesn't dissolve into a panade from the meat's juices or register as bready, cottony, or dry. And sure, the steakburger comes with a stack of tomato, grilled onions, and slices of very tasty house-cured pickles, but you don't need them to plaster over deficiencies.

Just ask Macias. He says he tries to watch what he eats ― a piece of grilled chicken, maybe, when he's working. His first burger here? He intended to eat just half. "It's so good I ate the whole thing," Macias says. We hear you.

Lark Creek Steak: In the Westfield San Francisco Centre, 845 Market (at Fourth St.), Suite 402, 593-4100.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée 80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre
52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni
51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage
50: Lumpia from Hapa SF
49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck
48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana
47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca
46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh
45: Los Muertos at Gitane
44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions
43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square
42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja
41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery
40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles
39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's
38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg
37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie
36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo
35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery
34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay
33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich
32: Duck larb at Thai House Express

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