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Urbun Burger (San Francisco, CA)

When discussing some of the activities around the Death March, one of the participants mentioned that he’d been craving a good burger, and was going to go make a pilgrimage to In-N-Out while in San Francisco. I responded that while I’m quite the fan of In-N-Out, there are a lot of unique burger places in San Francisco, and most of them better and more interesting than In-N-Out. Indeed, without even having to look anything up online, I easily came up with a list of 10 San Francisco burger joints worth checking out. Of the places I’ve actually been, there’s Burger Joint, Whiz Burger, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, and Pearl’s. Additionally, Burger Bar, Joe’s Cable Car, Big Mouth Burgers, Burgermeister, and Urbun Burger have been on my hit list for a while as well. Since I had met up with two other Death Marchers, Steve and Kevin, for another trip to Dynamo Donuts, that put us in the Mission, so we could easily knock off Burger Bar or Urbun Burger. We ended up deciding on Urbun…

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Contigo (San Francisco, CA)

One of the nice things about visiting Steve and Emily is that they enjoy playing the roles of culinary tour guides. After Emily showed me Dynamo Donuts for breakfast, and Mission Cheese for lunch, for dinner Steve and Emily decided to take me to one of their favorites in Noe Valley: Contigo. So we set off for dinner. A short walk (about a mile or so from their place in the Mission) later, we arrived at Contigo. Nestled into a converted residential house (a feature common to most of the Noe Valley restaurants I’ve been to, actually), Contigo is a modest sized restaurant focusing on tapas, particularly those from Catalan…

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Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream (San Francisco, CA)

When Emily took me to visit Dynamo Donuts, on the way back passed by Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream. I’ve heard of Humphrey Slocombe several times (it’s one of the most yelp-ed places on the planet, and has gotten exposure on several TV shows), and it’s been a place I’ve been wanting to try. However, they don’t open until noon, so I had to make it a point to come back later. But after visiting Mission Cheese earlier in the day, I decided that a good walk was in order, and went on a pleasant little hike up to Bernal Heights Park, through “downtown” Bernal Heights, and then coming back to the Mission by ealking around the park. This route very nicely passed me by Humphrey Slocombe again, so I decided to stop in and give them a try…

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Mission Cheese (San Francisco, CA)

After a bit more roaming around the Mission with Emily, we decided that checking out Mission Cheese would be a good idea for lunch, especially since they had opened only a few weeks before. Mission Cheese is actually quite a simple concept: a neighbor restaurant space with a menu focusing on, well, cheese, as well as raclettes, light plates, and sandwiches featuring cheeses. The idea is to find some really good cheeses and make sharing plates and sandwiches that highlight them…

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Dynamo Donuts (San Francisco, CA)

My first morning in San Francisco, I decided that it was time to knock Dynamo Donuts off of my hit list. I had been craving a trip to Dynamo Donuts since reading about them on David Lebovitz’s blog almost three years ago. Luckily, it’s only about a mile away from Steve and Emily’s place, and they’ve been there several times, so it wasn’t hard to convince Emily to come with me for a trip to Dynamo. Located in the Eastern part of the Mission, Dynamo is a little bit of an odd fit, being located in a block that’s mostly various Latin American restaurants and stores. But being the Mission, this isn’t too out of place (if I had to pick the two major types of dining establishments in this part of town, “taqueria” and “coffee shop” are probably on the top of the list). It’s also a fairly subtle storefront, being basically just a short ordering counter and a door that leads both inside, and through to a nice patio in back (that’s easy to miss). But really, it’s about the donuts anyways…

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Pi Bar (San Francisco, CA)

In what’s looking to be an annual tradition, several of my online friends and I descended on San Francisco, CA for a “Death March”. The idea is to plan a really long (~20 miles) hike through an urban area, hitting a wide cross section of neighborhoods, sights (tourist and unusual), and such, and most importantly, stopping along the way to check out the food (you don’t have to feel guilty about street cart food when you are hiking 20 miles). Last year was Manhattan. This year was the much more challenging San Francisco. However, San Francisco had two reasons for me to visit aside from Death Marching. First, my college roommate Steve lives there in the Mission district. Second, San Francisco is filled will all sorts of greatly little quirky food destinations (some of which remain obscure and quirky, and others, due to services like Yelp, you can now share with tens of thousands of your best friends). So I had a short list of places I wanted to check out while in town, and Steve and his wife Emily also had several places they wanted to introduce me to. The first of these was Pi Bar.

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Pho Dao #1 (Murrieta, CA)

If you look over my history of postings, it’s obvious that I like Vietnamese food, and like pho in particular (having done at least three postings on the topic). I’m still waiting for that magical day when some Vietnamese people decide to move to the Upper Valley and set up a good Vietnamese restaurant (if you’re somehow thinking about it, let me know, I’ll invest… And be one of the best customers). Until then, I have to get most of my Vietnamese food when traveling. This time, it was Pho Dao #1 in Murrieta, CA…

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Mad Madeline’s Grill (Temecula, CA)

One of the big questions I get from people is “How do you find the places you eat?” There are many answers to this, but the primary two answers are “research” and “happenstance”. Mad Madeline’s Grill was a good example of the latter. We were visiting Temecula with Carol’s sister and her boyfriend, and walking down the street we passed by Mad Madeline’s. I didn’t even need to look inside to know that this was going to be a good burger joint. Walking by on the sidewalk, I walked through three successive bands of smells. First was the smoker. Second was the smell of nicely seared beef. The third was a fry cooker. It certainly smelled like a good burger joint.

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Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (Manhattan Beach, CA)

For the last several years, I’ve been doing a lot of travel through LAX, and generally I’ll get a hotel room in El Segundo the night. As a result, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to explore Manhattan Beach (the next town over). Several times, I’ve walked by Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, but have been unable to try it out since I was there in the evening, and my flight times in the morning have been early enough to prohibit a breakfast visit. Until last week, when I had an outgoing flight at a much more comfortable 8:25 in the morning, allowing me to have a quick trip to Uncle Bill’s right as they opened.

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The Apple Pan (West Los Angeles, CA)

The Apple Pan is exactly the sort of place you should have in mind when you think “California Burger Joint,”, if, for no other reason, this place has a solid legacy around making California-style burgers. Founded in 1947, The Apple Pan has been churning out burgers from it’s modest wooden house in West Hollywood, CA for over 60 years. Walking in through the door, it’s immediately obvious that this not just a burger joint, but a bit of a time capsule. The central feature of the Apple Pan is the central kitchen area, with a grill filled with buns and burgers, a deep fat fryer, and a counter where all the condiments are prepped and the burgers assembled. Around this is a U-shaped counter with 20 or so vinyl-clad swivel seats, staffed by gentleman wearing white aprons and hats. Heck, they even use those little paper cones in the metal holders for your beverages…

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