David L. Garcia
Before I launch into what will be an unreservedly positive review, I feel obligated to let you know that there are a lot of issues with Wes Burger, the weekly pop-up restaurant that takes over the Mojo Bicycle Cafe every Wednesday night. The lights are too dim, the music is too loud, and the ceiling is unusually low. You’ll have a hard time hearing the person sitting across from you, you’ll probably step on someone’s shoe, and if you decide to wait for the bathroom, you’ll have to stand awkwardly next to the door staring at the poor couple forced to occupy the table with a direct view of the toilet.
Why deal? Because every Wednesday night, that tiny Divisadero coffee shop cranks out some of the best burgers in SF, burgers so unctuously meaty and flavorful you won’t care how many hipsters are staring at you, wondering when they’ll be able to take your seat.
Wes Burger offers only one burger and one side a week, and the restaurant keeps the night’s offerings under wraps until a few hours before opening. The surprise is half the fun; you’ll never know which burger will be offered until you check the pop-up’s Facebook page.
I visited the place three times, and the three burgers I ate were nothing alike. The first wasn’t even technically a burger; the beef patty had been replaced by a boneless piece of Nashville Hot Chicken, a regional fried chicken variant that packed a considerable punch of heat. The sandwich received much needed cooling from a tangy mustard slaw and pickles, although I felt this kind of killed the crunch of the chicken. A decent sandwich regardless, especially for those with a high heat tolerance (seriously, that sandwich wasn’t messing around).
The following week they were back to beef, with an insanely caloric Breakfast Burger. The patty was actually half-pork (like a breakfast sausage), and was tricked out with an almost ludicrous pile of toppings. The burger supported a good half-inch of bacon, an oozy fried egg, a layer of wonderfully grilled onions, and the bun (which, in keeping with the breakfast theme, was actually an English muffin) was liberally frosted with maple-bourbon ketchup, a condiment I wish I could have bought a bottle of. There was also, for whatever reason, a McDonald’s style hash brown on top (it didn’t add anything but calories, but by the time I realized it was on the burger, I was enjoying myself too much to really care). The most surprising thing about this burger was that it wasn’t actually that large; I was able to pick it up and fit my mouth around it, and I didn’t feel like I was going to slip into a food coma after I’d polished it off.
The final burger was Wes Burger’s version of a Juicy Lucy, a sandwich rarely seen outside of Minneapolis, where it was invented. The Juicy Lucy’s claim to fame is a layer of cheese inside the meat, which flows out of the patty after you take a bite. The patty was certainly juicy, and the American cheese center gushed in a spectacular way. The burger came topped with dill pickles and Wild Turkey caramelized onions, cooked down long enough to sweeten the alcohol and subdue the onions into a jammy paste. This was undoubtedly my favorite burger, a juicy, toasty puck of meat that was bolstered, not overwhelmed, by its toppings.
The sides at Wes Burger vary just as much as the burger, although I found them less consistent. More often than not, the side is some variety of Tater Tots, either served plain, with regular ketchup, or, for a few dollars more, loaded with some kind of cheesy, meaty topping. On Juicy Lucy night, Wes Burger offered a basket of BBQ Brisket Tots, topped with a tickly BBQ Sauce, shreds of beef brisket, and crumbles of smoked Blue Cheese. Salty, sweet, meaty, fatty, ridiculously rich and decadent; the dish was a magnificent guilty pleasure. On the other hand, a week earlier, I had ordered a basket of Cheese Tots, that were literally that: some Tots with yellow cheese on them. I’m also pretty sure I saw them throw them in the microwave to melt the cheese, which just made me cringe. Order with caution.
The burgers aren’t cheap, usually weighing in at around $12, and with the premium Tots generally going for half that, you’ll probably blow something close to $20 here. That said, on a Wednesday night, after you’ve taken your first bite of the burger of the day and had the juice and fat and char coat your tongue in pure beefy brawn, I doubt you’ll care all that much. Just use Flexi for the rest of the week.
Photo credit: David L. Garcia/Foghorn
639 Divisadero St.
Wednesday Nights at Mojo Bicycle Cafe