An Outlandish Burger Survey

Our selective guide to limit-pushing burgers plus the rise of empanadas, adult slushies, and laboratory-made food.


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Everybody loves burgers and cheeseburgers, and most of us have a hands-down favorite — our go-to burger. For me, that once was Cafe Rouge and Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, both oft-recognized for outstanding burger finesse. The former, alas, is no more, and my enthusiasm for the latter waned when blue cheese replaced Gruyère as the primary cheese choice.

For this installment of the Food & Drink issue, Ethan Fletcher took up the burger beat. From his fist-pumping yes of acceptance to the quirky roundup he offers up, he clearly had fun on the assignment. His piece, “It’s a Wild, Wild Burger World,” page 26, includes classics and way-out-there varieties aside international types, non-burger burgers, and even chain burgers. How close does his take come to your idea of burger bliss?

The lineup also takes up the rise of the humble empanada, the ubiquitous hand-held pie making its East Bay rounds in savory and sweet, traditional and nontraditional, smallish and huge California-sized iterations. From the Oakland Coliseum to Wooden Table Baking Co., these locally made treats reflect the fast-casual leanings of the current dining scene, and everyone seems to love eating them. If it’s thirst you must slake in an adult way, slushies are in, though perhaps still a bit elusive. But they can be had, and a few local barkeeps and bartenders have ponied up for the expensive machines that turn ice, alcohol, and sugar into something frosty and sublime. Meanwhile, we also checked in with 10 local chefs and restaurateurs to see what’s in and out on their menus. Say goodbye to kale and avocado toast. They have been replaced with the likes of rotisserie chicken and urfa biber. Curious? Turn to page 31 to see what else is trending (and not) in the East Bay. Finally, suppertime meets science in “Welcome to the East Bay’s Biotech Banquet,” page 33. We in the East Bay are living at ground zero for a food revolution of plant-based burgers, clean meat, and slaughter-free fish, but are we ready for test-tube foods? It could be the future.

If that’s not enough to satisfy hunger and dehydration, there’s more: a review of Belcampo, where meat’s the thing; eating Abstract Table’s food art at The Gastropig; Roam’s seasonal squash side; beef mandi at Old Damascus Fare; and cocktail chemistry shenanigans at Berkeley’s Bear’s Lair Tavern. Happy eating and drinking to all.

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