As a cult follower of Emily Schuman’s Cupcake and Cashmere blog, which is chock-full of food and fashion-related articles, I can’t help but compile a lengthy list of places to go to, especially for when I head down south. Ever since Schuman had a feature edition on LA’s Umami Burger restaurant, I couldn’t resist myself from craving those cheesy tater tots. Potato poppers, check. Cheese inside, double check.
When I heard San Francisco was going to be the next city to join in on this restaurant joint, I immediately squealed with excitement. I had to get my burger fix, and this restaurant was the “it” place to whet my appetite and satiate my hunger.
I rounded up some family members, including my two young cousins, to join me on this venture into burger heaven. Just a week shy of operation since its opening day, the restaurant was clamoring with customers waiting by the bar, and staffers zipping in and out to seat customers and adding names to the endless reservation list. From hip twenty-somethings to men in suits and women in sky-high heels, they were all congregating outside this restaurant, waiting to get a table. In response to the overflowing crowd, the staffers had to stop taking reservations after half past nine (the restaurant is scheduled to close at midnight on Saturdays), since the chefs could not keep up with the orders.
Nestled between restaurants and other boutiques and stores down the street of Union, the restaurant is not your average-burger joint. The word “umami,” which is popularly referred to as savory, is a component of the five basic tastes, alongside sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Upon entering the restaurant, a samurai centerpiece right by the entry way was spotlighted with a hovering light. The wooden rustic floors and dim lighting fixtures provided a homey and cozy feel, countering the contemporary aesthetics of the venue. A spin on American classics—part comfort food, part gourmet-style—Umami Burger is home to a slew of burgers—a solid 10—including a handful of the guiltiest pleasure side dishes you’ll ever have. I’m talking about sweet potato fries, onion rings, and did I forget to mention? Cake monkey desserts, ice cream sandwiches, and root beer floats! Can you say seconds?
After a 90-minute wait (yeah, 90, you got that right!), the staffer in the front offered to seat us at the bar. How could I, as well as my accompanying testers, deny that proposition after such a long wait? Sure, I had a few young guests with me, but that was anything short of important at that point. From then onwards, the food spiked the enjoyment of my night.
From the menu, my party and I decided on a total of six items: the Manly Burger, the Bacon-Wrapped Scallop Burger, the Truffle Burger, the Umami Burger, Cheesy Tater Tots (not listed on the SF menu, perhaps it is a “special-menu” item) and Truffle Fries (again, not listed, but recommended by our bartender!).
Umami burgers are smaller than the average-sized burgers. With the top bun emblazoned with the Umami Burger pictorial logo, each glistening burger delivered. The flavors married well together.
The Manly Burger was the only food selection that I was unable to try because my hungry little man who accompanied me took it all in by himself. Sandwiched between the buns were beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings, bacon lardoons, ketchup and mustard—all fit for a “manly” appetite.
For myself, I chose the Bacon-Wrapped Scallop Burger, an exclusive addition that can only be eaten at the SF-Union location. Although I am not a self-proclaimed fan of scallops, I did find myself enjoying every bite of this unconventional burger. Seared scallops along with strips of pork belly that melted in your mouth provided enough oomph to balance out the heaping dollops of sweet chili sauce and the yuzu-garlic aioli sauce.
Ahhh, the Truffle Burger, need I say more? The house-made truffle cheese and truffle glaze were delectably rich.
The signature Umami Burger is great for those who are mushroom-obsessed. It’s filled with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, Parmesan crisp and umami ketchup.
After finishing my burger and testing out others, I was too full to have room for desserts. So for all you readers, if you do have a chance to visit this eatery, tell me your faves. On a side note, even the bartenders and the restaurant cleaning staff were attentive. They switch out your filthy napkins with new, fresh ones, automatically.
Umami Burger is located at 2184 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123. After a few attempts of making a reservation over the phone, I decided to stop trying, since not a call of mine was picked. But, don’t be discouraged. You’ll probably have more luck if you give them a ring in the daytime and when the hoopla has simmered down after opening week (415) 440-8626.
Being a blogger for BARE makes sampling fare around the Bay Area region that much more obligatory. Umami Burger is one of many restaurants that I can now cross off my list of places to try. What’s yours?