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Food & Drink

The most perfect patty melt in SF—and other things I’ve eaten and loved lately

A patty melt sandwich with cheese and a side of hash browns on a diner plate, coffee in the background.
Visitors to Hamburger Haven in the Inner Richmond have to try its delicious classic combo—an 8-ounce patty melt featuring Swiss cheese and caramelized onions with a side of crispy golden hash browns. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

This is the latest edition of All Things Consumed, a column by roving food writer Omar Mamoon that highlights the best things he’s been eating around San Francisco and the Bay Area. Each week, Omar will feature three things to eat that are truly delicious, as well as one thing to drink and one more thing he’s stoked on. Bring your stretchy pants and LFG.

Patty melt and hash browns at Hamburger Haven

There are two types of people in this world: hamburger people, and patty melt people. I’m in the latter camp, as is Pete Wells, the food critic at the New York Times, whose recent piece on patty melts caused a sudden uptick in popularity in the sandwich—and, more importantly, revealed its San Francisco origins! 

At its most basic, a patty melt consists of a ground beef patty, melted Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and rye bread. And, as you might expect for its birthplace, San Francisco has many good riffs on the template, like True Laurel, which adds a pink-colored “special sauce” and pickles, and uses dry-aged ground beef. However, I’m a purist at heart, and my favorite melt comes from the classic diner and San Francisco legacy business Hamburger Haven. The retro diner located on the corner of Clement and Ninth Avenue in the Inner Richmond has been around since 1968 and is currently owned by Roozbeh Falahati.

A patty melt sandwich cut in half with hash browns and a fresh side salad on a white plate.
The retro diner vibes of Hamburger Haven pair perfectly with the juicy patty melt paired with the tang of Swiss cheese and sweet notes of caramelized onions held together on crisp toasted bread. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

I love the Haven’s old-school vibe, with its green leather booths and wooden walls. Its patty melt features a generous 8-ounce beef patty, thick enough to be cooked to a perfect medium-rare pink on the inside, nice and seared on the outside. The bread is toasted crisp, and the sandwich contains not one but two slices of Swiss cheese and plenty of sweet caramelized onions. Forgo frozen french fries in lieu of the Haven’s shredded hash browns–some of the best I’ve had in recent memory. They are golden and crisp, as if almost deep-fried. I can’t wait to go back, over and over and over …

💰: $16.95
📍800 Clement St., San Francisco

Toasted ravioli at the Halfway Club

There’s a lot to love about the Halfway Club, the new bar that opened in January by a pair of industry vets, Greg Quinn and Ethan Terry, located just on the border of Crocker-Amazon and the Excelsior in the old Broken Record space. I love the drive there down Mission Street–it gives a glimpse of an older San Francisco, free of luxe apartments and high-rises. Despite the bar being new, it feels like it’s been around since the ’70s, with its jukebox, orange leather booths and highway signs hung up against brick walls. Quinn and Terry are going for a Midwestern tavern meets Dad’s basement bar vibe, and they’ve nailed it. 

Fried ravioli topped with grated cheese served with marinara sauce in a white bowl.
Even though it recalls the St. Louis culinary scene, Halfway Club's toasted ravioli dish—filled with ricotta, topped with parmesan cheese, and served with marinara sauce—feels right at home in San Francisco. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Most of the menu comes from chef Jason Henry, who was previously chef at True Laurel. He’s doing things like charred broccolini with green garlic Caesar sauce and good ol’ glizzies, topped with horseradish remoulade and Old Bay chips. But it’s the toasted ravioli that I gravitate toward—you don’t see this St. Louis dish too often in San Francisco. 

The “T-ravs” were put on the menu by consulting chef Larry Piaskowy and feature herby-ricotta-filled raviolis breaded in flour, egg and panko before being deep-fried until golden brown and delicious. Finished with a flourish of shaved parm and served with a side of ultra-reduced marinara sauce, this is a fun little appetizer that helps you soak up a few drinks deep into the night. 

 💰: $14
📍 1166 Geneva Ave., San Francisco

Ceviche mixto at Ceviche 19

Julio Vidal’s dream was to have his own restaurant, and he’s one step closer to that with the opening of his Ceviche 19 stall in the Mission Economic Development Agency building on 19th and Mission. The agency sponsors a business incubator program that provides training, business planning and other forms of support to entrepreneurs like Vidal, who used to cook at the acclaimed Peruvian restaurant La Costanera in Pacifica. He opened his stand last spring as a participant in the program.

A plate of ceviche with shrimp, corn, onion, and fried plantains on a blue floral tablecloth.
Mix it up with a plate of ceviche mixto at Ceviche 19, filled with whitefish, calamari, shrimp, mussels, sweet potato and fresh Peruvian corn. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

My favorite dish is the ceviche—it’s light and bright, zippy and slightly spicy, and most importantly, beautifully balanced. The mixto comes with Pacific whitefish, toothsome calamari, plump shrimp and mussels, along with a soft piece of sweet potato, as well as both crispy and fresh Peruvian corn. The entire thing is a wonderland. Scoop up the ceviche with pieces of fried plantains and go to town. 

💰: $21.99
📍 2301 Mission St., San Francisco

A bottle I’m loving 

Chris Brockway has been making wine since 2002 using only organically farmed grapes, and I love his natural winery Broc Cellars in Berkeley. I recently sat in the outside patio tasting room on a nice sunny Saturday, and its Cabernet Franc hit just right—light, fresh and highly quaffable. Enjoy this red with a slight chill—it’s a porch pounder.

🍷Broc Cellars, 2022 Koukou Cabernet Franc
📍Broc Cellars,1300 Fifth St., Berkeley

And one more thing I’m stoked on: I was bummed when the NoPa neighborhood cafe Automat closed last August, but when I learned I could once again get Lazy Bear alum chef Matt Kirk’s food at the popup space at 3560 Taraval St. in the Outer Sunset, I was stoked. He makes the best burger buns in the city—soft, squishy and slightly sweet. Best of all, if you DM him on his Instagram, he offers a six-pack of buns for $12 for pickup.

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer and cookie dough professional. Find him on Instagram.