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Food & Drink

One of SF’s best new cheeseburgers comes from a little red truck in Mission Bay

Burger Littles' smashburger is a perfect exercise in gluttonous restraint. Plus, a glamorous new cocktail lounge and an ooey-gooey rich Basque cheesecake

A cheeseburger with fries in a checkered basket, on a wooden surface.
When the smash is just right: Burger Littles at SF's Spark Social food truck park in Mission Bay makes a killer option. | Source: Omar Mamoon for the Standard

This is All Things Consumed, a weekly column by The Standard’s eater-at-large, Omar Mamoon, featuring three great dishes he’s eaten, one thing he’s imbibed and one tasty item he’s stoked on.

Cheeseburger at Burger Littles

This is burger minimalism at its best. On the surface, it may look like just a regular ole smashburger, a classic style of burger that features a ball of ground meat smashed thin and griddled until crispy and browned, affording the opportunity for a maximum Maillard reaction. But as delicious as smashburgers are, sometimes I want a patty with substance—ground beef with a bite. The cheeseburger at Burger Littles offers just that.

The tiny, red, 2-month-old food truck run by John Nguyen is stationed at the Spark Social SF food truck park in Mission Bay and makes a double cheeseburger that features two generous 3.5-ounce house-ground patties made from Angus beef. Though the patties are pressed, they’re still thick enough to maintain a meaty center after being cooked. Of course, there’s the requisite soft, squishy potato roll and melty American cheese. But instead of a sweet “special” sauce and grilled onions, there’s simply a swipe of yellow mustard and a few thin circles of raw onion. It’s an artistic exercise in restraint. 

💰 $11
📍 525 Nelson Rising Lane, San Francisco 

Tuna crudo at Starlite

The new-fangled Starlite has gotten a lot of attention since opening in January and for good reason—it’s all glitter and glam. Located on the 21st floor of the Beacon Grand Hotel in the space formerly and famously known as Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, the refreshed and rebooted cocktail lounge provides a sweeping 360-degree view of San Francisco. From its vantage point, high above Union Square, it feels like you’re floating on air.  

A plate of tuna tartare garnished with flower petals, herbs, and sauce dots.
The tweezery tuna crudo at Starlite might be the prettiest thing at the very pretty Starlite in Union Square. | Source: Omar Mamoon for the Standard

The drinks are shaken up by industry vet and Trick Dog co-founder Scott Baird, and not surprisingly, they’re excellent. But even more glamorous than the Pornstar Martini, afloat with edible glitter, is the crudo: Cubes of perfectly cut, ruby-red ahi tuna, tossed in smoked olive oil, spritzed with bright yuzu and tweezer-topped with thin slices of radish, flower petals and crunchy ice plant leaves. The dish comes courtesy of chef Johnny Spero, of the Michelin-starred Reverie in Washington, D.C. It’s exquisite.

💰 $20
📍450 Powell St., San Francisco

Burnt Basque cheesecake at Ernest

Ernest, the globally inspired restaurant from fine-dining chef Brandon Rice, suits all sorts of occasions. You can walk in and sit at the bar for a quick drink and a bite from the raw bar, or have a seat in the dining room for a “Let the Kitchen Cook for You” option, enjoying a full-on feast featuring flavor combinations you’ve likely never had before. The dishes rotate and change often, but one of the menu mainstays I love is the DIY handroll dish—sushi rice topped with seasoned raw beef and shiny ikura, all served with a side of crispy nori.

A slice of creamy cheesecake with a brûléed top on a blue plate.
The decadent burnt Basque cheesecake at Ernest is not only served by the slice but can be ordered ahead as a whole. | Source: Annie Rainero

You can also go to Ernest and just get dessert, specifically the delicious burnt Basque cheesecake. Earlier in his career, Rice cooked at the three-Michelin starred Quique Dacosta in Spain, where he learned the basics of making the rich, gooey dessert. He cleverly perfumes his version with orange blossom water for a subtle floral note. It’s not too sweet, comes by the slice and can also be purchased by the whole if you give Ernest at least 24-hour notice via email ( Stick a candle in it and make it a birthday cake. 

💰 $13/slice, $75/whole
1890 Bryant St., Suite 100, San Francisco

A drink I’m loving: Vegan coconut mocha

Not everything I drink contains alcohol. Case in point: The delicious can of cold Vietnamese coffee from Little Green Cyclo, the Brisbane-based business that started off as a gourmet Vietnamese food truck. One can is the equivalent of two cups of coffee, enough to start my morning. But most importantly, it’s not too sweet. I bet it would taste great spiked with a little whiskey.

💰 $5.99/7.5-ounce can
📍 At Valencia Whole Foods, 999 Valencia St., San Francisco

And one more thing I'm stoked on: Lady Edison Extra Fancy Country Ham

This ham is admittedly a little pricey for the amount you get, but, per pound, it’s comparable to the good stuff from Spain—a small splurge for something so big on flavor. Lady Edison’s thinly sliced ham comes from pasture-raised heritage hogs from North Carolina. The pork is cured in salt, then wrapped and hung dry for a year or longer, resulting in a rich, funky, floral, sweet meat. It’s truly special.

💰 $15.99/2 ounces
📍 Available at Bi-Rite, 3639 18th St., San Francisco

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