“I don’t want to eat big-ass burgers anymore,” Wes Rowe says, mustache bristling. The burger man means business. “I want thin, crispy patties, and to do that right, you have to smash the shit out of them.”
Over the weekend, Rowe slashed half the menu at WesBurger ‘N’ More, his throwback diner at Mission and 18th, and debuted a totally different style of burger: the smash burger — a technique that, true to its name, involves putting a ball of raw meat on the griddle and then smashing it with a heavy weight until it’s as thin as a pancake. The result is a flat disc of a patty with the maximum amount charred crust — and pretty much the opposite of the thick, juicy burgers that the restaurant used to serve.
In the Bay, there are a several spots that are doing smash burgers, including Popson’s, Causwells, Lovelies, Trueburger, and, perhaps most prominently, the New York–based super-chain Shake Shack. Rowe, on the other hand, is a Mission local, and he’s pricing the new burgers at $6.50 for a single and $9.50 for a double — significantly less expensive than the $12 thicker burgers he sold before.
Rowe calls his new specialty “pocket burgers,” and they are slightly smaller, featuring those thin, crispy patties on pillowy potato buns. As before, he gets his brisket ground fresh daily at a neighboring market, and he never shapes the meat in advance. It’s all smashed to order, wielding eight-pound steel weights. “The technique matters — it does take more care,” Rowe explains. “If you don’t smash well, you just get a thin, gray burger.”
The single is simple, with American cheese, pickle, and onion. “It’s kind of McDonald’s style, kiddy nostalgia,” Rowe says. The double adds shaved red onions and special sauce. Last but not least, he’s also added a Cali-style patty melt he says works especially well with the new burger style: “Smashing fills out every corner of the bread, so you get beef and onions melded into every bite.”
Rowe has also installed a smoker, which means brisket jerky for the bar, and butter-braised turkey sandwiches. And a couple of thick, classic burgers are staying on the menu, at least for now.
Originally from Texas, Rowe moved to SF for high school, and burst onto the local burger scene when he won the SF Burger Brawl in 2013. First a pop-up for three years, his three-year-old throwback diner verges on a dive, complete with a 70s-style faux rock wall, a drive-in style awning (that’s indoors), a counter, booths, a jukebox, and a mini drinking den next door. Welcoming families during the day and sliding into a rowdy crowd late at night, it’s a very Mission experience. Hopefully the neighborhood is into the smash.