Chase Elliott, a server of four years at San Francisco institution Spruce, wasn’t working long before he heard the rumors. He'd just come to the city from his hometown of Santa Cruz and felt lucky to get a job at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Even today, he can barely pin down the origin of the myth shared by back of house, front of house, and some customers: expectant parents have a specific penchant for the Spruce burger because — as the legend goes — it’s rumored to induce labor. “I’ve seen many [pregnant people] come far and wide for the burger whose reputation precedes itself,” Elliott says.
The popular burger is available only on Spruce’s bar menu, and the price, $22, for a Michelin-starred restaurant, wouldn’t immediately raise eyebrows. Elliott says he thinks the burger just offers a perfect comfort for parents. It could be an expectant parent, making visits to myriad medical facilities, fitness studios, and pediatricians that dot the blocks surrounding the restaurant. It could be someone who just gave birth sending their partner out for comfort food. Sometimes it could be a very pregnant person who believes the burger will induce labor. “It’s certainly a thing for moms who are finishing their first stint of being home with the baby to order it,” Elliott says.
For whatever reason, the myth has taken hold; a Spruce busser attested to the phenomenon, too. When describing the rumor, he only threw up his hands, shrugged, and said that everyone he works with at the restaurant seemed to believe in the burger’s stimulating powers. Karey Walker, director of marketing and public relations for Bacchus Management, the public relations firm that represents Spruce, confirmed the rumors: since opening in 2007, guests at local hospitals have flocked to Spruce for the burger, she says. “Especially when one partner was giving birth,” Walker says.
An air of mystery surrounds the legend, the roots of which proved difficult to find. One Nextdoor user sent a direct message to Eater SF confirming their friend ordered the burger to induce labor but didn’t provide more details when asked. Another Spruce spokesperson told Eater SF he remembers hearing about the burger’s powers, but couldn’t recall any specifics. He did point to a similar situation in Minneapolis — though Spruce’s burger doesn’t contain any of the ingredients, like balsamic vinegar, or traits, like being particularly spicy, often rumored to induce labor.
Elliott thinks the burger is just a well-made indulgence. The 8-ounce patty is American wagyu beef, salted and peppered on a flat top. The fries used to be dunked in duck fat and, though the kitchen says they’re prepared with regular old canola oil now.
Instagram, and its “burger tourism” as Elliott calls it, may add to the rumor mill nature of the burger’s reputation. It’s not a narrative pushed by the restaurant, he says, yet families with young children and soon-to-be parents flock to Spruce for the burger nonetheless. During the pandemic, takeout orders of the sandwich for expectant or brand new moms were common. “Customers come in saying ‘She craved it the whole time she was pregnant, we’ve got to get the burger,’” Elliott says. “It’s sort of a one-two-punch with all the pediatricians around here.”