The calm fools

10 Must-Try Burgers in San Francisco 2014

It’s been three long years.* I think it took me two years to get over the hype of pedigree and go with what I genuinely liked: wet burgers. So in a way, this is my most personal list of favorites in San Francisco.** Enjoy.

10. [NEW] Double cheeseburger at Sam’s, North Beach 

SamsBurger

Anthony Bourdain drunkenly tweeted this was a top 3 burger in his life & was featured in an episode of The Layover. The simple barstool setup with its walls muscled in patron photos who’ve graced Sam’s over the decades is dripped in city blue collar blood. Piping hot fries, a tab of Sriracha sauce, and the best off-the-grill burger you’ve ever tasted. You could shoot the shit with Mike if you’re lucky and he’ll regale you with tales of Chinatown & story of every city denizen that comes in.

The burger that started my journey to burger whispering.

9. [NEW] Drive in cheeseburger at Garaje, SOMA

Garaje Cheeseburger

This is easily up there in the most-times eaten entry with Sam’s. The most startup-ey one on the list, the fresh ground Angus chuck patty is char-grilled with only salt. Smaller on the 1/3 pound side, it’s only got a tiny pink (they make it medium), but a very generous slather of melted cheese punched through with a strong beefy flavor.

At $6, even the ramen profitable can grab a seat. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Must-Try Burgers in San Francisco 2013

It’s back.* Better, faster, fatter, I’ve expanded my resume to the fields of Crocker-Amazon and more Michelin glamour in downtown.

Again, the theme for this burger guide is that there isn’t really the best way to make a burger, there are just bad ways to go about it. In my search for the burger, here are San Francisco’s gems for you to enjoy**!

10. [NEW] Fresh Ground Burger at Monk’s Kettle. Mission.

Monks

We start the list off with a bar burger, which are special unicorns that I’ve come to appreciate through the years. The Monk has probably the neatest, staunch dry burger on this List. The onion jam tricks you into thinking it’s a wet one, but a sturdy acne bun takes you back to its core. The white cheddar and bacon don’t even interfere with the patty.

If you’ve lost your way, let this burger hold your hand and guide you.

9. Truffle Burger at Umami Burger. Marina.

Umami

I hate writing about Umami. It’s a chain, but heaven knows how hard I’ve tried to quit Umami Burger. The awesome ambiance, your great menu selection of sweets & savories. Your 6-ounce patty that’s always medium rare topped with a mild truffle-infused cheese and glaze. That “secret” Umami sauce slipping its way into my mouth. As LA Burger describes it:

There’s no lettuce, tomato or anything else to get in the way of experiencing the fifth taste sensation of umami found in truffles – their rich, earthy, full-bodied deliciousness.

It’s sickening, I tell you. Read the rest of this entry »

All Great Lives Had Wilderness Years

Bobby Fisher

The keener eye recognizes the “Pinch,” typically halfway through the story, after the Catalyst and right before the Climax. This is the point of no return for your main character where motivation is strengthened and what they have to do is made perfectly clear. The struggle within the character to understand their purpose to fight to the crisis, where all hope seems lost.

Turns out, this happens in real life too. And history has shown the different responses to what different historians have called, “The Wilderness Years.” Examples:

  • Bobby Fisher. The de facto greatest chess player of all time. The pure positional game in chess “energized him,” naturally understanding where every piece must go. His Wilderness Years drove him into the darkest chapter of his life. He never recovered, wandering aimlessly and died in an Iceland hospital, estranged from family and friends.
  •  Winston Churchill. Regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century, he was ousted in 1928 from the Britain’s Conservative government for the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. Churchill assumes his career is over. But his maverick journey of being attacked relentlessly for unpopular views about the King’s abdication and Hitler’s threat highlighted his Wilderness Years, culminating to his ascension in 1939 as Prime Minster. He’d serve twice, winning a Nobel prize, and after his death was named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll.
  • And the one that Silicon reveres, Steve Jobs. We’ve all heard from time and time again his 1985 to 1996 hiatus from Apple, as if the only meaningful times in Jobs’s life were those spent in Cupertino.

In fact, this middle period was the most pivotal of his life. And perhaps the happiest. He finally settled down, married, and had a family. He learned the value of patience and the ability to feign it when he lost it. Most important, his work with the two companies he led during that time, NeXT and Pixar, turned him into the kind of man, and leader, who would spur Apple to unimaginable heights upon his return.

To reflect, where are you in your story? Are you having trouble raising a round? Lost a key co-founder? Company deadpooled?

Embrace it. This is where your character must be sharpened by iron, to be tested right before the Climax, where you’ll face the toughest thing you’d have to face in your life.

“Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”—Bruce Lee

An Opinionated San Francisco Food Guide for the Uninitiated

Lazy and need someone just to yell at you to tell you what to do? Welcome.

Let’s get these out of the way:

  • Public Transportation from the airports (OAK or SFO) is terribad. Unless you’re willing to spend a $40-$70 cab ride (depending on the competency of your driver slash getting stuck on the pleasures of 101), you’ll be taking BART. It is not rapid, it is not ideal.
  • Layer up. Because we’re on a peninsula, the weather during night and day is +/- 20 degrees, easy. Top it off with sudden wind bursts and fog rolls, it’s funsies.
  • People are weird here, a lot homeless. Compared to other major metropolitans, San Francisco is a bit more “weathered” (read: old), not as aesthetically pleasing, and there is a healthy population of homeless people here. Because of the current tech boom that’s occurring in Silicon Valley, there is a wide disparency between engineers/investors and lifers that have arrested Mission since the 80′s. To label it as “socioeconomic tension” is just surface area.

That said, bar none, it is one of the most health-conscious, high quality of life food-cities in the United States. New York is generally the “what you pay is what you get.” Here in San Francisco, even if you were a total nub you actually have a very high chance of wandering into a restaurant that serves pretty awesome food for a very reasonable price. It’s weird.

Without further ado, here are the five must-eats for the full palette of San Francisco.

5. Prime rib at House of Prime Rib, Nob Hill. 

The old guard of San Francisco. Husky restaurant with amazing salads, amazing cuts. Reservations are a must. An awesome alternative is Swan Oyster Depot, also in Nob Hill. Lunch only though.

$~37 for the House of Prime Rib Cut; takes up a dinner or lunch. Read the rest of this entry »

Startup Life is Hard

I think what inspired me to write this post was inDinero founder Jessica Mah’s rather frank interview about the difficulties of founding a startup at Stanford. It might not ask a lot of hard questions, but it sure almost plays as a confession.

Startup Digest founder Chris McCann succinctly stated, “Startups are unimaginably difficult.

All my friends back out East who are stuck in their respective rut as the corporate cog always say, “Wow Abel, you got it so good. San Francisco is the new heart of the startup scene, and you’re working at a Y Combinator company, surrounded by the best talent Silicon Valley can recognize. Plus, that food you’re eating.”

I don’t know how it is for the younger entrepreneurs in this city, but sometimes I’m tired of saying the same party line, “Oh it’s all grand, we just broke profitability a few months ago! Exciting times!” While all the above is true, I turned 27. My golden parachute savings have been ransacked. We’re burning through money. Because our startup might just die any moment, I don’t have much job security. I’m single nowhere near indicators of a serious relationship. Your balls may not be in a vice, but they sure are dangling in the winds with no clear indication of a safe landing.

Despite all this, no one is excited as I am to see where this journey leads. I have never met so many smart, amazing people in a short space of time, and never has anything else been as this rewarding.

As the poker gods would say, ship it.

5 Must-Try Burgers in San Francisco 2012

The argument of “best burger” is relative. There isn’t really the best way to make a burger, there are just bad ways to go about it. And there will always be the local denizen joints that we’ve all come to love; Ganim’s, Sam’s, or Roam Artisan Burgers come to mind. I’m sure I’m forgetting all the other neighborhood bombs in San Francisco.

In my search for the burger, I’ve actually come to learn more about myself. And I hope the list that I humbly present to you may find culinary revelations in each of these masterpieces.*

Honorable Mention: Truffle Burger at Umami Burger. Marina. 

Despite the fact that it’s a chain not from San Francisco, I am personally a fan. It’s technically located in our city so I’m allowed to blog about it. Actually, screw you, I can write whatever I want.

The place secretes the vision of serving you an awesome burger. Despite the raves for their flagship Umami Burger, I believe their best candidate has been the Truffle Burger all along. A 6-ounce patty that’s always done medium rare topped with a mild truffle-infused cheese and glaze, and nothing else allows their master “secret” Umami sauce shine through. The simple trappings of the Truffle allow the beef to come through. As LA Burger describes it:

There’s no lettuce, tomato or anything else to get in the way of experiencing the fifth taste sensation of umami found in truffles – their rich, earthy, full-bodied deliciousness.

I think the house-made ice cream sandwich was the final nail in the coffin. Crowd pleasers, believe.

5. Burger at Fish & Farm. Civic Center/Tenderloin. 

To be honest, this burger would’ve been so much higher on the list if not for the fact a) the spokeswoman for this establishment abhors this burger (she said it brought in and I quote, “a lower class of patrons”), and b) the service has been its greatest flaw.

Strangely, its pedigree is not “gourmet” if you really break it down. It’s probably one of the “wettest” burgers on this list. 7×7 notes:

The Niman beef is not ground in-house and the grilled Acme brioche bun becomes one with an umami-tastic “secret sauce”— spiked with fresh green peppercorns and heady with horseradish—dripping down the sides. The lily is gilded with grilled onions, housemade pickles, melted Cabot cheddar and a steak knife thrust, rather thrillingly, into the center.

Conclusion: come for the “Farm” and not so much for the “Fish” and you’ll be in great hands. I tearfully await the day they remove this beauty from the menu. In the meantime, bring extra napkins. The Seven Years of Plenty just showed up early. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on Daily Deals From a Startup Perspective

With OpenTable announcing that they’re shuttering their daily deals leg, we tally another casualty. Facebook has formally withdrawn from the Deals Wars, BuyWithMe had a horrendous execution of laying off half of its workforce to be an acquisition target for Gilt, and everyone watched a general industry shakeout.

Add Silicon Valley tightening its Round A/B funding, you might say the sky is falling. Oh wait, I failed to mention there was a company called Groupon…is that still IPOing? As a Partner at Munch on Me fighting within this fierce sector, I hope to lay out some personal observations. These are obviously my own opinions, and do not reflect Munch on Me’s organization beliefs whatsoever. Read the rest of this entry »

The 10 Most Enjoyable Eats on The 7×7 Big Eat List

So here we are. Fatter, wiser, and 100 meals Foursquared in San Francisco. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recently took on 7×7′s 2010 foodie challenge of eating everything on this list in a year. The list described on the website as, “a serious melting pot of flavors made up of timeless classics, off-the-beaten-path gems and a few – how shall we put it – experiences” began its journey to my tummy on September 8th, 2010. For those who don’t have the time or budget to eat 100 different things, today I am pleased to share with you the best of the best! If you were to do an eating tour of San Francisco, I think this list would be a great introduction.

Because I’m playing with such a deep roster, my choices were rooted heavily on quality at the price point it was given, along with the service, ambiance, etc. It got bonus points if it was a “San Francisco first” culinary experience as well.

10. Egg Custard Tart at Golden Gate Bakery, Chinatown. 

Of course I’d start off this list with a dessert. Their famous egg custard tarts are so good they almost charge twice as much compared to the normal street prices with impunity, but it’s worth it. It has all the trappings of a good Chinese hole-in-the-wall: a) it looks like one, b) they “go on vacation” and close whenever they want and c) there’s no website whatsoever. The crust is airy, yet moist with a hint of crisp. It’s always insanely fresh so make sure you give it a few minutes to cool. Bottom line, Golden Gate Bakery has saved what has become a tourist trap of a Chinatown.

~$1.13/piece. Read the rest of this entry »

The 5 Things I Learned in Search For a Startup Career

The past year of jumping into startups without knowing any better has had a remarkable impact on my life. After having an amazing experience at DocSpot, I now find myself back in the wilderness of unemployment, auditioning for the dream job.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a ton of sharp people* in this space, and everyone’s given thoughtful advice on how to best market yourself. As I slowly shift through the landscape, I’ve begun to develop the knack of seeing people who could bring you to the Promised Land. You just knew that they were going somewhere, and you had to buy their stock. The proposition of turning a $1 into $1.10 or $1.25 if you’re lucky has brought upon an amazing response of innovation and flaming disasters in this city.

Here are the five things (er, technically four) I’ve learned to make yourself a better job candidate, and help the companies find you faster.

1. Ship something, anything.

Every single successful startup career that I’ve had the privilege of knowing began with a product. A website, mobile app, wire frame design. It’s not important that your project is successful, but rather you executed. There are  lot of smart people out here that can develop an idea, but have poor follow through. Make a portfolio that advocates you and your passions. This blog alone is one of the projects that I’ve been fleshing out to put myself out there. In three weeks, I am going to deliver a mobile app that caters to foodies.

Bottom line, make something out of nothing so when you show up in that interview, you can prove through example you are capable of delivering. Read the rest of this entry »

If Women are the Rake, Ivey is the Tax: Thoughts After My First WSOP

The Felt

In college while playing poker you’d eventually watch one of the most famous films for any degenerate-wannabe: Rounders. Whether you picked up cards at a home game, fraternity, or social event, everyone romanticized Matt Damon’s run for the World Series. It was the movie that shed light on Texas Hold’Em before it even became popular in Moneymaker’s 2003 breakout year. Bonus, it was filled with amazing quotes and a laughable Russian accent for John Malkovich.

Even though I own the Collector’s Edition, I don’t touch it anymore. It’s so far from the truth it’s almost lethal to mire in its mystical vapors. After this trip and re-living what can only be described as the “euphoric hell” that grinders go through, I now understand how lucky I used to run in the $2-$5 NL games.

Here are three things that I learned that can be quickly applied to startup/every day mentality.

1. Preparing to Win Not Just on Special Occasions

Before the tournament I was meticulous in my planning. I made sure I ate non-greasy, light breakfast food and that I’d chew 20 times (which is insane, but the recommended number per mouthful) per bite, which I never do. I prepared snacks for each break, coordinated when I’d do bathroom breaks, all down to the wire.

Then I realized, “Why don’t I do this every day?” Why can’t I prepare the crap out of each day wanting to win the daily baby seal cereal prize? I had chosen to not kick ass every day, which is falling short of my potential.

Play like you’re gonna win every day with a plan. Read the rest of this entry »