Yes, your eyes didn’t deceive you. That featured photo was neither your standard grilled cheese, nor your standard cheeseburger. It is an insane, lusty menage a trois wherein two textbook American grilled cheese sandwiches surround, yet manage not to completely overwhelm, a meaty cheeseburger. Yes, what I’m describing is food porn and nearly almost is too obscene to write about.
I can give you a million reasons why I shouldn’t have given into the Willows’ heart-stopping concoction. Why would anyone need to make a burger anymore artery-clogging, triglyceride spiking, carb-laden, diabetes engine than the restaurant burger already is. Western society, thanks to the plethora of burger joints in the past 10 years, each of which constantly fights to be distinctive, has moved far beyond the paltry fast-food hamburger. (Hey, don’t knock the McDonald’s classic cheeseburger! Yes, it might be short on actual meat or “meat products”, but it’s tasty and only a respectable 320 calories). A quarter-pounder? Not enough. You’ll rarely see a restaurant burger that is less than a third of a pound on any menu. So to substitute grilled cheese sandwiches for the standard buns?
It’s emblematic of everything stereotypically wrong with America and yet its iconography. I wonder what first-time visitors to the U.S. would think if exposed to this maddening concoction. The Willows, a San Francisco-based gastropub, certainly isn’t the first or only restaurant to throw down the gauntlet with such a sinful mash-up, which I fondly refer to as the Turducken of burgers.
I could have lost my willpower somewhere or another time else, but thanks to some work stress and open-minded co-workers, I lost my burger innocence in San Francisco, thanks to The Willows.
That morning, I certainly began the day, like many of us, with every intention of eating healthfully. But after hearing a coworker describe that his daughter found a place where one could get a burger with grilled cheeses instead of buns, a few of us were intrigued. I opted to ask them to mule me back one of these burgers, going to a yoga class while they ate in the restaurant. It was a weak attempt to earn that burger.
Any of their amazing burgers can be customized with the grilled cheese “buns.” I chose The Mary burger. It wildly exceeded my expectations. The burger itself was fantastic – excellent quality meat, perfectly salted and seasoned, cooked to juicy pink center. Cheddar cheese to compliment the American grilled cheese, bacon, and avocado, as well as pickles and crisp lettuce added so much flavor and texture. Then, adding the grilled cheese – completely upped the game. The grilled cheese sandwiches themselves are your childhood variety – not the gourmet, raclette and gruyere filled versions you might see at your average San Francisco gastropub. These are all basics – basic white bread and that slightly metallic tasting tang of processed American cheese slices. Underwhelming alone, these sandwiches make the perfect bookends for that awesome burger. It’s a truly terrifying sight, not to mention the pangs of regret one feels a few hours later realizing the extent of the sin.
So yes, I felt pretty terrible after eating it. Terribly awesome…! Sometimes, one just has to throw common sense to the wind for a spectacular experience. The Willows was just such an occasion, and it didn’t disappoint.