A couple of weeks ago, we went for a 5-day trip to San Francisco as a mid-year getaway to refresh ourselves from the daily grind and revisit a city we’ve been meaning to get back to since our first trip nearly 5 years ago. Back then, I tagged along while Mark was at a work conference, so it wasn’t much of a vacation and we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore and just enjoy the city. Plus, we were rookie travelers back in the day, so I feel like this recent trip made up for most of the missed opportunities of that first visit.
We landed on a Tuesday afternoon, with the only planned element being an early dinner at BIX, a San Francisco institute that’s been around since 1988. I was intrigued by the description of the place as a throw-back to the 1930’s/40’s speakeasy or supper club, neither of which I have any experience being to but I imagined there would be jazz playing. I had read somewhere that they have an excellent burger, with some claiming it as the best in San Francisco. Burger, you say? Sold! Tucked away down a quiet (and easily missed, if you’re not looking for it) alleyway, its beautiful brick facade invited us into its ultra-dim interior, already bustling with people at the bar even though it was only 5:30pm. I’m guessing it’s a popular spot for after-work drinks as it’s located in the Financial District.
The brightness of the sun shining outside is a stark contrast to just how dimly lit the interior was. The hostess remarked that it wouldn’t take too long for our eyes to adjust as we took our seats at the back of the restaurant. All of the staff were sharply dressed and as I had imagined, jazz was playing in the background, which I quite enjoyed. It’s difficult to tell in the picture above, but the ceiling is really high, giving the room a very spacious feel.
We started with the À la minute Ceviche (Chiles, Ginger, Avocado and Toasted Corn Nuts), which came to us portioned evenly on separate plates. Our server had asked if we were sharing and we appreciated the extra effort made to split this for us. It doesn’t say what type of fish it is, but it was light-fleshed, firm, and clean-tasting. I can’t quite describe the flavour of this – it was bright, tangy, a little bit spicy from the chile, and earthy all at the same time. The crunchy bits of toasted corn nuts were perfect for that contrasting texture. Each bite was equally delicious, with all of the elements complementing each other like a superstar team of epic flavours. Truly enjoyable and something I could’ve had more of.
We each ordered the Black Truffle Cheese Burger (served open face on Rye with Truffle Fries), minus the cheese for me, obviously. I often wonder if the server goes to the kitchen and makes snide remarks about me asking for a cheese burger without the cheese because it just seems stupid to order a cheese burger without the cheese, right? In my defense, this is the only burger listed on the menu, and I’m at a point in my life where I’m happy to be fodder for people to laugh at so long as it gives them a bit of joy. Anyway, this burger came with grilled onion on top, a lightly dressed salad of arugula, and a decent portion of crispy truffle fries. The burger patty itself was really thick and I didn’t realize until over halfway through that it’s actually stuffed with truffles. The verdict? It was decent, nothing special. The meat was on the dry side and quite dense; it didn’t have the signature juiciness that I would expect from an excellent burger. I did like it with the grilled onion on top as it gave my palate something a little sweet to balance out the burger. The real winner on the plate for me were the fries. Each one was perfectly crispy, well-seasoned, with a touch of truffle taste. I polished every single one of those babies off and didn’t regret a thing.
In the end, we passed on dessert as the appetizer and the burger were more than plenty of food for us. While the burger kind of let us down, the ceviche was excellent, the service was impeccable throughout, and the atmosphere was a new experience. By the end of our meal, tables were starting to fill up, mostly with groups of sharply dressed businessmen and couples out on date night. In our casual jeans and t-shirts, I felt a little under-dressed, but I don’t believe there’s a dress code there. The prices are high, but I think that’s typical of San Francisco restaurants.
Later on in the week, we went on a food tour and we passed by Bix at the beginning. Our host remarked that the best burger is actually on the secret menu. Mark and I looked at each other like, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I felt a little ashamed that I didn’t pick that tidbit up in my research before the trip, but that’s a lesson learned for next time. Remember, if you want a burger, get the one off the secret menu.
56 Gold St San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone: (415) 433-6300