When we first moved to San Francisco, and honestly still, we relied on Yelp, 7×7, and Frommer’s for all our recommendations, seeing how the few people we knew here were other imported Texans. When we started looking for a good burger, everyone and their dog had a different opinion about which burger was the best. Some just gave up and pointed to In-N-Out, a good fast food option for sure, but still fast food. After doing a lot of research, a small bit more people recommended or compared Marlowe to everything else. Suddenly we had option number one. Unfortunately, like all of the rest of
San Francisco, Marlowe needs a reservation, even for lunch. It took several months to find a convenient time, but finally, after several months, we booked a reservation the day before Thanksgiving.
That’s as good a place to start our quest as I could find. We met up around 1pm and walked to Marlowe from the Caltrain stop. As we approached the restaurant, the walkway heightened our expectations with reviews of butter and dripping beef patties inside.
Everything about the place is very San Francisco, from the pristine aged wood tabletops to the four chalkboard portraits, with a diagram of each meat (beef, pork, fish, and lamb) they serve and the various cuts. Of course, it wouldn’t truly be San Francisco if the tables weren’t crammed in together so as to ensure you can hear your neighbors’ conversations.
As we waited for our table to be set up, we just watched as table after table would order nothing but burgers. Clearly, the burgers here are the main attraction for lunch. Since this is the first review, I’ll try to establish four basic points to the burgers – toppings, meat, bun, and sides (or lack thereof)
Toppings - Burgers were topped with fresh chopped lettuce, bacon, cheddar cheese, and aioli sauce. At the time I ate the burger, there was nothing remarkable. The bacon was a little dryer than I would have made it myself, but still good. The cheese was properly melted good ol’ fashioned cheddar. The aoili had a nice zip to it, if not really earth-shattering. (3.0/5.0)
Meat – Right off the bat, the first thing anyone is going to notice, is that the burger has a little tart to it, courtesy of a small portion of lamb ground into the patty. It’s definitely a change of pace, thought I’m not entirely sure if it’s positive or negative — something I’d definitely consider next time I come back. When I have an option, I usually ask for my burgers at medium rare. It was a little overcooked, more like a medium-well, but still juicy enough that I could dip the last little bits of the burger into a nice burger juice left on the plate as I finished. (4.5/5.0)
Bun - Marlowe used an Acme brioche bun, which apparently is a local bread company of some renown around the bay area. I, myself — no clue. It was a nice sweet bun that would have gone a lot better with a different burger, but as is, the mix of sweetness of the brioche bun and the tart from the lamb/beef patty was a little weird, but in a good way. (4.0/5.0)
Sides - The fries were pretty standard thick cut fries. There was a little fru-fru seasoning that you would probably expect from an upscale place like this, but nothing I would bother to remember. Good enough that I was happy they come with the burger, but not good enough to pay for separately. (3.0/5.0)
Based on that, Marlowe’s overall experience was about a 3.6, good, but I walked away a little disappointed for something that gets so consistently lauded among the foodie blogs, but then I burped. And while that may sound gross to you, a good burger burp is so enjoyable to a burger lover like myself, that when it’s good you know it. All the strange flavors — the aioli, the bit of ground lamb, and the brioche bun, even the fru-fru fry seasoning I couldn’t identify at the time — all came together to leave this amazing aftertaste in my mouth. Like the polar opposite of the feeling 30 minutes after a Big Mac when you regret your meal choices. For that alone, I am bumping this burger up to a B.
Marlowe’s Marlowe Burger – 4.0/5.0 – An eclectic mix of flavors that lingers just long enough to make you crave it again.