Umami Burger in San Francisco

by foodhoe on December 19, 2011

2184 Union Street,  SF, CA 94123 | 415.440.8626 | website

My friend DebbiG chose the new temple of ground flap meat, Umami Burger as the location to celebrate her birthday last week.  Our party of 10 were told to expect a 45 minute wait for the only large table in the restaurant, so we wandered down the block to find a bar or cafe to hangout.  In one of those inevitable mishaps, we ended up at a very disorganized outdoor cafe that delivered our drinks just as we received the message that our table was ready.  I know, huh?  I had to chug my $12 glass of Turley zin which gave me a warm and fuzzy glow.

The logo is a stylized bun, that also resembles lips, which by the way, are all branded with a big U.  They grind their own meat, process the cheese and make the pickles to boot.  The menu is pretty much burgers, with options for a turkey burger, a couple of vegetarian burgers, a variety of sides and has a wide selection of wine and beer.  Umami Burger is a small growing chain that began in Los Angeles, which has received a lot of press (read it on umami tumblr). This is their first location in Northern California and we hope that they open up a spot in the east bay as the rumormill indicates.  Long ago, 1908 to be exact, a professor in Japan observed that the taste of konbu dashi was distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty and named it umami, meaning “savory” in Japanese.  Umami is imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods.  The taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors, most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious.  A burger to me is pretty much an umami bomb to begin with, so I was interested to see what the fuss was all about.

I had to order the Bacon-Wrapped Scallop Burger($15) mostly because it is only offered at this San Francisco location, and well I love bacon wrapped scallops!  It was gorgeous, the scallop patty was nicely seared but juicy, topped with slices of crisped rich pork belly, sweet chili sauce and yuzu-garlic aioli.   Not exactly bacon wrapped, but the flavors were heavenly.  It was really delicious, I recommend it if you like scallops and pork belly!

Bacon-Wrapped Scallop Burger ($15)

Mr. K had the Umami Burger ($11), their signature dish which includes shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, and a swirl of umami ketchup.  Most of the toppings were on the sweet side which knocked the balance off for us who prefer mustard to ketchup on our burgers.

Umami Burger ($11)

The burgers are slow cooked and then finished off at high heat and are generally served medium rare.  The patty was delicious, juicy and flavorful, the shiitake were velvety, and I loved the parmesan crisp; but overall I prefer the traditional toppings (lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles) on my burger.

Scott had the Hatch Burger ($10) roasted green chilies, house-made American cheese.  He ordered it as one of several packages available, Kombu Meal #3 which includes the hatch burger, tempura onion rings, and a Hoegaarden draft beer for $17

Hatch Burger ($10)

Elizabeth had the Manly Burger ($11) which was topped with melted beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings, and bacon lardons.  How did I miss this on the menu?  That looks so good.

Manly Burger ($11) mmmm, bacon lardons!

A couple of people had the Ahi Burger ($15), which is made from hand-chopped sushi grade ahi tuna and is topped with crushed avocado, pickled ginger, and sprinkled generously with wasabi flake.

Ahi Tuna Burger ($15)

I can’t remember who it was that ordered the Earth Burger ($12), that required a visit from far across the table.  It is a mushroom & edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffle ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce, slow-roasted tomato.

For sides, we shared a few orders of the Tempura Onion Rings($4.5), which were ridiculously delicious.  The batter was well seasoned with a delicate crunch. I don’t usually like thick batter on rings, but these were exceptional and gone in a flash because there were only 4-5 pieces per order.  Served with a garlicky aioli in a spoon.

Tempura Onion Rings $4.5

The Cheesy Tots were insanely delicious and addictive.  They were more of a savory mashed potato filled with melted cheese kind of thing rather than the traditional coarsely grated tater tot, but we gobbled them up in a frenzy.

Cheesy Tots

The Truffle Fries were a good sized helping, but the cheese was a bit thick and only covered the top layer.  I was not able to detect the flavor or aroma of truffles…

Truffle Fries

There was this very cool looking facsimile of a samurai sword highlighted in the entrance.  We recently watched volume two of the movie Kill Bill, so images of Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu flashed through my mind.

While I’m more inclined to ask for the more traditional toppings if ordering a beef burger, I’m definitely hoping they open up an East Bay outpost that serves the killer bacon wrapped scallop burger!  Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon




{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa December 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm

What droolworthy burgers! i’d love to try them.

Merry Christmas!




Cookie December 20, 2011 at 10:46 am

My hubby’s been talking about this place and wants to go really badly. I love bacon-wrapped scallops too so I can’t wait to try that! Those Cheesy Tots look amazing!


Gastronomer December 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Can you believe I haven’t tried Umami yet?! And I’m with you in regards to toppings, I like to keep it traditional.


Ben December 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

Oooh, I’m jealous you got the scallops burger. They were out of that when I went. But then again, I feel like if you go for burgers, you have to have some beef. 😉 I agree that some of the selections come pretty plain with little toppings. I say more the better, make it messy to eat!


foodhoe December 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

rosa, very droolworthy!
cookie, those were my favorite things
gastronomer, i can’t beleive it, it seems like you eat everywhere!
ben, i’d go back for the scallop burger in a flash… hope they open in oakland!


grace December 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

the hatch burger is the one for me, though if the manly burger was named differently, i might opt for it. 🙂


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