Baseball season is here again. We’re here again–walking en masse from BART along the Embarcadero, sliding into plastic seats with sloshing beers in hand, chanting and singing and shouting, ogling Buster Posey, wrapping scarves tighter as the San Francisco summer rolls over the hill. One of us has been a Giants fan since childhood, from bundling up to brave the winds of Candlestick Park to drinking irresponsibly after the World Series win in 2010 to afternoons with the game on while First We Eat makes magic in the kitchen. The other one of us was a decade or two late to the party, but adores the culture, the energy, the anticipation, and the ballpark nachos just as much.
One of our favorite parts of a Giants game is the chance to go to Red’s Java House on the way to AT&T Park. A no-nonsense place, it has the well-worn look of an establishment inured to the shenanigans of rowdy fans and confused tourists and an attitude that celebrates the straightforwardness if its spare menu and intolerance of substitutions. Their cheeseburgers come with a patty, a slice of melted American, pickles, and sliced onion on a chewy section of sourdough loaf. The bread gives it a bite and a tanginess you’re not used to in a burger. We usually slather one side of the bread with mustard and ketchup and pair the burger with a beer or Coke for maximum enjoyment. With baseball season growing near as we started this blogging endeavor, we agreed we would need to make our own version of Red’s cheeseburger and fries while our grill-master/sous-chef/dishwasher lounged in front of a game in the living room.
While Red’s, we imagine, uses a slightly cheaper ground beef, we decided to honor our Berkeley roots and swing by The Local Butcher shop on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley for some sustainable, pasture-raised meat. For the rest of the ingredients we hopped across the street to Andronico’s and gathered sourdough buns, cheddar cheese, pickles, onion, and an exciting ketchup. When browsing local food news, my partner-in-blog came across a Bay Area company, Sosu Sauces, making fresh, Asian-inspired versions of classic ketchup. We picked up their Srirachup, a bold, spicy blend that complimented our skinny little oven-roasted fries. Purchases made, we headed home and turned on the TV.
With the mood-lifting sound of announcer chatter and spectator buzz in the background, we set to work. Our first task was to cut the potatoes into matchsticks, a task made simple by the mandoline (but watch those fingers–I nearly lost a thumb once!). These were tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper before being baked for about 20 minutes. We forgot to toss the first batch partway through and were rewarded by two-toned fries: blackened and crisp on one side, molten-hot and soft on the other. Subsequent batches were attended to with more care. The patties came together with a little egg and were cooked in a pan with slices of cheese melting in gooey splendor over the tops. The onions were chopped, the bread sliced open, and we assembled the burgers in haste, ready for that first delicious mouthful.
It has to be said that while the quality of meat was better, the bread hadn’t yet reached that borderline-tough, chewy texture that we associate with a proper Red’s product. However, the fresh garlic and parsley-tossed fries were ideal when swirled in the spicy ketchup, and the cold beer that followed every other bite made up for any perceived lack of aging in the bread. The scene that followed paid tribute to the pleasures of eating at Red’s. No concern was spared for those thoughts that generally creep up when dining with others – Do I food on my face? In my teeth? Did anyone hear that? It was an exercise in pure enjoyment, all three of us sandwiched on the couch in front of the TV. If you can’t make it to a game for the real thing, we have proven that it’s possible recreate the experience at home.
First We Eat’s take on Red’s Java House Burger
- 4 Sourdough Bread Rolls
- Sliced Dill Pickle
- 8 Slices Cheddar Cheese (we think Red’s probably uses American, but we went with Sharp Cheddar)
- 1 Onion, chopped
- Yellow Mustard, not any of the fancy kinds
- 1 lb. Ground beef
- 1 Egg
- Salt & Pepper
Combine the ground beef, sprinkle of salt & pepper, and an egg in a mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until the egg is well incorporated. Next, form your ground beef into 4 skinny hamburger patties (we made ours slightly more rectangular shape to fit the odd shape of our sourdough roll. Heat a skillet on high and cook the burgers for about 4 minutes each side or until medium. When you have about a minute of cooking time left, put the cheese on top of the burgers and cover skillet with lid to let cheese melt for the remaining time.
In the meantime, prep the rest of your ingredients. We opted to lightly toast our buns in the oven then slathered them with yellow mustard on both sides. Once the cheese has melted on the burger, put the burger onto the sourdough roll followed by pickles and onions. We thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and magic of this burger!
First We Eat’s take on the Giant’s Garlic Fries
- 2 1/4 lbs or about 5 Russet Potatoes, cut into french fries (no more than 1/3 inch thick)
- 3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 6 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
- 5 Fresh Sprigs of Parsley, chopped
- Salt & Pepper
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss your french fry cut potatoes with 2 1/2 Tbsp of the vegetable oil, salt & pepper and arrange in a single layer on your baking tray. We used a Silpat to be sure that they wouldn’t stick but if you don’t have on, coat your baking sheet with some non-stick cooking spray. Roast the potatoes until they start to become cooked, about 30 minutes. After thirty minutes, increase the heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and bake until they get those wonderful crisp edges that we all love!
Once out of the over, combine the remaining vegetable oil, garlic, and parsley together and toss with the fries. Serve and enjoy!