I found a hair in my donut for the second time. I will be back tomorrow.
There are actually two J. Georgie’s in San Francisco. Their Mission location advertises “Donuts and Chinese Food.” That doesn’t place it high on the list of places to go in pursuit of a hamburger, but sure enough, they make ’em. In fact a large sign promises, “Donuts, Teriyaki and Hamburger”—which makes the burger less surprising but leaves some questions about the Chinese. Or the teriyaki. Or both. Anyway, the donuts are good. The Excelsior location makes a simpler offer (Donuts and Hamburgers). Hoping they’d perfected the art of frying delicious things that are bad for you, we decided to give them a try.
The Excelsior outpost is located on a busy industrial thoroughfare that is also home to traditional barbecue, pho, taquerias, papuserias, several Chinese restaurants and a Hawaiian drive-in. There is absolutely no pretense at Georgie’s. The exterior signage and menu are stock items and the plastic chairs and rows of bright yellow communal tables would be equally at home in a high school cafeteria. Indeed, Georgie’s $3.50 cheeseburger is a favorite with the high school crowd who pack the restaurant on school day afternoons. Under bright, unflattering lights we each eat a donut while we wait. They’re fresh and fluffy and sugary (and popular). I watch as a man in the back starts a new batch—pouring flour into an industrial mixer on the floor near the restroom. I remember the Yelp review.
So far in this experiment we’ve only been to ‘specialty’ burger places, but we’ve been craving a good, greasy, non-nonsense burger from an out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall, you’ll-be-surprised-how-great-their-burger-is kind of place. Someplace a little run down, with letters missing from the sign and out-of-date community posters in the window. Someplace that’s too dirty to take your mom, but clean enough to make you believe the 77 health score. Aesthetically and hygienically Georgie’s certainly fulfills this fantasy. Gastronomically, however, it rises to the exact level that its environment suggests—which is to say it falls well short of the ‘miracle burger’ we were hoping for.
Like a bad boyfriend who keeps promising he can change, an ebay listing that sounds too good to be true, or the tantalizing promise of hover boards with no real science to back it up, Georgie’s burger is strictly WYSIWYG. The Sysco enriched wheat flour bun tastes vaguely like bread. The patty is undeniably meat, but with no detectable seasoning to speak of. I know it was dressed with lettuce and tomato and ultra-thin bacon because I saw them all before I picked it up. But without those visual cues I’d be hard-pressed to identify any flavor by name. It’s not a bad tasting burger, but it does’t taste good either. Like a cheap plastic toy, you can’t deny that it’s a toy, but the absence of craft gives you no reason to want or love it.
I think we both suspected (perhaps even knew) this would be the case going in, but we entertained the dream nonetheless. We wanted to be surprised. We were hoping for a miracle. Georgie, on the other hand, did an excellent job of managing expectations. From location to decor to price to service, nothing about our experience promised anything more than what we received.
The Creative Lesson
So this lesson is a lesson for everyone. Clients: When selecting a firm, look for one whose promises you value and which you believe. Don’t hire the firm whose fees are low and whose portfolio didn't impress you, hoping your project will be the exception. Students: don’t take that unpaid internship or that job for that firm that everyone warned you against, thinking it will be your big break. Designers: Don’t do that first project for less than you’re worth, reassured by the promise of more, better, bigger projects down the road. Yes, every once in a while miracles do happen. Mostly, though, what you see is what you get.