★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Meet our first five star burger, courtesy of Rosamunde.
In his introduction to The Wedge the poet William Carlos Williams writes, “There’s nothing sentimental about a machine...A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there’s nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant.” This describes perfectly my feelings about the cheeseburger at Rosamunde. It is an exacting harmony of flavors and textures—a formal invention made of familiar parts but resolved into something exquisitely new.
The bun—something between an english muffin and an onion roll—is surprisingly pleasing given its density. Charred and crispy around the edges and glutinously chewy at its center, it has the fortitude required to support the nearly half-pound patty all-beef patty. The patty is a hefty, gas-grilled affair. Its skin is seared. Its flesh is hot. Its heart is perfectly pink. The meat is lightly seasoned, but picks up a deliciously honest flavor from the grill. Rosamunde dresses their burger with a generous slab of cheddar and modest servings of lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and onions, the latter of which are scraps from their primary business—sausage making. The onions are grilled just short of translucent, striking the perfect balance between tender and crisp. Foreshadowed by the onion-dotted bun, the grill-sweetened onions complement the tartness of the pickles—the final cog in a finely-crafted machine.
Despite the sausage maker’s four locations (two in San Francisco, one each in Oakland and Brooklyn), the Rosamunde burger remains elusive. They only make cheeseburgers, only serve them at their Haight Street location (and only Tuesdays), and only make 200 of them. The restaurant only has five seats, but you’re welcome to enjoy your lunch next door at the Tornado Bar.
Three people work the tiny kitchen. One rings up orders, one does nothing but grill, a third does nothing but assemble. Each approaches their task with singular dedication. The cook is rigorously attentive to his patties but with jazz-like improvisation, making constant tiny adjustments that seem rooted more in intuition than precision. The builder dresses each bun with focus and flourish, creating rows of nearly identical but distinctly individual burgers-in-waiting. There’s no denying the efficiency of the operation, but the motives seem based upon expertise rather than just expediency. Like the burger, the kitchen is a great complementary machine—each element a small but essential part of a larger whole.
The Creative Lesson
The grill guy just grills. That’s all he does. Grill. There’s only one thing he has to do, and so he does it well. Likewise with the builder. When your only job is to arrange three vegetables and a fruit on a piece of bread, you have the time to turn transform it from a task to a craft. In other words, find that one thing you do better than anyone else. Do that thing, then surround yourself with others who are the best at what they do.