The above photo is my ham-fisted attempt to juxtapose two distinct types of iconography: one surrounding retro burger joints and the other, Catholic churches. I wouldn’t blame you if it didn’t elicit the observation that the almighty American hamburger is something of a golden calf, an object of worship and fetishization that any strict adherent to Christian would decry as the work of Satan. There is a quality of sinful transgression about the consuming of hamburgers, especially when you live in S.F and the one you’re eating contains meat of uncertain provenance.
Whiz Burger has stood on that desolate corner of 18th and South Van Ness for over 50 years, close enough to the freeway to attract the occasional long haul traveler. I was tucking into my Whiz Burger and fries, taking the occasional pull off my chocolate shake when up trundled a middle-aged man whose enormous gut was poorly concealed by a dirty, worn red t-shirt. Trailing behind him was his wife, a short furtive woman missing her right foot. They were clearly from out of town, towing a broad of thousands on a long, dusty trek. They ordered about 10 hamburgers and a trough’s worth of fries. As I sat munching my burger, she began playfully tweaking his nipples, he weakly attempting to swat her hands away saying, “Hey baby, I know anything goes in San Francisco but take it easy.” Standing in line was a dude not unlike myself (early thirties, white, tattoos, etc.), a young Latina and a pale tech-boomer slumming it on his lunch break. Together with that couple, there on the corner was a cultural cross section you don’t often see in S.F., created by two things: proximity to the freeway and Whiz Burger’s retro appeal, all in a neighborhood frequented by people to which that appeal appeals to.
It ain’t the burger that attracted me, that’s for sure. It’s just a burger. The last thing you want to read in this situation is something like “massaged wagyu” or “Snake River Farm beef, rubbed down with soothing unguents”. Just shove your face full of mystery meat and come away with that sick and bloated feeling you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
Also on the menu: Chicken Teriyaki, which I DARE somebody to order next time they visit.
700 South Van Ness Avenue (@ 18th Street)