***I think somehow this slipped by my radar as it happened at the end of December, but seems Big Chef Tom has closed Belly Burgers and moved his family back to Pennsylvania where he will be opening a Belly Burger in Philly. Shame, it was one of my fave burgers in town****
The Food Network is one of my go to channels when there isn't much else on and they aren't showing anything with Guy Fieri. Though really in the last couple years it has kind of become a parody of itself with not so much about cooking but big personalities competing against each other. Part of the evolution of "the celebrity chef" as it were. One show I DVR regularly (because it has way too many commercials) is Next Food Network Star. Again a show that seems more about personalities with backstories as opposed to people who can cook and also the one to blame for releasing Fieri on the world, but I still watch anyway. What does this have to do with anything? Well, every now and then one of these contestants seems to actually make a name for themselves or open a restaurant to showcase that they can actually do something beside make people cry over their life story. One such chef is Tom Pizzica, a finalist from season six who has found his way to San Francisco to open up no less than a burger joint called appropriately enough Big Chef Tom's Belly Burgers.
I sauntered up the counter and spent some time surveying the menu. The way it works is you choose your patty--ground pork belly, ground chicken or veggie. Then you can either build your own or choose from a handful of BCTBB favorites. Each runs $6.75 each or if you are a big eater like me you can get 2 for $12 which actually seemed like a good deal to me since some places charge you that much for just a single burger (and no sides). It took me some time to decide, fortunately it was late afternoon and they weren't busy and I got the Philly Porker and their burger of the day The Gringo. And yes I went total ground pork belly since that is what this place is noted for and I'm all in for it.
The Philly is Italian herbed mayo, sautéed broccoli rabe, sharp provolone on a buttery toasted bun. Of course right off, anything buttered and toasted is going to be a winner for me, but my first bite into this there was like some flash of light that when through my tastebuds and angels sang and whatever. I loved this burger. The pork belly was juicy, perfectly cooked and seasoned and just down right tasty. The meat blended seamlessly with the slight bitterness of the broccoli and the tanginess of the cheese. But it's the meat that is the real star here, yummy, juicy pork belly, it made me even more of a fan.
Next up was The Gringo with charred onions, green peppers, jack cheese and lime cumin aioli. Yes, it looks like a blackened unholy mess and I will say the char on the veggies was a bit too charred, however, once I picked a few of the blacker ones off it was still a really good burger. The meat, again, still juicy and tasty. The aioli I mostly liked, the bits I could taste that is, the char did overwhelm some of the other flavors here so I won't say this combo totally works but with some adjustments could be really good. I'm not the biggest cumin fan but it and the lime got a little lost. The biggest thing was the char, just cut it back and it could really work. Still, the pork belly, mmmm.
Yes, you do have buy sides separately but for $4 it was a large serving of crispy onions. As a twist they were red onions tossed in BCTBB's own special spice blend then deep fried crispy and served hot. I liked then thinness and the sweet salty flavor. The gave me a side of fried chili pepper aioli to dip in and it does add a nice little kick, but I could eat these all by themselves, and I did.
Well done Chef Tom, you've managed to overcome The Food Network and put out food that is really good. I have to say this is my new favorite burger in town. Yes, I know not everyone is a fan of pork or pork belly but Chef Tom's should really be tried. For anyone who loves burgers these are a juicy, tender must eat. Seriously, for a picky eater like myself I was able to overlook "the char" and still enjoy the pure simplicity of the pork belly burger. Sure you get chicken or that veggie thing (WHY?!) but you shouldn't miss out on this original.
They are a couple of blocks over from the SOMA StrEatFood Park and I'd say next time you are near there, just pop in here instead for something different. Totally worth it. Did I say how much I loved this burger?