This weekend marked the official opening of Umami Burger (2184 Union Street) in the Cow Hollow. Sensational in so many ways, it’s guaranteed to be one of the city’s hottest new restaurants. On Friday, we got a chance to talk with owner Adam Fleischman about his restaurant’s long-awaited expansion into San Francisco.
What got you into hamburgers?
AF: Well at first I just wanted to build a concept around umami [Japanese for "savory taste"], which I had been studying at the time. I wanted to create something really crave-able and decided to build it around burgers. They were the best vehicle. I was able to open the first Umami Burger [on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles] for only $40,000.
This is your first expansion beyond Southern California, why San Francisco?
AF: I really like the city and love the restaurants here. People here are really concerned about the quality of ingredients, and that’s great. These [San Francisco and LA] are the two best food cities.
How has it been establishing relationships with your new suppliers here in the Bay Area?
AF: It’s been a lot of fun. You have access to better produce here and can get more local stuff. Some of our purveyors here are the same as in LA. The buns are a challenge because we bake our own portuguese buns in LA, but we’ll be baking them here very soon.
Do you plan on offering menu items that are specific to this San Francisco location?
AF: Definitely. We will soon feature the Awful Burger in honor of [Incanto! Chef/Owner] Chris Cosentino. It will consist of innards. In the past, we’ve had a lot of success with our Stink Burger, which has Tallegio cheese and tempura anchovies, so we might have that up here. We always go outside the box when it comes to coming up with new ideas. We are constantly experimenting and rotating our menu.
How do you source your beef?
AF: We love burgers so we make sure to use a special, proprietary blend of the highest-quality wagyu beef available. A lot of our purveyors are small—some only produce 30 heads of cattle a week. We get our meat from several locations, some is from the midwest, some is from Southern California—as long as we stick to wagyu, and the freshest, highest quality, well-marbled beef. We never buy ground beef. We do it our way, with our own artisanal grinding done in-house.
There is somewhat of an historic rift between Southern and Northern California. Do you feel as though your restaurant can be the ambassador to bring these contemptuous regions together?
AF: Absolutely. We intentionally named this new location “Umami Union.”
What’s next for Umami?
Umamico and then Umamicatessen, which will bring the umami concept to charcuterie and deli-style sandwiches.
Chefs are like rockstars in this day and age, if you were to compare yourself to a legendary figure in music, who would it be?
AF: Paul Simon.
After thoroughly enjoying an unforgettable Umami experience this weekend–which included one of the best burgers (the Manly) I’ve had in recent memory, fantastic local brews from 21st Amendment, and divinely decadent desserts–I am completely comfortable claiming that this is the best LA export ever. San Francisco’s fantastic dining scene is an even better place thanks to the hard work of Adam Fleischman and Co.