Wes Rowe has made quite a name for himself in the local burger world over the past couple of years, drawing a line of fans every Wednesday for his weekly WesBurger pop-up at Mojo Bicycle Café. Rowe—a native of Austin, Texas—has a bit of a drawl, and his all-brisket burger patties cooked in a cast-iron skillet have an American accent as well, whether it’s the Hot Wes, his trademark burger (and hopper favorite), with onion rings, pickled jalapeños, and queso, or his Okie burger, cooked over onions and served with mustard, pickles and American cheese.
Back in October, we mentioned Rowe was partnering up with Chris Hastings of the Lookout in the Castro (Rowe consulted on the menu for the Lookout), and they were opening a brick and mortar, WESBURGER N’ MORE, in the Mission. Well pardner, things are on track to open at the end of March, and it’s time to give you a first look at some things.
The former Palacio Latino space has been transformed into what feels like a retro burger place, complete with a cheerful yellow and white awning above the counter that reminds me of some of my favorite LA coffee shops. There are 49 seats, with a counter for solo diners on soda fountain-style swivel stools, plus booths and a communal table. The Deco wood paneling/wainscoting was restored and polished up, and designer David Marks of David Marks Design also put in ’60s-era globe pendant lights, a midcentury checker pattern over the skylights, classic molded chairs in a punchy poppy, and you’ll even see a neon sign from the closed Joe’s Cable Car affixed to a rock wall. There will also be a neon sign installed outside the restaurant.
Rowe fixed and installed an old jukebox (a Rowe, so it seems kind of fated) and had Dick Vivian of Rooky Ricardo’s Record Store in the Lower Haight stock it with soul, ’60s tunes, R&B, and more. Rowe is planning to make it a pay-to-play situation and wants to donate the funds to a music program at a children’s school—he’s currently looking into options. Sweet.
Now, let’s talk about Rowe is planning to stuff us with. We already mentioned a couple of favorite burgers he’ll be serving (the Hot Wes and the Okie), plus his All-American, and he’ll be rotating a special burger each week too.
Rowe is also known for his fried chicken (did you ever try his Nashville chicken at his Uncle Brother’s Chicken pop-up?), and will be serving it as a bucket, plate, or sandwich. But then here’s where things take a left at Albuquerque, because he’s also going to be offering a fried chicken burrito. Yup, this bad boy is going to include his Southern-style fried chicken, with smoky pinto beans, street corn salad, avocado, crema, salsa, and jack cheese.
Another special dish he has developed is shrimp and grits, and thanks to an idea from Almanac’s Jesse Friedman, the grits are wrapped around a whole shrimp and fried. Rowe take Anson Mills grits and cooks them in a shrimp and corn stock and adds andouille sausage and sharp cheddar. He then makes balls of grits around a whole shrimp and deep-fries it. Dude. The shrimp and grits balls are served with remoulade and topped with Cajun spice and freshly grated horseradish. (Whether you call them Jesse’s balls or not is up to you.)
Vegetarians, you also have a pretty killer option with the portobello “pastrami” Reuben: Rowe brines the portobello in pastrami spices and then puts in the smoker. The sandwich comes with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing and is served on Panorama marbled rye.
And fans of Rowe’s tots, don’t fret—they’ll be on the menu just like they were at the pop-up: plain, with queso, or deluxe with some meaty topping. I also hear milk shakes and punch are coming too. (And you see that Lone Star beer sign on the wall? Yup.) Speaking of the pop-up, Rowe is sad to announce this Wednesday March 16th will be the last WesBurger Wednesday at Mojo. Fortunately we’ll only have to wait a couple weeks until the shop opens.
Dinner will be served to start (nightly 5pm-10:30pm), and lunch will start a couple of weeks later or so, with late-night hours after that. We’ll keep you posted on the actual opening date. 2240 Mission St. at 18th St.
A look at the retro styling and cheerful counter at WesBurger n’ More. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography.