I should have started here first.
After going around the Gaslamp Quarter to various restaurants and bars to locate the best burger in this part of San Diego, I found it.
It is at Tivoli Bar & Grill.
This should not really have come as much of a surprise to me because through the years, I have learned that the best burgers in America are found at dive bars. And Tivoli certainly qualifies as a dive bar. In fact, it’s the Gaslamp’s oldest bar that once housed Wyatt Earp and has a Rolling Stones lips-shaped urinal in a tribute to Mick Jagger, who apparently used the bathroom here after a San Diego concert several years ago.
But instead of offering a high-quality burger (with outstanding onion rings, which are next to impossible to find anywhere in California), I figured this to be a kettle-of-old-chili kind of place.
And boy, was I wrong!
Happily so, too, for Tivoli makes an outstanding burger. It starts with its meat: 1/3-pound Angus beef, made fresh and hand-formed into a patty. This is not a frozen piece of meat thrown onto a grill. The quality is top-notch and that comes out in every bite.
Tivoli does not hide the burger’s full flavor by putting it on a too-large bun. Two things drive me crazy about burgers: poor- or average-quality meat with the taste hidden by all sorts of toppings and a good piece of meat that you can’t taste because the bun is too danged big.
As much as I love the food at Barleymash, the big bun is its burger’s weakness.
All the other burgers I’ve tried in the Gaslamp are just, well, burgers. Nothing special about them, nothing to make me, say, write an article about them. One place that a chef friend of mine, Anthony Martorina, recommended on the edge of the Gaslamp is Balboa, but unfortunately it closed before I got a chance to go there. He does say there is a location in Chula Vista.
Tivoli keeps me from having to travel there or up to Pacific Beach to go to Rocky’s Crown Pub for San Diego’s best burger. After all, there’s a great burger right here in the Gaslamp at the corner of Sixth & Island.
The price of a Tivoli’s burger is just $10 and that includes a side of fries or onion rings. And the latter are also outstanding, big and thick and full of flavor. The kitchen’s owner, Matt, takes tremendous pride in his work and the quality of the food.
Beers are $6.50 and $7, less during Happy Hour, which is 3-7 p.m.
When you leave Tivoli, you will leave “burger satisfied.”