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Toad's lost a Burger Trial
versus Joe's Cable Car

Toad's
1499 Valencia Street/26th St., SF
(415) 648-8623
Map This Restaurant

Pretrial hearing at Clooney's
1/13/07

McClure

Out front.Man, I'm hungry. Feels like a couple years since I had a decent bite to eat, so it's a good thing my fellow judges were up for a dine-out adventure. We decided on a place called Toad's. I don't know why it's called Toads, don't care, I know it's located near the end of the road, a few blocks from the south end of Valencia, you know where Taco Bell used to be, oh how I hate to lose a Taco Bell -- but that's another story. I've been to Toad's more than a dozen times, so my rating may be based as much on consistency -- which can be a good thing -- as on quality.

For starters we had potato skins, which were lame but what can you expect? Well, more junk on 'em, that's what. But at $6.95 there's not enough stuff to make the skin of a potato very desirable. The buffalo chicken strips ($7.95) we got were really, really good: large portions of tender tasty chicken with a bit of crispness, cooked up with a nice spicy sauce. They have a little heat that can be cooled with a dip in bleu cheese dressing and a bite of celery. One person could make a meal of them or ask to have some put on a bun.

My cheeseburger ($7.95 including regular fries or green salad) was a good burger, fresh tasty meat grilled up just the way I requested. I recommend the side of curly fries, if'n you lean that way, for an additional $1: very good seasoning and a large portion to fill the plate. There are six variations on each "burger": Angus beef, chicken breast, turkey patty, garden, portobello, and Boca -- pick a winner.

The night we went the service was poor. The bartender who substitutes as a waiter does not make the best food server. But more often than not the service has been very good -- the regular waitress is wonderful.

Toad's is a burger and beer place in my book. They do serve other items but who wants a salad, maybe a bacon-onion hotdog, maybe. Toad's is less expensive than some burger places as well as being tastier than some others.

Toad's does not have the best burger in town but for a neighborhood joint it's darn good. As far as pub grub I'm not sure of any right around there that compares, although we did notice that Clooney's down the block serves up some hot food. Hmmm…

 

Turner

Reunited. And it feels so good.

Um, it feels alright, I guess. Thing is, I wish we three judges had reunited at a more outstanding eatery. But what can you do? That's the food-judging game for you.
Toad's doesn't suck. Which reminds me, I've got family in Arkansas near the "town" of Toad Suck. But, on the other hand, Toad's doesn't exactly rock. It's good, it's fine. They've got a good burger going, pretty good bar food, maybe a bit pricey.

But let's start at the beginning, with the apps. Potato skins (a perennial bar fave, $6.95) were light on toppings, which is pretty much key for potato skins that cost seven dollars because otherwise you've just got some hot, er, skins of potato. Kick down with the cheese, bacon, and scallions, Toad's!

Buffalo Chicken StripsThe Buffalo Strips ($7.95), on the other hand, were quite good. A large portion of well-fried and spicy chicken strips, with tasty cooling bleu cheese dippin' sauce. One could make an entree out of that side dish, and I suggest you do. We're talking breaded and
crispy here, not just fried and sauced bird meat. Maybe not all that authentic compared to the traditional Buffalo Wing, but good nonetheless, and a good value. I think the photo here is missing a strip, due to Judge McC's voraciousness.

Cobb burger.I went for the freaking Cobb Burger ($9.95), because Cobb Salad is pretty much my favorite salad. But, hoo-wee, 10 clams for a burger? I know, I know, you got extras on there – cheese, bacon, avocado -- but Hell's Bells, man. Let's break it down, shall we? The bun was solid, some kind of premium burger bun that held up to the massive contents, didn't get in the way, and wasn't some stupid focaccia bread or other abomination. The patty itself, also solid – good 1/3 pound of juicy beef, apparently a hand-formed patty, grilled medium as I requested. The Cobb toppings: Good bleu cheese on there, but a bit skimpy for my tastes. I know it's strong cheese, but it IS a Cobb burger and I know what I'm getting into. Couple of bacon strips, which were fine. Half an avocado, sliced. Come to think of it, that is an insane amount of crap to put on a burger. Especially considering you've got tomato, lettuce, and onion on the side to boot. What was I thinking?

Oh, and I "upgraded" to onion rings, so that cost me another dollar. They were alright, I guess. Same deal for curly fries. Not sure why curly fries cost more. Expensive potato curling machine?

So, yeah, my plate was 11 bucks right there. If I had stuck with a simple cheeseburger and normal fries, it would have been 8. Don't make the mistakes I've made. Keep it simple. Get in, get a relatively plain burger and limited sides (if any) and get out. You'll be fine.

 

Vardigan

Burger and fries.What's the statute of limitations on a hiatus? When does a sabbatical become retirement? I do not have answers. But I'm pretty sure 2 1⁄4 years is pushing the limits on both, which is my newest way of saying, "Sorry we have strayed." When will you stop accepting our apologies? When will we be all out of sorry's?

With these vexing questions in the air, the Füd Court reconvened after three years to eat at Toad's. Once we recognized each other, things flowed pretty much the same as always. I'm a sucker for boneless buffalo chicken strips, and will order them from any menu. We got them here and were not disappointed, although $7.95 may be a bit steep. (I went as far as looking up the item on the Denny's site, but they list no prices. I did learn that they now offer an entrée called Lemon Pepper Grilled Tilapia.) We also started with an uninspired platter of potato skins. Short on cheese, short on bacon, short on flavor.

I did not, during our sham sabbatical, spend time crafting new ways to say, "I liked the burger." As evidence, I am going to tell you right now: I liked the burger. Angus beef, 1/3 pound, charbroiled nicely and adorned with bacon and cheddar cheese ($8.95). Fries included in the price (hear that, Joe's Cable Car?), but these thin-cut shoe-stringers were only decent. I much preferred Judge McC's curly fries (a dollar extra).

Our bill -- $68 before tip -- was startling. Probably one of the biggest tabs in Court history. Sure, a couple appetizers, and we each had two beers. But still, is that a standard burger joint bill? We considered blaming our sticker shock on the years of inflation since we last ate together. This theory holds water only if we'd not eaten any meals outside our homes during that time. We had, just not as judges. So all I know is we walked out of there a lot lighter in the wallet than usual, feeling sheepish about our tagline, "San Francisco Dining for the Average Eater."

I did not, during our farce of a hiatus, do any Professional Development coursework. My ability to mete out justice in the form of corn dogs and roaches has surely eroded. But I feel pretty confident banging the rusty gavel this way:

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