Wes Rowe couldn’t be having a better time with his first restaurant. When we caught up with him on a Wednesday night in late April, he was laughing and relaxing with guests at his brand new San Francisco eatery, WesBurger n’ More, in the city’s Mission District. The line was literally out the door.
WesBurger n’ More sprung to life somewhat spontaneously. Rowe’s background is in photography, and his clients included a number of San Francisco restaurants. Some of those clients became friends who got to know Rowe’s other talent: making bad-ass burgers. Word got out in his circle of foodie friends and Rowe landed a regular series of pop-up gigs at Mission District restaurants. Along the way, the dark horse Rowe also entered and won the 2013 San Francisco Burger Brawl “out of seemingly nowhere.” Realizing this could be a real thing, Rowe and his buddy Chris Hastings, owner of well-known Castro District bar, Lookout, teamed up to find a permanent spot to sell WesBurgers.
In a small storefront space reminiscent of a '70s California roadhouse, WesBurger n’ More revolves around Rowe’s signature burger—an all-brisket hamburger patty, ground coarsely and cooked in a cast iron skillet. The space is a little retro and very casual with mostly counter and booth seating. “We wanted to create a space that would work for multiple visits a week and that has a sense of humor. We don’t’ take ourselves too seriously. Burgers are fun and we’ve built a restaurant to reflect that,” says Rowe.
The burger lineup is a hit list of Rowe’s pop-up best sellers, including the spicy Hot Wes ($11), an homage to “the Jack in the Box late-night stoner classic ‘The Hot Mess,’” according to Rowe. It’s a six-ounce patty with onion rings, queso and pickled jalapenos. Other nostalgic comfort foods round out the menu including fried chicken served sandwich-style ($10) or plated with sides ($13), Deluxe Tots ($8, with rotating toppings, such as meatloaf or secret sauce, onions and bacon) and a Roasted Cauliflower Wedge ($7, with charred scallion goddess dressing, radishes and fried shallots).
Beverages include bottled Topo Chico and Mexican Coke, Root Beer Floats, draft beers, bottled Lone Star and a short and easy wine list. Rowe’s mixologist friends and Mission neighbors helped to develop signature house punches including the effervescent Passion of the Wes, with Lo-Fi sweet vermouth, Lo-Fi gentian amaro and Champagne. The Nochtitlan Punch is vibrant and hot, with Lo-Fi dry vermouth, green tomatillo and cactus water.
What makes burger perfection? Rowe considers this. “I don’t know,” he says. “I know what I like. Having a vision and perfecting it; throw some love into the burger. I think that’s it. And if it’s fun and you feel happy eating it, that makes it better. Our mantra here is ‘Burgers are fun.’”