Fresh Eats: Belly Burgers: Tom Pizzica Graduates to Pop-Ups

Perched in a corner of the minuscule kitchen at Clooney's Pub in the Mission, Tom Pizzica doesn't pull any punches when discussing his new pop-up, Belly Burgers. “I want my burger to be the cheapest, fastest, best gourmet burger in San Francisco. I just don't believe in the $13 burger,” the former Next Food Network Star finalist told me. To illustrate his point, Pizzica is branching out, starting with a regular gig at Coffee Bar's The Window, and joining the Upper Haight farmers' market and Friday night Off the Grid rotations later this spring. He'll also continue his Sunday-night stints at Clooney's.

Pizzica's trick is that he uses ground pork belly, producing a 3-ounce patty that's a little crunchy, like well-done bacon, and decadently rich despite its small size. He usually serves four varieties with cutesy names like the “Banh, Baby, Banh,” featuring Vietnamese caramel, and the “E.-Lim-inator,” with a dash of rhubarb sambal sauce.

I sampled “The Classic,” a fiery number including homemade tomatillo pickles, crumbly cotija cheese, and a generous schmear of fried-chile aioli that required constant dabbing with a napkin. Not only was the burger delicious, but at $6 — which includes a side of either chicken-fried yams or almond-cumin slaw — it's also a total steal.

Pizzica hopes that Belly Burgers will eventually morph into a brick and mortar, envisioning “a real tiny shop, maybe no seats,” he says. “I want to turn this into a destination thing, like if you come to San Francisco, you gotta get a belly burger.” Maybe he can add Rice-A-Roni as a side.

For Belly Burgers locations and times, follow @BCTBellyBurgers on Twitter.

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