4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Swagyu Chop Shop’s must-try 18-dollar burger

Wagyu butcher in Poway and Imperial Beach smashes high-end beef between buns

The $18 burger from Swagyu Chop Shop: featuring two smashed burger patties made from a blend of American, Australian, and Japanese wagyu beef.
The $18 burger from Swagyu Chop Shop: featuring two smashed burger patties made from a blend of American, Australian, and Japanese wagyu beef.

Here’s a surprising add to the list of things I never expected to do: agree to pay $18 for a cheeseburger, in Imperial Beach. Moments later, another: add a $10 side of fries.

Place

Swagyu Chop Shop

1002 Palm Ave, Imperial Beach

And, no, I’m not talking about inflation gone awry (at least not entirely). For the most part there are valid reasons behind the price I paid. More valid than can be claimed by some of the pricey burgers found at the bottom of high-end steakhouse menus, at least.

Swagyu Chop Shop is not a high-end restaurant, though it is a particular kind of high-end butcher. The focus here is wagyu beef, primarily steak cuts that come from the prized lines of Japanese cattle lumped under the same name (wa means Japanese, gyu means beef).

Move over USDA prime, because wagyu cattle produces some of the most indulgent steak in the world, which gets its own grade: A5. This is noticeable in two ways when you peer into the glass meat case of Swagyu. First, the marbling. These cuts of beef aren’t merely marbled with flavorful fat; some literally look like small blocks of some rare Italian marble you might use to fashion upscale kitchen counters, only speckled with shades of pink and red.

A wagyu oriented butcher shop in Imperial Beach

The second, clear show of value is the price. The cheapest A5 I spotted here — the grain-fed Satsuma beef, raised in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture — runs $110 per pound. Several examples of A5 beef are offered, sourced from prefectures with different feeding regimens.

At the top end were two lines priced at $190 a pound. One being the famous kobe beef, the Hyogo Prefecture cattle yielding rich, delicate meat often credited to a process that involves feeding the cows beer, giving them massages, and treating them to classical music. The other top cuts are of “Drunken A5,” from cattle raised on the Takamori ranch of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where cows are fed from a sake mash, said to be responsible for the silky texture found in their uber-marbled steaks.

Unheard of marbling on the steaks inside Swagyu's glass butcher counter

You can find cheaper steaks in the case, cuts also taken from wagyu cattle, but raised in the U.S. or Australia. An Australian New York cut was going for $60 a pound. I spent $37 for eight-tenths of a pound of $46/lb, U.S.-raised New York strip. The U.S. filet mignon on the menu went for $91 a pound. The U.S. Tomahawk cut — bone-in ribeye — cost $150 a pound.

A small counter shop, Swagyu doesn’t cook these absurdly expensive steaks. But Steve Brown, the chef behind this and a second Swagyu shop in Poway (14149 Twin Peaks Road, Suite 5, Poway) did create a small menu built around that single entrée: the $18 burger.

It features meat ground from an undisclosed combination of Japanese, Australian, and American wagyu beefs. This is what brought me to Imperial Beach, to seek out a burger with the potential to be the best in San Diego.

Nitro potatoes may be the crispiest fried potatoes you will ever try.

I was a little surprised by the smashed style of burger I found. Two four-ounce patties are flattened, griddled, then stacked together with American cheese and house-made pickles on a brioche bun. It’s the willfully low-brow style of “dirty flattop” burger style that made North Park’s The Friendly made into a sensation a couple years back.

In other words, impossibly high-brow meat is being used to make a greasy diner style burger with processed cheese. And it’s delicious — even ground and caramelized on the griddle, you can tell the patties are more tender than most. It actually reminded me a little of an In-N-Out double double without the lettuce and tomato.

While I do consider this a must-try for burger fans — whether in North County or way south — I’d personally have liked more a chance to savor the pricey beef. Between the thin, griddled patties and generous sauce (a thousand island-like combination of ketchup, mayo, mustard, and relish) I didn’t find enough opportunity to focus on the renowned richness that makes wagyu so prized. A half-pound wagyu burger with a little pink in the middle would be nice.

But whoa, those ten-dollar fries exceeded expectations! Listed as “nitro potatoes”, they’re actually cubes of potato that are bathed in liquid nitrogen prior to hitting the deep fryer. I’m a little loose of my understanding of the science here, but as a result, moisture apparently collects at the outside of the potato when it fries, so the crust becomes assertively crispy, while the inside gets super fluffy. It’s like eating a three-dimensional potato chip wrapped around a potato puff. When I shared it with a ten year old I know, his immediate response was, “Whoever came up with this, is a genius!”

A combo of genius, swagger, and wagyu, I guess.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Villa Montezuma re-opens one more time

Queen Anne home invites spookiness – including Edgar Allan Poe
Next Article

Property astir on El Cajon Blvd.

Lafayette Hotel, Red Fox Room, Mississippi Apartments
The $18 burger from Swagyu Chop Shop: featuring two smashed burger patties made from a blend of American, Australian, and Japanese wagyu beef.
The $18 burger from Swagyu Chop Shop: featuring two smashed burger patties made from a blend of American, Australian, and Japanese wagyu beef.

Here’s a surprising add to the list of things I never expected to do: agree to pay $18 for a cheeseburger, in Imperial Beach. Moments later, another: add a $10 side of fries.

Place

Swagyu Chop Shop

1002 Palm Ave, Imperial Beach

And, no, I’m not talking about inflation gone awry (at least not entirely). For the most part there are valid reasons behind the price I paid. More valid than can be claimed by some of the pricey burgers found at the bottom of high-end steakhouse menus, at least.

Swagyu Chop Shop is not a high-end restaurant, though it is a particular kind of high-end butcher. The focus here is wagyu beef, primarily steak cuts that come from the prized lines of Japanese cattle lumped under the same name (wa means Japanese, gyu means beef).

Move over USDA prime, because wagyu cattle produces some of the most indulgent steak in the world, which gets its own grade: A5. This is noticeable in two ways when you peer into the glass meat case of Swagyu. First, the marbling. These cuts of beef aren’t merely marbled with flavorful fat; some literally look like small blocks of some rare Italian marble you might use to fashion upscale kitchen counters, only speckled with shades of pink and red.

A wagyu oriented butcher shop in Imperial Beach

The second, clear show of value is the price. The cheapest A5 I spotted here — the grain-fed Satsuma beef, raised in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture — runs $110 per pound. Several examples of A5 beef are offered, sourced from prefectures with different feeding regimens.

At the top end were two lines priced at $190 a pound. One being the famous kobe beef, the Hyogo Prefecture cattle yielding rich, delicate meat often credited to a process that involves feeding the cows beer, giving them massages, and treating them to classical music. The other top cuts are of “Drunken A5,” from cattle raised on the Takamori ranch of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where cows are fed from a sake mash, said to be responsible for the silky texture found in their uber-marbled steaks.

Unheard of marbling on the steaks inside Swagyu's glass butcher counter

You can find cheaper steaks in the case, cuts also taken from wagyu cattle, but raised in the U.S. or Australia. An Australian New York cut was going for $60 a pound. I spent $37 for eight-tenths of a pound of $46/lb, U.S.-raised New York strip. The U.S. filet mignon on the menu went for $91 a pound. The U.S. Tomahawk cut — bone-in ribeye — cost $150 a pound.

A small counter shop, Swagyu doesn’t cook these absurdly expensive steaks. But Steve Brown, the chef behind this and a second Swagyu shop in Poway (14149 Twin Peaks Road, Suite 5, Poway) did create a small menu built around that single entrée: the $18 burger.

It features meat ground from an undisclosed combination of Japanese, Australian, and American wagyu beefs. This is what brought me to Imperial Beach, to seek out a burger with the potential to be the best in San Diego.

Nitro potatoes may be the crispiest fried potatoes you will ever try.

I was a little surprised by the smashed style of burger I found. Two four-ounce patties are flattened, griddled, then stacked together with American cheese and house-made pickles on a brioche bun. It’s the willfully low-brow style of “dirty flattop” burger style that made North Park’s The Friendly made into a sensation a couple years back.

In other words, impossibly high-brow meat is being used to make a greasy diner style burger with processed cheese. And it’s delicious — even ground and caramelized on the griddle, you can tell the patties are more tender than most. It actually reminded me a little of an In-N-Out double double without the lettuce and tomato.

While I do consider this a must-try for burger fans — whether in North County or way south — I’d personally have liked more a chance to savor the pricey beef. Between the thin, griddled patties and generous sauce (a thousand island-like combination of ketchup, mayo, mustard, and relish) I didn’t find enough opportunity to focus on the renowned richness that makes wagyu so prized. A half-pound wagyu burger with a little pink in the middle would be nice.

But whoa, those ten-dollar fries exceeded expectations! Listed as “nitro potatoes”, they’re actually cubes of potato that are bathed in liquid nitrogen prior to hitting the deep fryer. I’m a little loose of my understanding of the science here, but as a result, moisture apparently collects at the outside of the potato when it fries, so the crust becomes assertively crispy, while the inside gets super fluffy. It’s like eating a three-dimensional potato chip wrapped around a potato puff. When I shared it with a ten year old I know, his immediate response was, “Whoever came up with this, is a genius!”

A combo of genius, swagger, and wagyu, I guess.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Villa Montezuma re-opens one more time

Queen Anne home invites spookiness – including Edgar Allan Poe
Next Article

Ideal round of golf: “any Wednesday evening at Mission Bay with three friends and 12 Stellas”

Lowest score wins
Comments
2

There must be enough market for that wildly expensive beef to keep those two operations in business, and maybe even profitable. Then again, who couldn't clear a profit at those prices? Who buys this stuff? The Japanese economy in the 1980s was loaded with excesses like these, but since then it fell into a deep recession that lasted through the 1990s, and hasn't really recovered since then. Interesting for sure, but I'm not going to be beating a path to Poway to buy. Sheesh!

May 15, 2021
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
May 20, 2021

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close