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HopsNot an everyday addition to a hamburger, tongue could be thought of as a felicitous counterpart to a beef patty… if executed correctly. In Oakland there is such a place that incorporates this imaginative extension to the requisite burger components. Not forced or strange as Hopscotch showed me, it’s only natural.

A friend and I journeyed to the East Bay, traversing the Bay Bridge, and arrived on a sun-soaked San Pablo Avenue to lunch, alfresco, on a couple “First Base Burgers.” It’s difficult to change a winning formula, and the addition of tongue certainly might not be first on a list of necessary tweaks, but what came forth seemed a well put-together sandwich, halved and toothpicked, splitting the ceramic with duck fat chips.

FB BurgA sensory study revealed a coarse grind of chuck resting abed green leaves of lettuce, tomato, chopped and pickled onions and, of course, the griddled tongue. There was softness to every bite and a subtly sweet flavor that pervaded the sandwich. The tongue added texture most noticeably, while delicately changing the character of the beef. Grilled brioche imparted a smoky touch and the vegetables did their part in binding the First Base burger.

With the novelty of adding tongue to the burger, and the cute name aside, it showed that it was more than gimmicky, rather a thoughtfully constructed hamburger. Withholding cheese and an unnecessary chip upgrade, two chef sins at two-dollars apiece, quickly made Hopscotch’s interesting take a little less appealing (kind of irked me actually) as the bill leapt from $14 to $18, which is a lot for a hamburger. I wouldn’t call it a destination burger, but if I found myself in Oakland’s Uptown, looking for a smashing cocktail and good burger, then I would head to Hopscotch.

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