Ganim’s Market in SF has some of the best burgers around

After a neighborhood bartender stopped a group of thieves from robbing the convenience store and burger joint one night, owner Jesse Ganim named a burger after the savior, Nigel. It’s been on Ganim’s Market’s menu ever since.

The bar, which is called Blooms Saloon, and Ganim’s Market managed to stay in Potrero Hill for about half a century (and even longer for Blooms). Things started for Ganim’s in 1974 when Jesse’s father Ahmad Ganim opened the place. It originally opened as a “grocery meat market” also offering burgers and burritos. Although the Ghanim family lived up north near Healdsburg, Ahmad intended to open a store in San Francisco.

“He was always talking about the features of the city, like the landscape and the skyline,” Jesse said. “It was always about how beautiful San Francisco is and the people, the diversity of people.”

Owner Jesse Ganim outside Ganim’s Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2023.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Located at 1135 18th St. on the corner of Mississippi Street, Ganim’s is an unassuming, no-frills place serving honest, freshly prepared food. Over time, Ahmad slowly abandoned the burrito, but the burgers remained. People loved the handmade spiced patties and the delicious topping combinations that add something extra. They are still some of the best burgers in San Francisco.



From the beginning, everything from the hand-dipped fish and chips, which are served in extra-large portions, to the marinated lamb kebabs, was made in-house and remains so to this day. Ahmad ran the shop until 1996 when Jesse took over; Ahmad died in 2021.

With its long history as a convenient neighborhood store and eatery, Ganim’s has fed just about every San Franciscan imaginable. Celebrities have even stopped by to try it. (More on that later.)

Owner Jesse Ganim works the register at Ganim's Market in Potrero Hill in San Francisco on January 12.

Owner Jesse Ganim works the register at Ganim’s Market in Potrero Hill in San Francisco on January 12.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

When you walk into the small store, it’s hard to miss the glass coolers filled with hundreds of sodas and beers of various brands. Mismatched tables and chairs occupy the left side of the store, where a large window faces the street corner. The cash register is in the center, where a man with wispy black hair, narrow-rimmed glasses and a kind smile stands ready to take your order.

“Hi, what can I get you today?” Jesse asks the customers at the front of the line.

The establishment does serve the gamut of San Franciscans. On a recent visit, I spotted a police officer eating a burger while looking out the window, two construction workers in neon orange vests munching on fish and chips, and a slender man in a Patagonia quarter-zip fleece jacket perusing the menu.

Pictures and notes hang on the wall of Ganim's Market in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood on January 12.

Pictures and notes hang on the wall of Ganim’s Market in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood on January 12.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

“I always tell people we have the best customers,” Jesse said. “We’re grateful for that.”

Jesse started helping in the family business at the age of 6.

“I used to load the cooler, break up cardboard. I even went with my father to buy cattle [up north] before we take it to the slaughterhouse for our burger meat,” he told SFGATE. “I have a lot of great memories working with him.”

Since becoming the primary owner of the business (his brother, Al, also helps when available), Jesse has really focused on taking care of the community. So much so that the coolers are stocked with unusual brands of sodas and beers—just because people in the neighborhood ask.

“If someone asks for something, we always try to get it in,” Jesse said of his customer stocking policy.

Ganim's Market owner Jesse Ganim, left, jokes with customer Joniver Caban at his store in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood on Jan. 12.

Ganim’s Market owner Jesse Ganim, left, jokes with customer Joniver Caban at his store in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood on Jan. 12.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

One SFGATE employee who lived near Ganim’s said it was “legitimately hard to find” Diet Vanilla Coke in the neighborhood. After she spotted the drink at Ghanim’s and told Jessie she was happy he was carrying it, days later he devoted an entire line to the soda.

This is where the so-called burgers come in. To show his respect for longtime customers and friends of the business, Jesse began creating specialty burgers and naming them after those same people.

In addition to Nigel, there is Bogie Burger, named after Robert Maris, who has been coming to the shop since he was a child. Maris, who recently moved to Fresno, was nicknamed “Bogie” because his family thought he looked like Humphrey Bogart. Dave’s Burger—which whetted my appetite and didn’t disappoint—was named after a parks and recreation worker who ran and maintained the baseball fields at Jackson Park, which is just a stone’s throw from Ganim’s.

Dave's Burger at Ganim's Market in San Francisco features two patties, American cheese, mushrooms, sauteed onions and fresh grilled jalapeños.

Dave’s Burger at Ganim’s Market in San Francisco features two patties, American cheese, mushrooms, sauteed onions and fresh grilled jalapeños.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Dave’s is a treat: a double quarter pounder with American cheese, mushrooms, sauteed onions and fresh (not pickled) grilled jalapeño slices with fries on the side. The two half-inch-thick burger patties sit between a traditional sesame seed bun. Slices of American cheese, lightly melted, are topped with patties while mushrooms, onions and jalapeños are spread over the bottom bun. The whole mixture is almost as big as two human fists stacked on top of each other. The immediate taste is of a classic cheeseburger — the creamy cheese against a salty beef patty and classic Thousand Island-style aioli.

The real highlights, however, are the pan-seared chopped jalapeños. Typically, the jalapeño burger features the pickled variety, which adds a vinegary, muted spiciness to the burger. In contrast, Dave’s Burger’s fresh, lightly grilled jalapeños are sweeter than spicy, with just the right amount of crunch.

In addition to serving as a reliable hot meal spot for hard-working San Franciscans, Ganim’s has also fed the cast and crews of many popular TV shows and movies. Everyone from Nash Bridges to Cheech & Chong has stepped into Ganim’s. Even X-Files star Gillian Anderson (aka Dana Scully) has eaten there. Jesse recalled that when the sci-fi series dropped by in the late ’90s, he mistook the cast for off-duty cops. The San Franciscans in the cafeteria knew better.

Owner Jesse Ganim works behind the counter at Ganim's Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2022.
Owner Jesse Ganim works behind the counter at Ganim’s Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Three Fish and Chips at Ganim's Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2022.
Three Fish and Chips at Ganim’s Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

A plate of lamb skewers at Ganim Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California, on January 12, 2022.
A plate of lamb skewers at Ganim Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California, on January 12, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE


Owner Jesse Ganim, left, works the cash register at Ganim’s Market in San Francisco on Jan. 12. The Potrero Hill shop offers several dishes popular with locals, including a three-piece fish, top right, and a lamb skewer plate, bottom right. (Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE)

“When [the crew] left with their food, my customers left and chased after them,” Jessie laughed. “It was so funny.”

Although the landscape and diversity that once inspired Ahmad Ghanim to open his market continues to change, Jesse remains steadfast in continuing his family’s legacy. He overcame many hardships during the pandemic and said he never worked harder in his life to keep the store afloat. But no matter how tired he feels, he said he has “no plans to go anywhere” and is proud that Ganim’s is a place that calls to another time. And frankly, everyone who walks through its doors is better for it.

The sign outside Ganim's Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2023.

The sign outside Ganim’s Market in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California on January 12, 2023.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

“It’s funny because there’s always talk about how San Francisco is changing,” Jesse said. “But actually here, to me, it’s still the same.”

Ghanim Market, 1135 18th St., San Francisco. Open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m



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