First founded in Anaheim Hills in 2009, Slater's 50/50 established its location in Point Loma's Liberty Station in 2011. Owner Scott Slater is an alumni of San Diego State University, and says that he opened an outpost in San Diego just to have a reason to live here; the company has since grown to total five eateries throughout Southern California. Their now-famous burger stars a 50% bacon and 50% beef patty. Slater's full service restaurants focus on burgers, including pre-designed burgers (The 50/50 tops the signature patty with a sunny side up egg, avocado mash, pepper jack cheese and chipotle adobo mayo) to custom-built-by-you burgers and special edition seasonal burgers that he creates with executive chef Brad Lyons.
How did you come up with the bacon burger?
I was hungover at a Chargers tailgate party and I wanted to figure out a way to eat bacon at a game; you can't necessarily barbecue strips of bacon. At the first test, we just barbecued the whole pork belly and it caught on fire. So the next week, I went back to the butcher and had it ground up to mix into the burger. The first burger I made up is the exact way we serve The 50/50 burger on the menu now.
And it became the inspiration for the restaurant's name?
I came up with the burger about five years before opening the restaurant, but something about it just clicked; the name 50/50 sounded cool so we put it on the menu to see if it'd sell. We didn't think it was going to, but it did. Nobody else was doing something like it, so that's what got us a lot of attention at the beginning, but there's certainly a lot more on the menu now.
When did you bring on Brad Lyons as the executive chef?
Brad's been with me since the beginning, he's actually a college buddy of mine. When I got the restaurant, he was cooking on a cruise ship and I called him up and told him he could have his own restaurant; he took the first flight back. We work very closely together and we're also collaborating on new things for the menu.
Have you noticed anything different about San Diego burger culture?
As far as burgers go, all five restaurants are pretty consistent as far as the top sellers but where San Diego is different from everybody else is the beer. In San Diego, I'll go through four kegs of Ballast Point's Sculpin a week and maybe one keg of Coors Light in a month; whereas in Anaheim, it's sort of the opposite. Craft beers are my number one sellers in San Diego and adjunct domestic lagers are still more popular in Orange County; San Diegans are definitely more educated about beer.
I saw that you require your servers to be certified beer servers?
Every bartender, server and manager who has direct contact with a guest is required to pass the Cicerone Beer Server exam. We have so many beers on tap and we want to our servers to be knowledgable about all the different styles and food pairings so that we can make sure to sell and serve the beers while they're fresh and encourage people to try new things. If someone orders a Blue Moon, the server will get them one but they're also trained to give samples of craft beers we have on tap so that maybe that person's second beer will be different.
What's your favorite non-burger item on the menu?
Right now I love the mac and cheese, it's delicious. The fried chicken and pancakes are pretty outrageous too.
Do you have plans to open more spots in San Diego?
I'd love to; it's my primary residence and I need to create more reasons to stay down here. I've been looking primarily in North County.
Would you ever franchise?
No, the menu's way too complex and diverse to put in anybody else's hands. I'm being very deliberate on our growth, make sure that our quality, recipes and service never get diluted.
· Slater's 50/50 [Official Site]
· All Burger Week 2013 Coverage [~ESD~]