Despite America’s still tough economic state, today’s restaurant patrons don’t expect any less in terms of quality ingredients and service when they go out for a meal. And why should they? After all, restaurants are in the business of serving people so they don’t have to serve themselves. The restaurant industry has been under pressure in recent years to figure out how to slash overhead and streamline processes, while also meeting consumer demands to raise the bar in such areas as sourcing locally, environmental responsibility and providing a luxury experience on an affordable tab.
Roam Artisan Burgers falls right in line with this larger growing trend in the restaurant business of cutting back costs and simultaneously providing diners with a first-rate culinary event. They have figured out how to serve down-home, classic Americana cuisine at a reasonable price point, while also giving customers the feeling of a higher-end dining experience due to their focus on superior service and the use of quality, artisanal and local food components.
Nestled in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, Roam opened to great success in June 2010 with the mantra of “made fresh with mindful ingredients.” They minimized serving staff by having customers order at the bar instead of table service. The place takes on a feeling of shared space by allowing diners to eat at communal tables or at the bar, which just happens to be made out of out of a recycled tree trunk.
Cross Fit Burger
Greenies never fear, Roam certainly hasn’t cut any corners in terms of their environmental impact in order to keep prices decent. In fact, their green practices have probably helped them save, as the design called for all energy-efficient appliances and the use of low VOC paint, reclaimed wood and other recycled material. They also chose to establish a state of the art recycling and composting system (compost is turned into soil and utilized to grow more food), their frying oil is converted into biofuels and in-house orders are served on grênware – eco-plateware derived from plant fibers that make it biodegradable.
Roam’s menu ingredients were meticulously hand-chosen from local, sustainably-produced purveyors – not only because “keeping it local” simplifies their sourcing/delivery logistics, but also because sustainable production of the ingredients is a unique aspect of their business that draws in conscientious, loyal customers – smart for business, smart for the planet. Pacific Pastures Ranch raises the cattle for Roam’s 100 percent grass-fed beef burgers, while Golden Gate Meats grounds the beef and makes the patties fresh daily. They also offer free-range turkey from Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in the Sierra Foothills and all natural bison via Great Range Bison. So burger lovers can chow down knowing these animals were humanely raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics (and the added bonus that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!). To hold it all in place, even their sesame seed and whole grain buns are local and custom-made by Pacific Coast Baking Co.
Roam kept taste-savvy vegetarians in mind when they created their organic veggie burger, which most definitely didn’t sacrifice flavor for health. While many gluten-free and vegan options can often leave folks wanting, this beet, quinoa and jalapeno mixture packs a bright punch, especially if you don’t forget to ask for some of their house-made pickles to go along with it.
Another attraction for, let’s call them “Roamers,” is that you won’t find any corn syrup or added trans-fats lurking behind their menu items. For instance, the Fry-Fecta that joins together a killer combo of sweet potato fries (sporting a chipotle maple seasoning), russet potato fries and a zucchini-onion haystack – is all fried in rice bran oil. All of these hand-crafted touches, top-notch ingredients and awareness of various diet restrictions/choices make it no surprise that last year Bon Appétit awarded Roam second place on their list of “Ten Favorite Burger Spots” in the country.
Sustainably-produced wines and raw, organic kombucha from Santa Cruz-based Kombucha Botanica are served on tap – a distinctive set-up that eliminates packaging waste and is becoming a big seller among casual joints like Roam that still want to provide excellent drink options for their diners.
Lynn Gorfinkle, COO of Roam, recently told QSR, “We offer four wines on tap, so we’re offering a barrel-to-glass experience. When you eat the burger and drink the [2009 Ballentine] Zinfandel, which is a lighter wine, it really cleanses the palate and gets you ready for the next bite of food. It’s amazing to see how much wine people are ordering with their burgers. It’s a natural fit in the sense that people are expecting a certain level of quality with our burgers and the wine is able to compliment that.”
Wine on tap
Their homemade sodas are lightly sweetened with low-glycemic agave nectar (that doesn’t spike your energy then leave you crashing a few hours later the way refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup does) with flavors like prickly pear, caramelized pineapple and the seasonal raspberry.
Roam’s rich shakes are fashioned with Strauss Family Creamery’s organic ice cream and house -made syrups, which include flavors like the Oakland-based organic, shade-grown Blue Bottle Coffee (some of the best coffee in the biz, coming from a self-admitted coffee addict) and a changing seasonal selection which is currently white peach. And if you’re feeling a little crazy, you can even top it off with, yes, brown-rice-derived bruléed marshmallows.
While the National Restaurant Association recently stated that the outlook for restaurants is improving economically, that didn’t stop Roam from going above and beyond in order to save and give customers an exceptional feast. Rather they – and many restaurants ahead of the curve – have managed to offer patrons a green, healthy, locally-supported, artisanal, fresh and informed experience that won’t burn a hole in either the customer or the restaurant’s pocket.
Roam Artisan Burgers
1785 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 440-7626 (ROAM)