Bacon and beef are two great tastes that go well with anything at Slater’s 50/50
By Erica Wayne 05/28/2014
When I was younger, my parents used to tell me that a good relationship wasn’t one in which each partner gave 50 percent, but rather one in which each gave 90 percent and expected only 10 percent in return. And that’s the way in which they lived a long (more than 70 years) and happy life together, in love until my dad’s death at 90.
Whenever I pass Slater’s 50/50, the restaurant’s name reminds of my parents’ advice. Of course, I now know from the back of their menu that Scott Slater and his executive chef Brad Lyons created the original 50/50 patty (50 percent ground bacon and 50 percent ground beef) in 2009, when they opened their first restaurant in Anaheim, and it’s this combination that created the name.
Nevertheless, the harmonious blended flavors of the 50/50 burger still bring back memories of my parents’ marriage. And it’s pretty obvious that the relationship of Slater and Lyons is equally successful, since their Web site indicates that there are now seven Slater’s 50/50s dotting Southern California. Lucky us; Pasadena has the only one in the LA area.
Slater’s Web site has coined a term: “excesstasy,” defined as “the overwhelming excitement felt when indulging in the Slater’s 50/50 experience.” And I have to admit to just a bit of excesstasy contemplating items I’ve sampled at Slater’s and others I’ve yet to try. Also a lot of pre-visit guilt since there’s almost nothing on the menu with less than a bezillion calories.
Nora Ephron stated in her novel “Heartburn” that any dish which tastes good with capers tastes better without them. The opposite certainly applies to bacon (especially Slater’s “preferred and carefully selected double hickory smoked center cut pork belly” bacon from Bar-M). At least half of Slater’s dishes contain it, including some of the desserts and beverages.
I feel like the dog in the Beggin’ Strips commercial, muttering “bacon, bacon, bacon” as I drool over Slater’s menu. As much as I (in my more rational moments) want to avoid smoked and nitrite-treated meats, I find them pretty irresistible. So Slater’s over-the-top fried bacon mac n’ cheese balls ($6.95), served with fiery Tapatio-laced ranch dip, is a must-order. And crisp, sticky maple-bourbon-bacon-coated wings ($8.95) are almost as essential.
If I literally wanted to go hog wild, I’d probably order the B’B’B’ bacon burger ($11.95), with the unctuous 50/50 patty, cheese, fried egg, bacon and bacon-island dressing on a bacon pretzel bun. And perhaps I’d follow that up with a bacon brownie (candied bacon, chocolate ganache and ice cream) or blondie (candied bacon, peanut butter frosting and ice cream), each $8.95, washed down with a maple bacon milkshake spiked with bacon-infused Basil Hayden’s Bourbon ($8.95).
But, actually, I’ve never let myself descend into such pork-suffused debauchery. Instead, once we’ve downed the mac n’ cheese balls, we usually order a bacon-free deconstructed guacamole ($8.95), one of the best in Pasadena — big chunks of avocado, roasted tomato, pickled red onion, cilantro, roasted corn, Cotija cheese and a tart but creamy lime dressing, served with corn chips.
The wings come in other flavors. There’s Thai chili with sesame, garlic and sriracha ($7.95) and PB&J with a touch of coconut cream ($8.95). There is also “kicked up” Dr. Pepper ($7.95), and buffalo lime and maple ($7.95). And there’s a wonderful salad made with pickled beets, barley, Brussels sprouts, Cotija and red onion over greens, dressed in apple cider vinaigrette spiked with mustard ($9.95/$10.95 with chicken).
Brandt “True Natural” beef burgers are used in a variety of pre-designed sandwiches ranging from an “Old Timey” ($9.95) bacon-cheeseburger with grilled onion, lettuce, tomato and thousand island dressing on brioche to a baroque “Peanut Butter and Jellousy” with PB, strawberry jelly, bacon and ice cream on a honey wheat bun ($13.95).
Two sandwiches and one burrito ($9.95-$11.95) contain carne asada fire beef. Plus, a turkey burger with smoked Gouda, portobello mushroom and pesto ($12.95), and a veggie burger with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber and garlic aioli ($10.95), are available.
There’s also a “Design It” sheet, similar to the one at Counters (another of our favorite burger joints). So far, we haven’t used it. We’re still working our way through the main menu, and the number of self-design combinations requires a clear head and a calculator to total. (Trust me, my husband the electrical engineer tried and failed after a couple of beers.)
Speaking of clear heads and alcohol, Slater’s has a full bar. And I mean really full. The beer list numbers over 100 and the huge number of taps rotate several times a day. The spirits displayed behind the massive bar on the north side of the dining area seem almost as extensive. Wine, not so much so: four whites, four reds and a cheap bubbly.
The 50/50 moniker doesn’t only apply to their signature meat blend. The place is half restaurant, with comfy seating and charming photos, prints and murals, where you can indulge yourself to the limit with saturated fats, smoked meats and deep-fried foods. And it’s also half sports bar. We’ve counted the TVs a couple of times and, depending on how much alcohol we’ve consumed, gotten between 25 and 30. (I was also informed by a hostess that there are two or three in the men’s room!)
Slater’s occupies the site of several failed restaurants: La Bamba, Vive, Nonya and the very bizarre, very short-lived Boomerock, a supposedly Australian concept in which diners could cook ostrich over hot stones to an aboriginal music backdrop. But, judging from the crowds, the quality of food, service (and, especially with fans of the suddenly closed Haven Gastropub now searching for an equally appealing replacement), I think Slater’s 50/50 is heading for a long and prosperous life.
61 N. Raymond Ave.,