Anaheim, California: It's Half About the Bacon at Slater's 50/50

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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

Slater's 50/50

6362 Santa Ana Canyon Road, Anaheim CA 92807 (map); 714-685-1103; slaters5050.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: While the business value of the half-bacon burger is clear, it is less clear that it would qualify as a burger at all. To me it was more of a breakfast sandwich.The regular burger offerings were good, not great.
Want Fries with That? Yes! Fast food-style and very well-wrought.
Prices: The 50/50, $9.95
Notes: A pleasant staff and plenty of big screens means there are far worse places to catch a game and burger.

There are few things that will set the internet abuzz like bacon. It is less a lamentable misfortune and more a basic truth of my life that it is unlikely I will ever write anything that will capture the collective imagination of the blogosphere more than, say, a bra made of bacon. Barring my getting way better at golf and philandering, there is no undying phrase I can summon that will match the online impact of, "Everything's better with bacon."

This is, perhaps, related to the fact that I don't agree with the sentiment. Don't get me wrong—I love a salty and crunchy BLT, and thick-cut bacon is my breakfast meat of choice, but when it comes to burgers, I shy away from the addition of pork belly. Of course, this doesn't mean that I won't try a burger with bacon, especially if that's way the place asks its customers to have it. So when I came upon Slater's 50/50 I knew I owed it to the internet to review their signature burger—equal parts ground chuck and ground bacon.

Slater's 50/50 sounds like an internet creation, but was actually born as part of a Sunday afternoon tailgate tradition in San Diego. Owner Scott Slater made his burgers for friends and family in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium before Chargers games. While he was an amateur cook, he had built his professional life around food. If you've ever had a quick bite from one of the lunch stands in the parking lot of a Home Depot, quite likely it was one of Slater's. He finally launched a full-fledged brick and mortar operation with his Slater's 50/50 in Anaheim.

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The 50/50 is, as advertised, a fully fifty percent ground bacon patty accompanied by an over-medium fried egg, avocado, pepperjack cheese, and chipotle mayonnaise. The bun is a hefty and spongy commercial-style that has a great texture, although it suffers from too much toasting. The edges become chewy and make for a less pleasing texture.

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Amazingly, the avocado, pepperjack, and chipotle mayo manage to fade into the background; the overwhelming flavor of this burger is the bacon and egg, so much so that The 50/50 gives off the flavor profile of a breakfast sandwich much more than a burger. It's a nice taste, but it's also not really a burger. The patty is dense and, well, very bacon-y, but the beef manages to save it from being overwhelmingly so. It's easy to see why Slater thought there was enough reason to build his restaurant around this creation (one imagines he could sell the idea to a fast food chain in a sclerotic heart beat), but it's harder to classify it as a great hamburger.

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Luckily, Slater's isn't a one-burger-trick pony. In fact, despite naming the place after the 50/50, a little closer inspection reveals that the menu, developed with executive chef Brian Lyons (one of Slater's college buddies), is really more of a build-your-own joint. This means there are literally thousands of options, so I opt for Slater's Old Timey, which is basically what I would build on my own. It comes with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, grilled onions, and Thousand Island.

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This second burger offered me much more of what I am looking for in a burger. The beef is Sterling Silver, which is a grading only 12 percent of grain-fed cattle will get. It's aged for 21 days and advertises better flavor, but then again, this is a Cargill company. The well seasoned patty is grilled and you get a decent whiff of char (though I wouldn't have minded the heat turned up a bit). The bun, again, chewy on the edges from too much heat, is just the right texture otherwise. The onions and cheese hit the right notes, but the lettuce and tomato are added with too heavy a hand. My overall impression was that while I was happy to have a burger without bacon, it wasn't a stand out preparation.

While Slater's 50/50 wasn't simply designed to ride bacon's internet celebrity, the restaurant is clearly not averse to a little online marketing—their Facebook page is maintained with more care than my own, and their website has a blog. But these seem like the style of these times rather than a way of replacing substance. That is to say, Slater's feels less like a gimmick than it sounds. The staff is friendly and if you want to catch a game, you won't be jockeying for a good view of a television (there must be a couple of dozen flatscreens). It's just that the food, while solid, is not worth going out of your way for. Then again, for this reviewer, not everything is better with bacon.

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