San Diego: Thanksgiving Burger at Slater's 50/50
2750 Dewey Rd, San Diego CA 92106 (map); plus Anaheim and Huntington Beach; slaters5050.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: A tasty turkey burger with all the Thanksgiving fixings
Want Fries With That? Yes, for the full experience get the sweet potato fries with pumpkin sauce
Price: Thanksgiving burger $9.95, sweet potato fries, $4.45
What I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving is that other than submerging a bird in a vat of oil (and supplying a pumpkin pie), all of the cooking will be handled by more competent hands. Left to my own devices, I'd probably end up drinking pumpkin beer, eating a turkey burger, and calling it a day.
With options like the Thanksgiving burger at Slater's 50/50, that's not as sad as it sounds. The mini-chain that Damon profiled in December '09 has a legitimate alternative to a labor intensive turkey dinner: a house-made turkey patty topped with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sage mayo, and turkey gravy on a honey wheat bun. How big is up to you: 1/3 pound, 2/3 pound, or a full pound.
Most turkey burgers earn their place on a menu by being a low-fat alternative to beef, and their charm begins and ends with their calorie count, but Slater's has crafted a turkey patty with real merit. The exact formulation of herbs and spices is a closely guarded secret, but I was able to wrestle out one pertinent fact: It's made with turkey gravy.
The patty had plenty of browning on the outside, with visible grill marks. Inside, thanks to the gravy, it was juicy, tender, and packed with flavor. All of the toppings were delicious, especially the sage mayo, which had just enough of the quintessential Thanksgiving spice to register, but not overpower the other flavors.
Admittedly, there were some flaws in terms of execution (the turkey gravy drenched the stuffing, making it mushy, and it was too heavy on the cranberry sauce), but it definitely recreated the Thanksgiving experience. The only thing that would have made it more authentic would be eating it in my pyjamas while politely feigning even the slightest interest in football.
The deep-fryer plays heavily into the options for sides, which include fried pickle chips, artichoke hearts, and mac and cheese balls, along with onion strings, regular fries, and sweet potato fries. Since this meal was an homage to Thanksgiving, I went with the sweet potato fries with pumpkin sauce. The battered spuds were light and crisp, with a good amount of sweet potato flavor, but the pumpkin sauce tipped the dish into too-sweet territory. Paired with a more savory burger, I could forgive the sugary sauce, but the Thanksgiving burger needs something to cut the sweetness of the cranberry. If you go this route, add a back-up option like baconaise or garlic aioli (and get the cranberry on the side while you're at it).
For the full effect, you can also get a pumpkin shake, or permit yourself a detour from the theme for a Guinness mint chocolate shake.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego, including all things sweet and sugary, for her dessert blog San Diego Sugar.