Slater's 50/50 isn't one to hold back with their monthly burger specials. I've seen everything from burgers speared with celery sticks, to patties wrapped up in a flour tortilla with nacho fixings and deep-fried, chalupa-style. This month's creation isn't just no exception, it's probably the California-based chain's most out-there burger yet.
During September, you can try The 'Roo ($14.95-$18.95), a 50/50 blend of bacon and kangaroo on a honey wheat bun. The patty (1/3-, 1/2-, or a full pound) sits on mixed baby greens and radish slices, and is topped with bacon, brie, huckleberry ketchup, and crushed macadamia ricotta.
If you're an A.A. Milne fan, it's difficult not to picture the adorable Winnie the Pooh character while your molars chomp down on the ground kangaroo patty, but it's worth the momentary emotional pain, because not only is kangaroo meat low in fat, it's also pretty delicious. When mixed with bacon, it tastes like an extra-lean fillet with smoky undertones. I ordered mine medium (mostly because of the presence of raw bacon), but I'd advocate for medium-rare to preserve as much moisture as possible.
The real-life burger bears a lot of resemblance to the promo photo, but the promo looks like it was constructed with mayo instead of the crushed macadamia ricotta. That actually wouldn't be a bad way to go. When you've got such a lean patty, you really have to consciously build around it, adding creamy components to fill in the gap. The melted brie is a good start, but my burger didn't have enough of it to make an impact, and the macadamia-ricotta was more dry and crumbly than smooth and creamy.
With so many ingredients, it's hard not to think about the burger's design, specifically, why certain elements were chosen over others. For the most part, I think the construction is done well, with two main exceptions: the bacon and the bun. I'd nix the bacon all together—the thick-cut strips were chewy and didn't make a noticeable improvement to the overall flavor of the burger—and convert those calories for a squirt of mayo. Plain, garlic aioli, or Baconnaise would all be great. Instead of the honey-wheat bun, I'd go with something less obtrusive and more squishy, like brioche.
If you have strong feelings against ketchup like I do, let me assure you that the huckleberry ketchup is a vital, and delicious, ingredient. It's also really just jam; if there was more than one molecule of tomato paste or vinegar, I couldn't taste it. The sweet tinge and mild acidity of the berries contrast nicely with the salty patty and bacon strips, and help to bring the many components together. If anything, you'll need some extra on the side.
As a monthly special, The 'Roo burger is a smart addition to the Slater's 50/50 menu. It might not fulfill cravings for a full-fat burger, but it is a worthy diversion from your typical routine if you don't mind dropping $14.95 for the experiment for a 1/3-pound burger, served à la carte.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax