And now it's Slater's 50/50. I had read many blurbs over the last couple of years about the Slater's locations down south, but in truth I didn't know much about it other than the fact that they offered some crazy-sounding burgers, e.g. a "corned beef and Guinness burger" last St. Patrick's Day.
The 50/50, I learned upon visiting, comes from their signature burger blend, a mix of 50% beef and 50% bacon. The other day my friend Carla and I stopped in for lunch.
The cilantro-lime sour cream meant for the jalapeños was likewise delicious. I have never really used sour cream as a dip, I prefer it (when I use it) mixed in with other things. But I had no problem dipping into this.
And my favorite of the bunch was the "original mustard sauce," advertised as accompanying the fried pickles but really going wonderfully with all the items. This was one of the best mustard sauces I have had in a long time.
I ordered the Fritos Crunch Burger: a beef patty topped with cheese, Fritos, chili and 1000 Island dressing. You have your choice of 1/3 pound, 2/3 pound, and full one-pound beef patties which they claim are the weight after cooking. I opted for the 2/3 pounder.
The bun was fantastic, soft and sweet. But that's the only part I really liked. The toppings were meager: I was hoping that something with "Fritos Crunch" in the title would have more than the tiny scattering of Fritos I counted. There was so little chili that I could not even detect the taste of it. And it was overcooked:
But at least it wasn't as overcooked as Carla's:
Now, after a few minutes a manager came by and asked how the burgers were.
"Pretty good," I said, "but very overcooked. He apologized and immediately asked if we wanted them remade. I give him credit for that. But we had waited half an hour to receive these and I certainly did not want to wait any longer so I said no thanks.
And it's not like I was lying to him: my burger was pretty good. The beef was tasty; it wasn't dried-out despite being overcooked. The toppings were good... there just weren't enough of them. This was not bad by any means. It just wasn't anything special, and I had thought there was a chance it would be.
Carla's burger, of which she gave me almost a quarter, was more of a letdown. Named "The Flamin' Hot," the burger was advertised as coming with beer-battered jalapenos, fire roasted green chilis, pepper jack cheese and chipotle adobo sauce... all on a patty with habaneros mixed in. After she'd ordered it, the waitress started telling tales of previous customers who had ordered it and then found it so spicy that they required multiple glasses of milk to eradicate the pain. We got a little nervous.
Well, you can probably guess what's coming: neither of us found it to be the least bit spicy. Carla wondered aloud if perhaps they had given her a patty made for someone else, like maybe they had taken a well-done patty without habaneros and placed it on her burger. So we sawed off a little bit of the patty and tried it by itself. It did indeed have peppers in it... they just weren't very hot. Either they weren't habanero or it was some kind of diluted habanero powder. (Actually, now that I think about it, the menu did not claim that they were habaneros... that was something the waitress told us. Maybe she confused the kind of peppers Slater's uses?)
The service was two-fold. When we sat down, the waitress was upon us quickly, we received our drinks quickly, a manager came by to say hi, and our appetizers came out in just a few minutes. But then things took a turn for the worse: our entrees did not come out for half an hour, as I mentioned, and we did not see a server again after that. We finished our food and sat there with empty plates in front of us for 15 minutes - despite the server repeatedly walking by our table - before a busboy finally noticed that we were completely done. We sat there for another eight minutes, without a thing on our table, before we were finally able to get our check.
Even if I still lived in Pasadena, I said I did not think it would be worth visiting Slater's again for a meal. There are still some very good independent restaurants in Old Town; it hasn't been completely taken over by chains, though that seems to be the direction of things. But I also announced that I wouldn't mind returning to Slater's one day for a beer at the bar. I would not have to wait long.
Overall I was pretty underwhelmed by Slater's 50/50. Nothing stood out except the specialty sauces for our appetizers. I am not alone in my opinion; I received text messages from two friends shortly after my visit, both who experienced the place on their own and both who had similar opinions:
Phil: "Went to Slaters and I think they should rename it Slater's 100/0, as in 100% too salty and 0% enjoyment."
Mike: "I get the name. 50 minutes to receive our food, 50 bucks for lunch for two."
I like the concept of Slater's 50/50: quality burgers with interesting toppings and more than one hundred beers on tap. But I have a suspicion that the concept is the best thing about the place.