Maurice Mikel has spent years trying to create the perfect hamburger. Call it something of an obsession for the Jordanian immigrant, who recently opened Petaluma’s Slamburger.
Inside the bright fast-casual spot it’s hard to pick just one of his creations: The menu ranges from ahi tuna with wasabi mayo and tamarind, to a lamb burger with garlic aioli and olive chimichurri, to a straight-up burger with all the fixings, hot dogs, and even a kale salad.
One thing they all have in common, however: Big flavors. Influenced by the aromatic herbs and spices of his homeland and an obsession with juicy American burgers, Mikel is on an epic quest to become Northern California’s ultimate burgermeister.
“Most burger places are just meat, lettuce, tomato and ketchup, but I wanted to add something unique to get people’s attention and curiosity,” he said.
“I love burgers,” said Mikel, whose favorite menu item is the “Cheese Slam” with sharp white cheddar.
“I was so sick of fast food that’s all commodity meat full of hormones. I want to change the habit of fast food meaning junk food,” he said. “I just didn’t want to feed my kid that,” said Mikel, who has a 16-month old son.
Add in plenty of kid-friendly options at the Petaluma restaurant, from stripped-down burgers to hot dogs, and shakes; a solid beer and wine menu ; French fries with an egg on top; beer-battered pickles and a very non-carnivorous Kale salad with candied walnuts, clover sprouts and lemon vinaigrette, and it’s not hard to see how Mikel’s Slamburger wouldn’t be ripe for franchising. Which is exactly what Mikel is hoping to do.
“My dream is to make this a Northern-California based chain,” he said.
First, however, he’s working to perfect the concept. Just two months after opening, Mikel is already tweaking the seasonings on his Lamb Slam, trying to get customer costs down and constantly assessing what’s working on the menu and what’s not. When we met up with him one morning, he brought a still-warm lamb patty that was light-years better than the one we enjoyed the day before.
“See better, right?” he asked. Right.
Sourcing from nearby Mindful Meats, one of the first beef companies to be certified GMO-free and organic.
“More than 70 percent of our food is organic, and all of our food comes from good sources,” said Mikel, who is also making the buns and fries in house.
Using high-end meats and organic ingredients, however, adds to food costs. Some Yelp customers have been vocal about $10 to $15 cost for some of the more elaborate burgers (plain and cheeseburgers are $7 and $7.50), which don’t come with fries included (they’re $2.65 extra, meaning you still could get a Slamburger meal for under $10, which is rare in Sonoma County.)
Mikel takes to the web to answer customer concerns frequently and said he plans to cut prices by at least 20 percent since renegotiating his vendor contracts. Though we thought the prices were well in line with other fast-casual restaurant menus, and our bill was $66 for three premium burgers, two sides, a salad and two soft drinks. Even though we’ve paid far more for less quality; you can’t make everyone happy.
Serving more than 200 people a day in their first 60 days of business, it seems the word is getting out, and Petalumans are trying out the new Theater District burger spot. Mikel still isn’t satisfied, however, as he continues to work on his Slamburger concept. “Happy people are our ambassadors,” he said.
Consider us very happy ambassadors.
Best bets at Petaluma’s Slamburger
Slamburger ($7 ): Nothing but a simple cheese-less burger, which can be swapped out for turkey, chicken or veggie patties. Lettuce wraps and gluten-free buns are also available.
Shroomaluma ($10.50): Cremini mushrooms, lettuce, Swiss, peach bbq sauce, tomato, house pickle.
Lamb Slam ($13): We usually aren’t huge fans of lamb or olives, but both work perfectly on this tasty burger.
Ahi Burger ($15): Wild tuna, ginger wasabi mayo, lemongrass-tamarind glaze, pickled red onions, wontons.
Slam Fries ($5): What, what? A hearty plate of fries smothered with garlic aioli, red onions and a fried egg. The egg yolk could have been a bit runnier for our tastes, but otherwise, delish.
Cajun Brussels Sprouts ($5): Healthy-ish? Who cares.
Kale Salad ($7.50): Shaved Parmesan, clover sprouts, candied walnuts, Granny Smith Apple, watermelon radish with lemon vinaigrette. A perfect foil for an order of Beer Battered Frickle Bites ($4).
Slam Dog ($8.50): Bacon wrapped dog with caramelized onion, Slam Sauce, scallion.
Slamburger is at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 707-658-1845, theslamburger.com. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.