A better-for-you burger

Photograph of Roam Artisan Burgers by Daniel Bahmani

ROAM, WHICH JUST opened its doors — and windows — at 1923 Fillmore Street, is not your run of the mill burger joint. And business partners Lynn Gorfinkle and Josh Spiegelman have spared no detail to make sure that’s true.

“We wanted to create a better-for-you burger concept using high quality ingredients,” says Gorfinkle. “It’s simple, what we’re trying to do: Whatever decision we make about the food here, it’s steered by what’s healthier for people to eat — and what’s better for the environment, too.”

To that end, Roam Artisan Burgers, serving all day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., offers beef, turkey, bison and veggie options with all the right imprimaturs: grass-fed, free-range, natural, organic. Gorfinkle says all meat served is from animals that are pasture-raised. “We work with an incredible rancher up in Humboldt County, for example,” she says. “The cows there all eat green grass — not like cows on feed lots that eat corn and are shot through with antibiotics.”

This is the second site for Gorfinkle and Spiegelman, who opened their first Roam down the hill on Union Street in June 2010. The menu at the Fillmore locale includes a unique offering: ostrich burgers, already a hit with local customers, they say.

At Roam, burger buyers can request a patty in any of the five varieties made in eight different styles, from the simple classic (tomato, onions, pickles, sauce) to the fussiest French and Fries (truffle parmesan fries, gruyere, avocado, carmelized onions, watercress, Dijon mustard). Prices range from $6.25 to $8.25 — with an additional tariff for the more exotic bison and ostrich meats.

And Roam’s health and environmental consciousness extends beyond the burgers to the beverages, including seasonal “better-for-you sodas” sweetened with fruit juice and agave instead of sugar.

A selection of eight wines are all sustainably produced and served on tap to eliminate corking and bottling. “We get them directly from the producers, so we can pass along a lower price,” says Gorfinkle. “We didn’t want to sell an $18 a glass wine with a $7 or $8 burger.” And the impressive taps and bottles of beers and ales include Stone IPA, Allagash White Belgian Ale, Boont Amber Ale, gluten-free Omissioon Pale Ale and the most serious, Brother Thelonius Ale. Roam’s owners are also looking into getting a prosecco on tap for those who favor a different kind of bubble.

Sides, too, are beyond the usual fries. Those are on the menu, but cooked in rice bran oil, which Gorfinkle says is lighter than most oils, with a higher smoking point that translates to less fat and fewer calories. Also offered are sweet potato fries and a haystack of zucchini and onion shreds given the same quick frying treatment. Seasonal vegetables are also offered: summer squash now and brussel sprouts and broccolini when fall and winter come.

Burgers are served swathed in brown paper wrappers. The carb-conscious can request a lettuce wrap in lieu of a bun.

The fare makes for a good fit with the relaxed vibe of the woody dining room. Takeout is available, but those who dine in are asked to order, take a number and wait for their food at tables or a long bar, all fashioned from salvaged wood. A one-of-a-kind chandelier is made from old Straus milk bottles, which also line a wall. When the weather is good — as it has been since they opened August 24 ­— the front windows open out onto the street.

“We wanted to take a white tablecloth experience and bring it to a casual setting,” explains Gorfinkle, who says they were happy to snag their new locale, home for ages to the Osaka Japanese restaurant.

“We love Fillmore Street,” she says. “We’ve been eyeing this neighborhood even before we opened on Union.” And they’re especially happy to be bridging the upper and lower parts of the street — and to reach the crowds drawn to local entertainment at the Sundance Kabuki Theaters and the Fillmore auditorium.

This won’t be Roam’s last stand. “We didn’t come up with this concept just to do one or two. We’re looking at other neighborhoods — and other cities,” says Gorfinkle. “The more people you can touch with good food, the more good you’re doing in the world. I believe that.”

TOP 10 TIPS FOR DINING AT ROAM

By Christine Lunde

1. You’re obsessed with the truffle parmesan fries. They are delicious, but have you had the sweet potato fries with the fresh herb custom seasoning? Ask for the homemade herb ranch dressing for dipping this deliciousness.

2. You prefer the sweetness of the sweet potato fries (which in the kitchen they call dulce papas)? You say you want your sweet fries super sweet, and maybe a little spicy? So get them tossed in the chipotle maple seasoning. Then dip them in the sweet chili sauce.

3. You can blend milkshake flavors. Black and white is a can-do. Can’t decide between coconut or Dagoba chocolate? Mix them; it tastes like a German chocolate milkshake. My personal favorite, salted caramel and chocolate, is even better with a bruleed marshmallow. You’ll probably want the 16 ounce size.

4. Don’t ignore the classic beef burger. It’s great plain or with cheese, but the classic is even better with the addition of Roam’s applewood smoked bacon. The two meats, combined with the butter lettuce, homemade house sauce, diced onions, homemade bread ‘n butter pickles and two fresh slices of tomatoes are perfect — or, rather, classic.

5. Are you a meat eater who tends to stay away from the veggie options? Well, if you feel the need to get your fiber on, try the veggie burger. Don’t be alarmed at the redness; it’s made of beets, quinoa, brown rice and black beans. Best pairing: Veggie BBQ with the whole wheat vegan bun.

6. Roam offers seasonal options. I would highly suggest trying owner Lynn Gorfinkle’s magical creations. Currently, the brussels sprouts are what you should be eating for lunch every day. Get them topped with Parmesan cheese, with or without a skewer of patties.

7. Speaking of seasonal options, the Nocciola hazelnut chocolate shake is back. You must try it.

8. If you want your market salad just a bit greener, ask for any of the burger toppings added to your salad: watercress, cremini, caramelized onions, an egg or bacon — even the haystack, made of shredded zucchini and onion breaded with rice bran flour.

9. The turkey Tejano is popular for a reason. And you must try it on the traditional sesame seed bun. Crunchy corn strips, pepperjack cheese, jalapeno relish, avocado, tomato and herb ranch.

10. Don’t be afraid of a line; you’ll get a seat by the time your food arrives. And try everything, including all the wines on tap and all the beers. Get an artisan soda (recommended: pretty pink Prickly Pear) and add bacon to everything, or an egg. And don’t forget about the Chalet burger, with watercress, cremini, Swiss cheese, tomato and house sauce. It’s my personal favorite, and it’s truly a Roamance.

Christine Lunde was part of the team that opened Roam on Fillmore.

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