Having read the Chronicle’s review of Roam, a new “artisan” burger joint in Cow Hollow, I cajoled Hook to take me on a date there! (Aside: not much cajoling was needed: Hook likes me almost as much as he likes burgers.) I was pretty pumped for my meal; Britt Billmaier touted the place as being both eco-conscious and offering healthy options*, and any place that makes their pickles on-site ranks pretty high in my book.
H & I arrived shortly after five; the dining room was about half full. We both ordered buffalo burgers: his came with just cheddar and mine was a “Pacific Blue,” which came with blue cheese, watercress, tomato, caramelized onions, and steak sauce. We also shared an order of plain old fries. I seriously considered getting a milkshake with a bruleed marshmallow(!), but opted not to. Our food came quickly, the burgers nested in brown paper envelopes, 1950s-style, the fries garnished with parsley.
On the whole, I was pleased with our meal. My burger, which I’d ordered medium, had no pink in it, but oh, well. The bun, a chewy, pillowy, sesame-seed-encrusted delight, was quite evidently baked that day. The sweetness of the onions balanced nicely with the tang of the steak sauce, the peppery bite of the cress. I wish the burger had been served with more steak sauce; I am a steak sauce fiend, and this sandwich had just a dab poured onto the top of the bun (which I frankly would have missed, had I not disassembled my burger to inspect its construction). The tomato, too, was pale and toeing the line of mealiness — not what I’d expect at this point in the growing season. Our fries were solid: crisp, uniform in size, and on the salty side. OH! I almost forgot this detail but I’m very glad I didn’t! When ordering, I requested a pickle (wanting to see how these pickles measured up to Hook’s and mine) and I didn’t get it. Major burn.
Roam’s atmosphere left me feeling ambivalent. The furnishings and decor were spot-on: very minimal with natural wood and light fixtures crafted from repurposed Mason jars. The music, however, was not. I don’t know who thought reggae would be an appropriate choice, but it seemed really out of place, given Roam’s focus. (After further considering the restaurant’s location and the demographic of that area, I can see why reggae might be chosen. But really? Surely, there must be a musical middle ground that appeals to both aging frat dudes and also to everyone else.) I suggested that Iron and Wine or Bonnie “Prince” Billy or Bon Iver would have been a better choice. Hook agreed that the choice of music was odd, but I don’t think it vexed him to the extent that it did me.
My overall rating of Roam is three and a half out of five. The burgers were solid but certainly not enough to warrant another special trip to Cow Hollow; quoting my dining companion, Roam is “like a more upscale Burgermeister.” At the end of the day, I agreed with Hook when he posed the quasi-rhetorical question, “What makes these burgers artisinal?”
*Looking back, I’m not sure what Billmaier was referring to as “healthy menu options.” The Farmers Market salad, perhaps (sans sliders)? Or the seasonal veggies? Because everything else was pretty damn heavy. This isn’t bad — far from it! I like my burgers thick & juicy! — but I find it strange that this restaurant was promoted, in the first paragraph of the review, as having healthy choices when the bulk of the menu items are fried, fried, fried.