Scott Slater has grilling in his blood. At the age of 27, he founded Slater's 50/50 in Anaheim Hills, California, and has been steadily growing the company since his first restaurant, built on the concept of a burger made with 50 percent beef and 50 percent ground bacon, opened in 2009. "I sold hot dogs outside of a Home Depot before that," he points out.
That's a modest way of explaining that he owned several dozen hot dog carts in Southern California that served as a springboard to Slater's, which debuts this week in Denver thanks to franchisee Charlie Murray. Slater says that all but one of the thirteen current Slater's 50/50 burger joints (with three or four more under construction) have opened thanks to passionate franchise owners like Murray.
For his part, Murray fell in love with the brand while traveling for work as an investment specialist before he got the itch to open one himself. "I love Slater's; I wanted their menu," he explains of his decision. "What I love about Slater's is that they didn't just hand me a box. From an infrastructure standpoint, I was happy to do most of the work myself. And with training, that's where I really value the operational support from the company."
Murray began his search for a location for his restaurant in 2018 and settled on 3600 Blake Street, in a building that had just begun construction at the time. But the semi-industrial area showed plenty of promise, with new office buildings and apartments mushrooming up, the Mission Ballroom on the way, and a new pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks connecting the neighborhood's east and west sides. Murray admits that because of the coronavirus pandemic, his planned customer base — office workers, music lovers and sports fans (coming from nearby Coors Field) — has dried up for now, but he still sees plenty of potential for the area in the coming years, pointing to a weed-filled lot next door that will soon become another new office building.
For now, the burgers themselves, and a few other all-American menu items, will have to be the main draw. The Original 50/50 comes with pepper Jack cheese, guacamole, chipotle mayo and a sunny-side-up egg; the bacon in the burger blend gives the whole thing a smoky flavor like it's been grilled outdoors.
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But if you don't eat bacon, there are plenty of other options, from a straight-up Angus beef burger to a couple of different turkey burgers. There are even three meatless burgers: portobello mushroom, black bean or Impossible. Murray says his favorite on the list of more than a dozen burgers is the P.B. & Jellousy, an all-beef patty topped with thick-cut bacon and slathered in peanut butter and strawberry jelly. The franchise owner also makes the bold claim that his restaurant's wings are the best he's ever had. Salads, flatbreads, chicken sandwiches (both grilled and fried) and bar snacks round out the menu, and ridiculously oversized milkshakes are there if you happen to have room for dessert.
Murray hired locally for both front- and back-of-house employees, and also leaned heavily on RiNo's array of craft brewers to help stock his bar, so you'll find Bierstadt, Ratio, Epic, Great Divide, Blue Moon, Jagged Mountan and Mockery representing the neighborhood among the many tap handles.
Slater's 50/50 celebrates its grand opening on Friday, July 24, which happens to coincide with the first for-keeps Rockies game to be played this year, so you can catch the game on TV while pigging out. Slater's is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 720-387-7177 or visit the restaurant's website for details.