Burgers with a twist: New restaurant to open in downtown

Hugh Groman: opening a new sliders restaurant in downtown next month

Hugh Groman loves his dad. That much is clear when you learn he is naming his new restaurant after his pop. “My dad is someone who has always cared so much about how people feel, and that’s why I wanted to name my new venture after him,” he said.

Groman describes Phil’s Sliders — which will open next month in the old New China Express space at 2024 Shattuck, next door to the former Comic Relief — as “more organic than In-N-Out, with a twist”.

The menu will consist of $2.00 sliders (mini-burgers to the uninitiated), all made with Marin Sun Farms grass-fed beef and organic lettuce; potato tots (“crispy nuggets of goodness”); poppyseed coleslaw; and a smorgasbord of “delicious” baked goods, including s’mores bars, and not forgetting the house-made shakes and sodas.

“It will be a limited menu — simple and quick. People have so many decisions to make these days. Here the decisions are easy,” Groman said.

Healthy? Perhaps not. But Groman promises the food will be “healthful”. “It’s not all or nothing,” he said. Even the patrons of the nearby 24-Hour Fitness may want to drop by for a slider he points out — or two, or three, depending on how many carbs they’ve burned that evening.

Groman has the food chops to know what he’s doing. He runs two local catering companies — Hugh Groman Catering and Greenleaf — and he owned a café in Brooklyn at one time. And the sliders have a track record: he’s been serving them through the catering company for years and, he said, they always prove popular.

Groman says he’s excited about being in the heart of Berkeley. “Everything is here — Berkeley Rep, UC Berkeley, the high school, City College, three movie theaters.” He adds: “And everyone loves a good burger.”

Another restaurant that promised a new take on fast food, Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food, tried and failed in a nearby downtown location. Groman is not deterred, saying that while it was a good place, the space was perhaps too big for the endeavor.

Meanwhile, he wants his future customers to know more about that caring dad of his. He has posted a notice in the window of the soon-to-be-transformed restaurant. It reads as follows:

A Story About Phil
I was 12 years old and my parents Phil and Hadele were hosting one of their many parties; our big but never big enough formal dining room table crowded knee-to-knee with adults. I was sitting next to my dad, and sitting next to me was a foreign exchange student who had been brought to the party by one of my parents’ friends. She was maybe 21, the only other “kid” at the table besides me, and barely spoke a word of English. In fact, she was so quiet, looking down at her plate the whole time, it seemed like she was trying to disappear altogether. Midway through the meal, as she was reaching for a bread roll, she accidentally knocked over her glass of red wine onto the white tablecloth, the stain quickly spreading across the fabric. Everyone froze, except my father. Barely pausing between bites, my dad casually backhanded his own wine glass onto the table. Laughter filled the room and I could tell that the exchange student was relieved. I’ve never forgotten that moment…

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  • Anonymous

    Wow. First “Philz” coffee and now “Phil’s” sliders. Phillip’s of the world: I salute you!

  • Anonymous

    Wow. First “Philz” coffee and now “Phil’s” sliders. Phillip’s of the world: I salute you!

  • jjohannson

    Welp… now I’ll *have* to enroll at the Jazz School…

  • Cheshire

    The concept and spirit of Amanda’s was terrific, but I think the restaurant failed because the food itself just wasn’t great or exciting. I am, however, really looking forward to Phil’s Sliders. It seems like conscientious fast food — not the healthiest, but responsible. And the food does sound exciting.

  • Mans

    I live/work in Europe for the Guide Michelin. While normally inclined to objectivity and anonymity, I’d like to abuse my position to encourage locals to try phil’s burgers; a few weeks past I visited some friends in Bay Area and had some of Greenleaf’s hors d’oeuvres. They were delicious. Enjoy your privilege

  • Anonymous

    I hope there’s at least one vegetarian option…

  • I hope this doesn’t come across as dismissive of your comment, BerkeleyCitizen, because I support your absolutely right to voice your opinions but your comment caused a question to surface in me: do you also hope that vegetarian restaurants have at least one meat option?

    Why should a burger joint have a vegetarian option? There are growing numbers of all vegetarian restaurants. I don’t hear meateaters calling for vegetarian and/or vegan joints to be include meat options.

    If you are a vegetarian, maybe you just don’t go to Phil’s Sliders for a hamburger slider?

    I am recalling a story I read about a guy who runs a pizza place, maybe Pizzaiola but somewhere in N. Oakland . . . the pizza restaurant owner says he gets customers who come in, take a table and say “I don’t do gluten, I don’t do meat, I don’t do dairy but I would like to eat a pizza here.” Huh?

    A restaurant doesn’t have to have something for everyone, right?

  • Anonymous

    My hope was purely personal, though I do wonder how in this day and age serious chefs continue to turn a blind eye to the worldwide problem caused by insatiable desire for meat in terms of impact on the environment and world hunger (arable land used for livestock instead of agriculture). I don’t in general begrudge meat eaters, but meat only menus tend to annoy me.

  • The Sharkey


  • Bryan Garcia

    And I thought vegetarians were supposed to be the judgmental and whiny ones! Get a grip, Tizzielish!

    I agree, I hope there is a plant-based burger offered. If not, no big loss for me. It’s Phil’s that’ll be losing out on getting the money of herbivores.

    Just nice to have more options.

  • I think your assertion that Amanda’s food wasn’t ‘great or exciting’ suggests, to me at least, that you did not, and do not, understand that burgers, fries and shakes are not all that great or exciting. They just happen to be one of the most popular choices people make. She wasn’t trying to sell exciting food. She was trying to sell ordinary common, even comfort, food: burgers fries shake are a central paradigm for a meal and she was selling that central paradigm made out of real food, breaking away from our ugly food policies that subsidized rich corporations as they grow not-very-nutritious food because our subsidies make that food profitable and then other corporations strip that subsidized food into food-like products and sell it to humans as food and the human taxpayers subsidized every step of the process (if not outright subsidies, then they subsidize with tax deductions and tax credits).

    Amanda was doing something kinda subversive and that is exciting: she was trying to show that we can eat our favorite comfort meal, burgers fries shakes, and eat ‘real food’ at the same time, simultaneously keeping non-corporate farming alive, good for the environment, good for the inhabitants of this commons (the earth, which all humans own in common, right?).

    I am not sure the size of her space is what messed her up. I thought her location was lousy. You didn’t really ‘see’ it. The BART elevator hid it. I am still puzzled that an aspiring restauranteur ever took the spot, esp. someone working with such a new vision.

    I think Amanda failed to market her exciting product: the excitement was not on the menu, it was the whole approach to food. Amanda was Goliath, fighting the behemoth of corporate agriculture and corporate food manufacturing. She’ll be back in business. Anyone with such an exciting vision will bounce back.

    I hope Phil’s Sliders does well. Within a few blocks, there is Bongo Burger (Niman ranch beef!), Burgermeister (also Niman meat), Barney’s (maybe good meat? I have never been there), Oscar’s, McDonald’s, The Original, Triple Rock, Pollo, Sumo Grub, Munchy Munchy Hippo and I haven’t left the downtown core yet . . what about all the burger joints on Telegraph . . . . . . and then, I could list at least a dozen more joints with notable burgers like the $14 burger at Gather, Au Coquelet, La Note.

    Many times I would stand at one of the crossing lights at the large intersection of Center and Shattuck, with its divided Shattucks and the BART buildings. and paused to decide where to eat. I wouldn’t even ‘see’ Amanda’s when I was looking for it. I think Amanda’s wiped out cause she chose a bad location.

    I hope we see her back in business soon in a better location. And better marketing: I think her real food ingredients would greatly appeal to Berkeley. She didn’t sell what she was doing. Her real product was not the not-exciting burgers. It was that she was selling ordinary but totally real and healthy food.

  • Heather W.

    Wouldn’t it just be nice to offer this guy some luck? How many restaurants fail? How likely are the odds THIS one will succeed — how many rowdy, assholio groups of high school students will he have to accommodate at such low prices to complete his nightmare? Seriously — let’s just wish him luck and if we’re meat eaters, we’ll try to give him some business. He has a nice idea, and he’s game… give him a chance.

  • Andfo

    amen to al that!

  • Hey! Thank you all for your support. I just wanted to let everyone know there will be a Portobello mushroom slider, the potato tots are naturally vegan, and we will have both a vegetarian and vegan version of our cole slaw. And like Amanda we also care about food politics, which is why we are using local grass fed beef, and organic produce and dairy. :) Sincerely, Hugh

  • @5afdf797edf96df478c4fbcc85beb3a7:disqus Good luck Hugh! I wish you much success–and I love that story about your Dad. Awesome!

  • Jhaiver

    Perhaps @Cheshire was trying to be polite by saying “the food itself just wasn’t great or exciting” and not stating it as bluntly as I will: Amanda’s burgers, fries, etc were not very good.

    The interest in
    sustainability was extremely laudable but the final product was mediocre.

  • I too have enjoyed Greenleaf’s catering and look forward to trying Phil’s Sliders. A wonderful burger done small is very appealing. If they’re as good as 900 Grayson’s full-size burgers, I’ll have trouble staying away. Portabello mushroom sliders also sound good. Tater tots that aren’t the frozen variety?

    Good luck, Hugh.

  • Hi Hugh! Congratulations to you on your new (and obviously well supported!) endeavor. I can’t wait to try out one of Phil’s Sliders next time I’m in CA. Wishing you well from Oregon… Andrea

  • Anonymous

    Sure wishing the best for Hugh and Phil’s Sliders. Please, though, make it real by offering fountain Coke (and Diet Coke for us alternatives), none of the wannabe Pepsi prods or pretend health sodas. Go for it with gusto, Hugh.

  • Chrisjuricich

    Good luck–your biggest problem will be ( as you’ve probably learned)is the ci of Berkeley and it’s ‘friendly business environment’…but once that is negotiated, wish you the best

  • Chrisjuricich

    Good luck–your biggest problem will be ( as you’ve probably learned)is the ci of Berkeley and it’s ‘friendly business environment’…but once that is negotiated, wish you the best

  • berkeleyvisitor

    Thank you – I must agree. totally tasteless. I hate to see a small business fail, but the food there was dreck.

  • Mike Farrell

    I’m not a vegetarian, much less a vegan but I often order or cook meatless meals because I like them.

    (BTW, you don’t have to be Mexican to eat Mexican food either!)

  • Bryan Garcia

    Hugh, thank you for giving us vegans an option! It is greatly appreciated, and I will absolutely be coming in to support you once you open.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Hugh!

  • Anonymous

    Why assume that burgers are unhealthy? Unhealthy compared to what? The latest low-carb diet research strongly suggests that that only unhealthy part of the burger is the bun, especially when you make the burger from grass-fed beef. Hopefully, Phil’s will offer a “protein-style” option.

    Check out low-carb research by Berkeley resident Gary Taubes, e.g.,
    Before sugar, we were talking about cholesterol

    Book review:

    Video interview:

  • deirdre

    I will definitely try Hugh’s new venture. And, I was a frequent Amanda’s customer and I very much liked her comfort-food cuisine.

  • My acupuncturist recommended more red meat for me! Looking forward to visiting soon. All the best to an amazing chef with a great vision for success.

  • I don’t think you read what I actually wrote. I was not whining and I began my comment affirming the right of vegetarians to ask questions. Then I proceeded to ask a question, without taking a position against vegie options but still I got blasted. I bet all the folks whining about me are judgmental, dogmatic, self-righteous whining, bigoted vegetarians.

    I agree that it is nice for a vegetarian to have an option when going to a restaurant with a meat-eating friend. . . . so what about meat-eating friends who go out to a vegie restaurant with a vegie friend? This is Berkeley and this town has a lot of vegetarian options . . . why it is sacrilegious for a meat-eater to ask for meat in a vegie joint but politcally correct for a vegetarian to not just ask but, typically, DEMAND vegetarian options?

    I’m all for restaurants that offer options to everyone but I am also all for people opening the businesses they want to open and run. I’m sick of vegetarians demanding. but it would be okay with me if meat-eaters had the same rights.

    Can you see me going into Flaco’s tacos and demanding meat? I never would cause I know its a vegetarian restaurant and I know the owner has a right to run the biz they wish to run.

    I like Gather’s approach: they offers meat, vegetarian, vegan, even some gluten-free choices. But so far, no restaurants in this liberal allegedly food-hip town offers meals that accomodate a diabetic diet with should be low-carb and protein. And if you use soy protein, you have to count the carbs. . . . vegetarian, vegan, meat are cultural choices but diabetic is a health choice but no restaurants seem to have any understanding or interest in offering healthy choices. No, it’s hip to focus on vegies, vegans, cage-free birds, etc but boring to address . . . . a national health challenge like diabetes?

    My point, which I still think I accurately conveyed in my first comment by congenially affirming the person’s right to ask questions, was, hey, think about it folks: why do some people demand vegie choices in all restaurants but we would be shocked is a meat eater walked into Gratitude and demanded a meat choice? I was just asking the question to get my community thinking. The question and the answers actually matter. But slamming me for asking? That’s not very hip or liberal.

  • like others, Mike, you did not seem to have actually read what I wrote. I was posing a rhetorical question that no one answered yet many answers attacked me and made assumptions about my position.

    I almost never cook meat, so I almost never eat meat at home. I pretty much only eat chicken and only a very few times a month. And maybe, once every month or two, I eat a carnitas burrito like comfort nostalgia food.

    I eat a careful, rigorous diet because of my health and I stopped buying beef about 30 years ago when my then-husband was general counsel of the then-world’s-largest cattle feeder, F****** Cattle Co. because Bill F*****, who inherited the family beef biz and turned it into a multi-billion dollar privately held agribusiness, told me at a company barbecue that growing food to grow beef was cultural insanity and he thought the world needed to stop eating beef. The guy had become a billionaire raising beef cattle and he passionately talked about the insanity of growing food to grow food, using the earth’s land, water, and labor insanely. I stopped buying beef then and my entire livelihood, at the time, was from that cattle company. If thought it was particularly meaningful that a man who had built a vast economic empire growing beef understood that his business was wrong — the fact that he kept doing it is another matter entirely.
    I won’t put the real name of the cattle company. It would be easy to figure out if someone cared and if the man I mention is still alive, he’s still rich enough to hurt me if he felt like it.

    I care quite a lot about the politicis of food. I have been eating in alignment with the hip Michael Pollan’s advice since before most of you ever heard of Pollan.

    I just asked a question. I still think it is a bit insipid to ask a guy who is opening a burger joint if there will be a vegan option and, as I said in my first remark, is it okay for meat-eaters to ask vegetarian restaurants to offer meat options?

    I remember traveling in rural northern Minnesota around 1990 with an out of town friend, a PhD professor, the new husband of an old friend. He was vegetarian. Everytime we pulled off the road to eat, we tried to guess which, if any, place offering food would have something for Ben to eat besides a baked potato. A couple places had canned vegetable soup for Ben. Otherwise, he made do with salads and baked potatoes, or, at breakfast, eggs. I think of that time as being far far far away but it was only 20 years ago.

    The rise in vegetarianism and veganism had significantly improved the foodscape. I look forward to artfully prepared vegetables as much and even more than I used to look forward to artfully prepared meat. I am really glad things change.

    I just felt weary when I read the question about whether or not a hamburger joint would have a vegie option. Vegetarians, esp. in Berkeley, can be bullies. I don’t bully vegetarians. I wish they would lay off me.

    I am one of the good guys.

  • Mike Farrell


    “Apparently, most folks here are not careful readers, knee-jerk in their
    thinking and intolerant of questions.”


  • Anonymous

    Wishing the very best for Hugh and Phil’s Sliders. But please, make it real by offering fountain Coke (and Diet Coke for us alternative types), none of the wannabe Pepsi products or “health” sodas.

  • phil

    Type your comment here.Hi Adrea i haven’t seen you in years. i’m phil of phils sliders i hope you are well  regards to my best friend also   phil