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…