For crockpot burger patches, the nostalgia may be the special sauce—to rival the spicy Thousand Island-style vegan chain slithers—that makes the single, double, and triple decker stacks totally crunchy. While owners Phil and Danea Horn may have developed their own plant-based fast food brand — which opened its fourth restaurant and first innovation lab in Land Park in April — in the years following a healthy reckoning, their overall approach has been quite emotional: diners to the meatless joint. By arousing young people’s longing for fast food. “People would email me and say, ‘I ate dinner at your place a couple of days ago and someone just told me it was completely vegan. I had no idea,'” says Phil from the moment the “gotcha” is built into the burger patch.
But while lean meats are eclipsed by their fast-food familiarity — the Beyond Burger gets its power, if you will, from yeast extract, rice, and pea proteins — vegan eating is not only better for you, but also the cutest on the planet. Roughly 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. If the environmental impact isn’t compelling enough, the horrific animal welfare issues of factory farming can turn even the most devout carnivores into herbivores, but we’ll leave those graphic details and inconvenient facts to watching documentaries like Cowspiracy And the Food inc.
“My philosophy around plant-based eating has always been to reinvent my favorite meals. Dania, who struggled with chronic lung and kidney disease caused by a rare birth disorder called VACTERL association, started fiddling with recipes and grew from there, thus starting to eat healthy at More early than her husband, who grew up in Oregon indulging in cheesy burgers and chocolate milkshakes at Burgerville, a popular Pacific Northwest franchise. In preparation for Danea’s upcoming kidney transplant, in which Phil (fortunately a blood type match) played the role of the donor.
“Once we realized that a kidney transplant was imminent, we started to have conversations about the best thing to help extend the life of her current kidneys is transitioning to a full plant-based diet. Through this process, we both realized that living a vegan lifestyle would also be the easiest way to get our bodies back. and boom once we got past the initial surgery,” says Phil, who has spent most of his NBA career in the front offices of the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings. In fact, one of his documentaries about favorite food, game changerswas particularly useful, as he explored the effects of plant-based eating on the performance of professional athletes, from Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul to Olympic cycling medalist Dotsie Bausch to vegetarian evangelist and strength-lifter Patrick Babumian, who says in the film, “Someone asked me : How do you become as strong as a bull without eating any meat? My answer was: “Have you ever seen a bull eat meat?”
Phil served as Senior Vice President of Sales and Service at Kings for a decade before leaving in 2019 to pursue the life of a restaurateur. “I thought I would never quit this job — until Burger Patch had lines nearby,” he says of the inaugural one-day pop-up in May 2017 downtown. “We had a four-hour queue,” Dania recalls. On offer was a limited menu of house-seasoned Beyond Burgers (the first time Sacramento’s popular commercial fo-ten was served), “chicken” strips, fries, and vegetable shakes and sauces. A sophomore pop-up a month later proved that Sacramento’s first fast food restaurant wouldn’t be just a flash in the pan.
“We felt it was going to happen one way or the other. It was to be shaped, and we just needed to be good stewards of it, believe in it and be open to moving forward with it,” says Dania, unwittingly figuring out her farming experience. (She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University studying health economics—more specifically, how cancer drugs and other innovative drugs can be made more accessible.)
Burger Patch’s now-closed Golden 1 Center franchise stand opened in November 2018. The Midtown restaurant opened on 23rd and K Streets in May 2019. Two more restaurants went online during the pandemic – in Davis Commons in June 2020 and in East Sacramento in May 2021. Whether it’s the Covid era’s heightened awareness of health and well-being, the signature take on fast food, or the rare convergence of the two, Phil says the Burger Patch business has increased 30% compared to the pandemic. The Horns family is turning that massive momentum into a double-digit expansion in the Bay Area, with the pair currently exploring locations in “all neighborhoods.”
“We were overwhelmed by the amount of business we had,” he says. “We had heaps of [order] Tickets and we couldn’t get a break until 1 a.m. It was sweltering.” The new growth inspired the construction of the 3,500-square-foot flagship site in Land Park, the largest by far for a Burger Patch (by comparison, the original 750-square-foot downtown area square only) and includes an innovation and discovery kitchen (or KIND Lab for short). The burger.
We make more than 50% of what we make. We don’t just take frozen produce and put it on the grill. We make a lot of this stuff from scratch, says Phil. Beyond Burger patties are blended with a special dried herb blend to provide extra flavor—Phil and Danea remain mom On a mixture – then roasted on the flat surface for a satisfying steak.The signature batch burger layered on melted American-style “cheese” from Daiya, crisp lettuce from Gotham Greens (a hydroponic farm in Davis says it uses 95% less water and 97% less water) less land than their traditional counterparts), and a vegan cake from Truckee Sourdough Company.
Also under lock and key are the ingredients for our delicious, homemade vegan sauces that are extra creamy—whether the velvety texture comes from cashew cream, vegan or even coconut yogurt, you’re as good a guess as we are. Dania, who conducts a lot of experimenting with recipes from the couple’s home in the Phuket neighborhood, where they live with a foodie-patron mix of Tawny, says Rescue from the Front Street Animal Shelter. (Alongside other regional nonprofits like Blackberry Creek Animal Sanctuary in Colfax and Women’s Empowerment in Sacramento, Front Street has been a recipient of the chain’s Patch Match program, which donates a portion of each burger sold to a different local charity each month.)
Phil says the Burger Batch Barbecue Sauce features smoked chipotle and a fish meant to “carry fries.” One thing’s for sure: It’s a perfect dip for rusked “chicken” tenders, a Beyond Meat product that surprisingly isn’t made with the standard poultry imitation known as tofu, but rather a drizzled wheat-and-bean protein.
“A lot of things taste like chicken, so it has to do with the bites and the textures, and then maybe the smells,” Phil says. The food engineers at Burger Patch have developed a vegan egg – Himalayan black salt provides the sulfurous note – for breakfast sandwiches. A recently pulled “pork” sandwich called Pulled Patch, which included a meatless product by the butcher, was also assembled through experiments. A Christmas cookie shake made with cashew milk, vegan Christmas cookie, and frosting from local Pushkin bakery was showcased to celebrate Burger Batch’s fifth anniversary in May. In the coming months, Dania may be delivering her own vegan Caesar salad dressing at the KIND Lab, as well as a fish taco recipe using Gardein’s “seafood” filet.
While skeptical foodies inclined to take the vegan leap can consult a flood of delightful burger patch reviews online, Phil has a soft spot for personal testimonials. “People will come into our restaurant and say, ‘This actually tastes better than others.’ [fast-food] place,” or “I thought I’d try it, and it changed my life,” or “I don’t miss meat,” he says. “Without having to stand on a soap box and preach, people find their way to this sweet alternative.”
Land Park Location: 4400 Freeport Blvd. 916-898-1656. burgerpatch.com
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