The editor at one of the most popular and well respected burger restaurant websites in the America recently caught up with Sam to speak about Chomp!
Check out the interview below.
A Winner and Still Chomp
Owner Sam Glynn calls Chomp Kitchen and Drinks in Warren, R.I., a “vehicle to culinary exploration.” He’s not blowing smoke: the menu is interesting, tantalizing and global while still keeping the tone unpretentious and fun. Opened in July 2013, in a small town 20 minutes from Providence, R.I., Chomp already has racked up accolades, including Best Burger/East Bay from Rhode Island Monthly. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Glynn about the concept.
Like Rhode Island, your reputation is bigger than your place.
We’re small; 38 seats. But we make everything from scratch, including our own bacon, ketchup, burger sauces, hot sauces, you name it. My chef, Jeremy Bradbury, came from fine dining. He arrived before there was paint on the walls so we’ve planned this together from the start. We always wanted to do burgers and sandwiches that would be fresh and unique and that could spice up the culinary scene here. There aren’t a lot of new restaurants in this town.
You opened at the height if the Burger Boom. Did you worry that burgers might have been played out?
I go on your website and lot and read other reports and I don’t think the popularity of burgers is slowing down at all. There’s something comforting about a burger. We position ourselves as “refined comfort food.” So we have burgers with mac and cheese on them and burgers that are 8 inches tall and even, for a while, a burger between two grilled-cheese sandwiches.
We’re in the creative category. We don’t just churn out Quarter Pounders; we spend a lot of time developing each burger. We’ve been open a year and a half and it hasn’t slowed down at all. In fact we’re busier now than when we opened.
So I’m pretty sure burgers are here to stay. I talk to the other independents in town and around and it seems burgers are still the best sellers on menus. We just try to do burgers better than anyone else.
You have this crazy $18 Stack 3.0 burger. I saw that the earlier 2.3 version was a beef patty with American cheese, spicy fried chicken with smoked gouda, smoked BBQ beef, bacon, ranch, onion jam with lettuce and tomato. That just wasn’t enough?
We started with the original Stack burger and over the course of a year and a half, ingredients have changed or we’ve gotten bored with it so we’ve changed it. We’re on the third version of the Stack now.
It’s certainly our most protein-packed burger! There’s the beef patty plus a smoky ground pork and beef patty and that’s topped with our maple-bourbon fried chicken [with pickled jalapeňos, pepper-Jack cheese, ranch, lettuce, tomato and pickles]. Insane. This has gotten the most publicity, certainly.
If it gets people talking, that’s valuable right there
Yeah. Everybody takes photos of food these days and if it takes up the whole screen on Instagram, they’re more inclined to ask about it, ask what’s in it and where’s the restaurant that serves it. So it’s good marketing, but it also tastes great. It’s not just 10 beef patties piled on top of each other for a challenge. The condiments we put on are there for a reason: to compliment or contrast with other flavors. With our burgers, you could deconstruct them and they’d be perfect as a dish in steakhouse or fine-dining restaurant. The ingredients aren’t just thrown on; there’s thought behind them.
What’s your best-selling burger?
The House Burger ($11). It’s relatively modest compared with the other burgers on the menu, but it’s a great introduction to the high quality of that menu. It has the Chomp Sauce, which is our take on a burger sauce, and smoky Gouda, and our own cured bacon.
You really smoke your own bacon?
Yeah, the amount of pork belly we bring in each week is insane. We have Korean-style Bulgogi Pork Belly ($9) on the menu as an appetizer, and then maybe 75% or 80% of the burgers have our bacon them.
You’re Chomp Kitchen & Drinks. How much revenue is coming from beverages?
About 40% now. We’re 60/40. We have a lot of craft beers: eight on draft and 20 to 30 bottles and cans from around the country. It’s all domestic and we try to highlight local beers while also getting beers from everywhere that people love or want to try.
Right from the start I was adamant that we be a player in beers as well as burgers. That’s just where the market was going. The food comes first, but the craft beers and drinks complement the burgers.
How often do you change your food menu?
We’ve probably rewritten it eight times over the year and a half. There’s just so much you can do with burgers and sandwiches that I don’t want to limit us. The same is true with beers.
You have cocktails and wine as well, but is that a significant revenue factor?
Cocktails are a big part of the concept. We have some great bourbons, whiskies and scotches, and that’s another important part of what we’re doing. We want to bring in new products and flavors and experiences. People are looking for something new and we want to be that place that has them.
But we’re a restaurant, not a bar, and I want it that way. We close at 9 p.m.; 10 p.m. on weekends. We’re not that place where you’re going to go to hang out until morning. It’s foodcentric and committed to quality and craftsmanship. It’s place where people can have two drinks with dinner.
Now that you’ve been open 18 months, are you at the point where you’re thinking “Where are we going with this?” Are you thinking about a second location?
It would be wrong to say I haven’t thought about it, but the biggest thing is focusing on the quality here and ensuring that all the systems are working smoothly. One day, if we do expand, we’ll want the same experience you get in Warren, no matter where it is. But it takes time. It takes more than a year and half to get systems all in place.
So it’s on the radar. But I’m 27…
So you have plenty of time!
Yeah. I’ve got time. But like with anything, making sure the ducks are in a row is most important.