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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Q&A with Cheryl Burr and Chris Beerman, Part 2: On Burgers, Pickles, and 100-Hour Weeks

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery - AUBRIE PICK
  • Aubrie Pick
  • Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery

Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr are friends and business partners, co-owners of the almost two-year-old, Americana-themed Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery.

The pair found the space their restaurant and bakery now reside in through a tip from 4505 Meats' Ryan Farr -- though he passed it along with the warning, "You don't want it, it's really gross." It took a DIY ethic and a lot of elbow grease to make their joint venture come together. In part one of this interview, Beerman and Burr talked about how they met, and tomorrow they'll share a favorite recipe.

How much has your menu or your approach changed since you opened?

BEERMAN: I would say it's changed a lot. We're still do a lot of testing and a lot of experimentation with food and cooking techniques, but at the same time, I have to make sure to give people what they love. I've really grown to respect the people that come and eat here-people come and eat my food. I'm humbled by that.

What menu items have been mainstays?

BEERMAN: The burger, fried chicken, and mac and cheese. We've toyed with them a little bit here and there, but we've pretty much gone back to the original because they work and people seem to like them.

What makes a good burger to you?

BEERMAN: The meat is obviously key, and then...

BURR: For me, having a sweet bun and a well-seasoned patty made with quality meat is what makes it. For our burger, we already knew that we wanted to use my challah because it's the softest bread that I make.

BEERMAN: We also make our own bread-and-butter pickles here, so they're a little sweeter. With the richness of the meat and the acidity of the tomato marmalade it's a nice balance. But people want to get down with their burger, and I think it's important to have 6-8 options that people can pile on. We have a 12K Burger: pickled jalapeños, cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and an egg. It's like 10 inches tall. People have even ordered it with an extra side of bacon. You can get dirty with your burger here.

How much do you guys work together in menu development?

BURR: We work pretty independently. Chris is always super open to any input that I have, but I don't have much because I think he's just so good at what he does.

BEERMAN: If we're changing sandwiches then we'll start talking about bread, but generally it works something like this: I'll wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning and want a chili dog, so right then I'll decide a chili dog is coming on the menu. I won't be able get it out of my head. I tend to think of things at random times and become dead-set on them.

BURR: So he'll wake up at 3 in the morning thinking about chili dogs and come in the next day telling me he needs a hotdog bun. I'll turn around and make a hotdog bun and it's almost always what he wants. He might say, "This is good, exactly," or, "Maybe it needs to be a little bit smaller/bigger," or "Hey, why don't we put some seeds on it?" but that's probably the extent of how we work together.

How does the bakery work in conjunction with the restaurant?

BURR: Usually whatever we offer in the bakery we offer over here for dessert. We try to keep our signature chocolate cake around - if it's not written on the menu, we usually have it anyways. We do some wholesale, but Pinkie's is also a regular bakery where people can come up and order. Like Chris was saying, we do mostly regulars. I would say that our first 10 customers are always the same people, and they always get the same thing.

So how are you using the refrigerators that inspired Citizens Band in the first place?

BEERMAN: Right now we're pickling. We work with a lot of smaller farms who can't bring in food like bigger produce companies can, so depending on the season, we buy more than what we need and start pickling or canning.

As the first restaurant for both of you, have there been any huge surprises?

BEERMAN: Oh man, everyday. We've gone through the ropes. Things breaking, people quitting, people getting sick, people having babies.

BURR: Our first six months we had four employees get pregnant or get their girlfriends pregnant. It was ridiculous!

BEERMAN: We were actually considering handing out prophylactics with a new hire kit. Seriously though, those first six months were really hard. We had a lot of turnover and were working something like 100 hours a week.

And now?

BEERMAN: Now it's like 70-hour work weeks.

BURR: We're both working six days a week, but I'm comfortable with that as long as I have that one day to myself.

BEERMAN: We're worker bees -- we just like working. I like being here 15 hours. Of course, at the end of the day I'm tired, but it's nice to be immersed in it all, to be able to toy and tinker with different foods and talk to my customers.

BURR: I mean, neither of us are married and it's like, "Oh well, just gonna go to work!"

BEERMAN: Exactly. What else am I gonna do?

Alanna Hale is a writer and photographer whose work can be found at alannahale.com. Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie.

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