Ask for a naked Fat Ronnie and it can only get better from there.
That’s the basic half-pound burger at Fat Ronnie’s, the new burger joint on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs, which comes with the simple fixings of a beef patty and bun. There are also 22 toppings (30 by the end of the summer) that you can choose from, or the fish burger made with haddock, the turkey or veggie burger or the burrito burger, to name a few.
“We finish the burger together,” owner Reynaldo Faust said at his restaurant this week. “But I’m a purist. I’m a naked Fat Ronnie.”
Over the past year, Mr. Faust has eaten about 1,000 burgers. He studied the latest trends, found the best meat grinders and perfected his recipes in order to open in early June. There are three different processes to the burger, Mr. Faust said. The quality of beef, the grinding process and the preparation.
“If you miss any of those steps or do any of them half-way, you get a burger that tastes like everyone else’s burgers or a burger that is not good,” he said. “Having grown up in the business, I know what the texture should be, what the tastes should be. The hardest part is finding grinders that can do a blend for you that creates that perfect blend.”
Growing up in New York city, Mr. Faust’s parents ran Maxine’s, a popular burger bar, for 30 years. Mr. Faust’s father, Ron, went by Fat Ronnie “because he was known for his burgers” in their Bronx neighborhood. These days the original Fat Ronnie is known as the unofficial mayor of Oak Bluffs and goes by the name Hamburger.
“I’ve followed and continued in that tradition, with some tweaks,” Mr. Faust said. He definitely picked up a few tips along the way.
“Things are always evolving and you have to stay hip with trends and really figure out how to manage your costs,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I grew up learning.”
New trends include strictly “grind to griddle.”
“There are no pre-made patties, there’s nothing frozen,” he said. “It’s the new wave of the burger businesses.”
Hamburgers are a departure from Mr. Faust’s previous endeavor. For 20 years he owned the Muscle Gym on Kennebec avenue.
“After the gym...I was Mr. Mom for the past six or seven years and then I started getting the bug again,” he said. “I decided it was time for me to go into business for myself. I reverted back to what I knew.
“People thought that [the gym] was what I knew, which it was, but I ended up going back to what I grew up in, which was the burger business.”
Fat Ronnie’s location on Circuit avenue is steeped in burger history, dating back to Frosty Cottage in the 1950s, followed by Mr. C’s, Neptune’s Grill and The Whale’s Tail. The famous Whiffle Burger from the Frosty Cottage was the talk of the town during its time, with sauteed onions and peppers, melted cheese and a special bun.
Mr. Faust still hears stories about the Whiffle Burger today.
“When I talk to some old-timers today, that’s the first thing they mention,” he said.
When summer vacation came around, Mr. Faust and his family’s first stop was Mr. C’s.
“As soon as we hit the Island we’d go to Mr. C’s first for a burger and then the next day we’d go to Giordano’s for the clam bar,” he said. “This has always been a burger place, so I’m continuing that trend.”
Mr. Faust is considering a throwback menu in the fall featuring the Whiffle Burger and other dishes from previous incarnations.
“I’m contemplating some throwback prices but I have to figure out how I’m going to do that because the Whiffle Burger was 50 cents in the 1950s,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Faust is also on a mission to give the place a touch of history. He is looking for photographs of the Frosty Cottage, Mr. C’s, Neptune’s Grill, The Whale’s Tail or any other restaurants operated in the space.
“It’s transformed but it’s always been a burger place,” he said.
And there was plenty of grease as a reminder.
“It took me probably a week or two to scrape all of the grease out of this place,” he said. “That’s one of my reasons for doing the open kitchen — everything is transparent.” With a retro feel, Mr. Faust deliberately chose white walls and stainless steel paneling to push the cleanliness factor.
Mr. Faust’s daughter, Reyna, age 10, is already stepping into the family business.
“She’s a great worker,” he said. “It’s sort of in her blood. There are things she knows about the business that I haven’t even taught her. She’ll tell me, we need to do this, we need to do that. She even helped me design the place.”
When honey mustard sauce arrived with the day’s delivery, a new addition to the toppings bar, Reyna was labeling the bottle before her father even mentioned it.
“I got it,” she said.