Roam Puts Milkshakes on a Pedestal

The sustainable American fair restaurant uses prime ingredients to elevate the humble milkshake.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

It’s unsurprising that milkshakes were invented in a place with hotter summers than ours.

Although similar beverages predated it, the mixture of milk, syrup, and ice cream now revered as a milkshake was birthed at a Chicago Walgreens in 1922 by soda-jerk Ivar “Pop” Coulson — prompting Wisconsin toolmaker Stephen Poplawski, that same year, to invent blenders.

McDonald’s restaurants internationalized shakes, but they’re Midwestern at heart.

When Lynn Gorfinkle met Josh Spiegelman in 2004, the pair realized that they shared similar, very un-McDonald’sy visions of casual restaurants serving classic American family fare — upgraded majorly.

All the food, down to the smallest ingredient, would be fine-dining quality. And not just the food but all utensils, wrappers, furnishings, practices, and more would be sustainable, reflecting the pair’s environmentalism. Such a restaurant didn’t yet exist. That’s how Roam Artisan Burgers was born.

Now sporting locations in San Francisco, San Mateo, Lafayette, San Ramon, and Uptown Oakland, Roam serves shakes in traditional flavors such as strawberry and chocolate but also seasonal and adventurous ones such as coconut, salted caramel, and banana-walnut-chocolate-chip.

“The foundation of our brand was to create a fun spin on a very popular, nostalgic kind of restaurant — so obviously we wanted shakes,” Gorfinkle said. “But we wondered: How do we elevate the shake experience and make it very exceptional?

“That turned out, 100 percent, to be Straus Family Creamery. Their cows are raised hormone-free on open pasture in western Marin County, and they produce some of the finest dairy products in the whole country — including exceptional ice cream which creates an exceptional base for exceptional shakes. After finding our ice cream, we set out to create a line of both classic and unique flavors.”

Some of these feature puréed farm-picked fruit. Roam’s Stumptown Coffee shakes contain concentrated cold-brew.

“Of course, we had to have mint chip,” Spiegelman said. “It was always a favorite flavor that I enjoyed as a kid, going out for ice cream with my parents.

“We knew our customers would obviously want not just a delicious mint flavor but also to see the green color. We’re very against any dyes and food colorings. So after a bunch of research, we found a green chlorophyll product” that adds color safely.

Roam’s shakes come topped with an optional bruléed marshmallow.

“We found a bakery in Los Angeles that makes corn-syrup-free marshmallows sweetened with brown-rice syrup.

“It’s not only a healthier marshmallow, but that brown-rice syrup makes it caramelize so beautifully,” Gorfinkle said.

 

Roam Artisan Burgers, 1951 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-922-1583, RoamBurgers.com.

 

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