Owner Roger Barnes goes all-American in Live Oak
Roger Barnes has worked at a handful of Santa Cruz County restaurants, and owned Bocci’s Cellar for more than a decade. In fall of 2013, he opened U.S. Meal, a no-frills, “fast-casual” burger joint. Its logo is a postage stamp with a burger and fries.
Why did you sell Bocci’s and come here?
ROGER BARNES: Because of the simplicity. Rather than try to be all things to all people, I try to just do one thing as good as I could. And the Food Channel screws everyone up, because if I make pasta, someone on the Food Channel is going to say, ‘Well, this is how you’re supposed to make it.’ But you never see a chef on the Food Channel try to teach you how to make a hamburger, because everybody does it differently. You have to have good ingredients.
Do people ever think you’re part of the government?
Yes, all of the time people do. I’ve had people come in here with parcels: “How much does this thing cost?”
What were you going for with the name?
I like the red, white and blue. I like the fact that the logo was already there. You see the stamp with the bird and the burger. That’s very simple.
Tell me about your upcoming mural.
The upcoming mural has been under production for six months. Once you see it, you’ll understand why it’s hard for me to explain. There’s a tree in it with bacon (pointing at postage stamp logo), with that bird sitting on top. It’s farm land. Rows of hamburgers—it looks like the hamburgers are growing out of the ground.
What made you decide to put grilled cheese on the menu?
I’ll tell you something. Kids like grilled cheese. And initially, I tried to make it with that real, nice cheddar. They said, ‘Mom, this doesn’t taste like grilled cheese.’ That American cheese melts nicely, and it’s really, really, really popular with little kids. My grilled cheese tastes like that grilled cheese your mom used to give you with the tomato soup. You thought she was the greatest cook there is. She probably is, though.
Any plans to serve tomato soup?
That’s next. I sell a lot of soup when it’s raining, but it hasn’t been raining. We’ll probably have some next week.
U.S. Meal is at 21505 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 475-1982. PHOTO: Roger Barnes’ burger restaurant in Live Oak Plaza does breakfast, too. CHIP SCHEUER