Mom and Pop’s Burgers

West Coast meets East Coast meets the Philippines on Main Street

By Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Michael and Suz Karchmer

“We wanted this to be a cool gathering spot, whether it’s couples on a date or families hanging out,” says Tom Deegan, who opened Mom & Pops Burgers with his wife, Pelinda, in November.

Located in the former Ollie’s restaurant on Main Street in Chatham, the 19-seat restaurant is a fun, vibrant hangout spot that offers fresh, delicious and high-quality food. Standout items include pressed and steamed burgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, chocolate, vanilla, swirl and coffee frappes, hand-cut fries and Mom’s homemade Lumpia—hand-rolled Filipino pork eggrolls served with sweet chili sauce—their best-selling specialty item. The restaurant butchers, grinds and patties its own special blend of meat in-house daily. Desserts are also available from The Bashful Tarte bakery, located around the corner from the soda fountains inside the restaurant.

“Our concept revolves around who we are,” says Tom, who points out that the pressed burger (or smash burger) is more West Coast-inspired and the steam cheeseburger originated in his hometown in Connecticut. His wife, Pelinda, moved from the Philippines to Southern California and Tom was born in Meriden, Connecticut. They met in San Francisco, got married, had a child and eventually settled in Chatham, where Tom spent his summers growing up.

After working more than 20 years for a consulting firm, Tom desired a career change and wanted to explore his creative side. Since he had always enjoyed hosting parties, organizing and planning events, it was a natural transition for him to open a restaurant—and Pelinda backed him 100 percent. “I thought it was a good idea and a great community in which to open Mom & Pops,” says Pelinda, who works for Cape Abilities full time.

When they started looking for a space, they had first considered the Vers restaurant space, formerly located inside the Chatham Orpheum Theater. During their search, they connected with chef Jonathan Haffmans, the founder of Vers. “Chef Haffmans and his wife, Karen, were the difference makers,” says Tom. “They were a big part of opening Mom & Pops.”

Once they settled on the former Ollie’s location, the Deegans transformed it into a cool, modern space. They installed a new counter and wood floors, and painted a mural on the far right wall in a vintage postcard-style with icons such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Fenway Citgo sign. The vintage postcard theme is also carried over into the napkin holders on the counters and tables. Music playing over the speakers from “Come on Eileen” to older songs by Sam Cooke, adds a fun, upbeat vibe. The mural and the sign’s logo, featuring two cows wearing sunglasses, were designed by Vervaine Design Studio in Chatham.

Since Pelinda and Tom know several people in the industry on the West Coast, they turned to one of their good friends, Alvin Garcia, who owns a successful burger restaurant in San Francisco, for advice and direction. “We flew him out and consulted with him,” says Pelinda. “We did a year’s worth of testing—tasting sauces and different meats.”

“The pressed burger changed me completely,” says Mom & Pops chef Nate Dress, as he presses down on a patty with a special searing tool on the grill. “I don’t believe there is another burger for me. The standard set by Tom is extensive. It’s not just a burger.”

The pressed burger is cooked on a high-heat sear for 2-1/2 minutes, which creates a caramelization on top, resulting in a crisp and flavorful burger. The steamed burger, meanwhile, is cooked in steam for 15 minutes in a square metal box, and the aged cheddar is also steamed, which creates a juicy burger. Both are delicious—it’s simply a matter of preference. The menu features a variety of offerings from a California burger with pepper jack cheese, avocado and housemade Mom’s Sauce to a spicy El Dyablo burger with hot Habanero, cheddar and shishito peppers. Mom & Pops makes their own sauces and relish and serves organic mustard and ketchup.

This summer, the Deegans are planning an enclosed picnic area where customers can enjoy their food, wine and beer outside. “People can eat, little kids can run around on the grass, and play cornhole,” says Tom.

Sounds like the perfect gathering spot.