Arby’s can change slogans as many times as it pleases. But regardless of whatever “mood” its offerings put you in, the chain will never win a draw with Maverick’s.
This cowboy-themed cut of tender roast beef heaven in a Roseville shopping mall is indeed the namesake of the 1950’s television Western, just as proprietor Bret Hazlett and his sibling and co-owner Bart are named after the cardsharp title character played by James Garner and his brother, portrayed by Jack Kelly. Editor’s note, 6/19/11: Bart and two of his children passed away in a car accident shortly after this review was posted.
But the fiction ends there. Here’s the fact: Maverick’s may offer the best damn roast beef sandwich in the Twin Cities, and the brisket (based on a recipe from Hazlett’s mom) is also exceptional.
While the restaurant was opened by his sibling in 1999, Bret now walks the dusty trail as Maverick’s lone front man. At the shop’s tidy fixing station, the customers saddle up their sandwiches with a bevy of fresh options, including sweet pickles, giardiniera peppers, hot peppers, banana peppers, onions, fresh horseradish, and Maverick’s special barbeque sauce.
This is a spot for sheep, not shepherds; go with the obvious choice at Maverick’s and bet with the house: succulent roast beef or brisket on a white or pumpernickel bun with the texture of a cloud, served fast and fresh, and finished with your favorite topping.
Hazlett recently made time to discuss his restaurant with Heavy Table.
HEAVY TABLE: Can you tell us about the decision to open Maverick’s a dozen years ago?
BRET HAZLETT: Basically it was a niche that we were filling with the roast beef sandwich; kinda like what Arby’s was doing in the ’70s before they changed their sandwich, which is a full-muscle meat roast they bake in the store. That’s what we do. We make a full roast and slice it thin and then you dress it up how you want.
HT: I understand the spices for your roast beef are a trade secret. What about the preparation process?
BH: Basically, what we use is an Alto-Shaam Cook and Hold process. It’s bottom round beef — which is basically the outside of the leg — that we bake for a few hours, then the oven automatically holds it at a warming temperature for up to 10 hours. During that time, it’s almost prepared to a day of aging for every hour it holds it. It breaks down the beef and tenderizes it.
HT: How thinly do you slice the roast beef?
BH: We don’t go by numbers because those machines aren’t calibrated well. They tend to lose their preciseness, so we just go by eye.
HT: Part of what makes your sandwich so blissful is the bun. Where do they come from?
BH: We use fresh buns that we have delivered every day. White buns for roast beef sandwiches and pumpernickel for the beef brisket. We use St. Agnes Baking in St. Paul and Denny’s in Minneapolis.
HT: How much beef do you serve each week and what percentage of your sales comes from roast beef sandwiches or dinner plates?
BH: We serve about 120 pounds of beef a day. I’m guessing about 80 percent of sales are for the roast beef.
HT: The location of your store is basically a microcosm of corporate, franchised America: Subway, Papa Murphy’s, Caribou Coffee, and Dairy Queen are all within eye’s distance. Is that a negative?
BH: That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You want to be by other establishments that are successful, that draw people to an area. You don’t want to eat this or that every day; you don’t want to be out somewhere by yourself. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
HT: Specifically, your place is right next door to Subway. What the hell would compel somebody to go in there instead of Maverick’s?
BH: To be honest, that’s basically what got me started. I was watching the people that were going in there and thinking, ‘Well, I can capture a couple of those a day and grow on that.’ And that’s exactly what we did.
HT: One of the great signs of any spot like Maverick’s is the wide spectrum of society that comes in to dine. The last time I was in, I sat next to a few guys in suits while a couple of construction workers placed their order at the counter. Is that something you’ve noted over time?
BH: That was our main client in the beginning; that was our expected client — the working guy that just wanted some better fast food. It’s not cheap, compared to other fast food. But we were pleasantly surprised in the fact that we do now have a spread-out demographic as far as the customers that come in. Everything from kids to elderly folks. It’s definitely, primarily a male population in the restaurant — probably even 90 percent. So, it’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy that comes in, whether they’re working class, blue collar or white collar. It’s a nice, spread-out clientele.
HT: Based on the volume of sales, have you ever thought of expanding to a second store?
BH: Basically I’m content with what I have and enjoy the simplicity of having one store and the hours that I spend there. Also, it’s a quality of life issue as far as how many hours I want to put into it. I guess if a scenario presented itself with people that want to do it themselves with me as a silent partner, that’s a possibility.