“Before Creator, I have never dined at a restaurant that was so devoted to not scaring me,” reads the first line of SF Chronicle critic Soleil Ho’s latest review. From the moment Ho stepped into the restaurant, which serves burgers prepared by a machine, she was impressed by “the sheer amount of work invested in distancing the experience from apocalyptic visions of robot takeovers and human obsolescence.”
At Creator, everything is prepared to order by a finely-tuned burger-making machine: the meat is freshly ground, toppings like pickles and tomatoes are freshly sliced, buns are toasted, and patties are cooked between two hot, iron plates. For a diner, the idea of a robot “taking a human’s job” is allayed by the machine’s transparency, cleanliness, and efficiency. Ho waxes philosophical, considering the idea that automation that enhances humanity rather than replaces it, citing concepts from authors Isaac Asimov and Robert M. Pirsig (whose book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, can be found on the restaurant’s bookshelves).
Ho also considered the place and purpose of burgers in our dining lexicon, concluding that its the idea food item to herald “better living through technology.”
It’s fitting that Creator is stepping into the bigger conversations we’ve been having in the Bay Area about the role of automation in human life. From Applebee’s questionable quesadilla burger to the hyped Le Grande burger at Wayfare Tavern to the growing legion of bleeding meat-free imitations, the burger has become an empty space into which we can pour all of our aspirations, preferences and anxieties. We can start so many conversations about the future, wealth, cultural mixing, mechanical reproduction, Russian sanctions and whatever else with a burger. That makes the humble dish a perfect product for Creator, a restaurant on a mission to demonstrate better living through technology. In American culture, the burger is like an introductory handshake: Even corporate chat bots know to start with “Hello.”
Ultimately, Ho is in favor, even if the robots are planning an uprising. “Creator’s robot-made burgers ($6) are satisfying and affordable enough that I’d keep going back for lunch,” she says. “Even if it does eventually turn out that the bot in the kitchen has been planning revolution this whole time.”
The critic gets bonus points for including a playlist of burger- and robot-related songs, like “The Burger Song” by Skee-Lo, and a chunk of music from SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack.