Almost immediately after posting about our disastrous experience at Bobby's Burger Palace, we received an email from one of the company's top brass asking if he could chat with us on the phone regarding our experience. I was impressed by the follow-up and agreed to talk to him the next day.
After nearly 30 minutes on the phone, I was pretty blown away by the seriousness with which our blog post was handled. Not only did Bobby's Burger Palace see our post, they shared it with Bobby Flay and then proceeded to send it to the entire company as a memo so that the "failure on every level" that we experienced would not happen again. Instead of getting defensive, they took action.
Despite my assurances that the situation had been rectified, BBP insisted that we come back, meet with the General Manager, and try another meal on the house. They did not ask us to take down our negative blog post (not happening) nor did they ask us to write this follow-up blog post. Who are we to turn down such a mea culpa?
We returned to BBP last week on the same night of the week as before (Thursday) smack in the middle of the dinner rush. We met with Garth, the GM who admitted to being mortified by our blog post. Garth is determined to make sure that his staff is firing on all cylinders and his enthusiasm appeared to be wearing off on his staff. While we were well tended to by Garth, we kept a very close eye on the other tables to see how quickly they were cleared and how quickly food was served. We did not observe anything like the catastrophe that we experienced previously.
Wanting to get the best possible taste of BBP's menu, we asked Garth to order us his favorites. For me he chose the L.A. Burger (funny since he didn't know we're from L.A.) and a coffee milkshake. While coffee is not a flavor I'd normally order, the milkshake was outstanding. Like our last experience, the shake was thick, creamy, and showed no signs of artificial flavors. The L.A. Burger was piled high with avocado relish, watercress, cheddar cheese, and tomato. I don't know what the difference is between avocado relish and what we Californians call "guacamole," but it was the same idea. The burger was a perfect medium rare and served piping hot which made a world of difference from the sad, soggy burger I experienced last time. Thanks to Garth, I knew to add a dash of the jalapeno hot sauce (provided on the table) to give the burger the famous Bobby Flay kick.
For B, Garth selected the black and white shake (fabulous) and the Bobby Blue Burger with blue cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. In his lifetime, according to my highly scientific survey, B has probably ordered 3.42657 skillion blue cheese and bacon burgers. Garth nailed it when choosing a burger for B. After B happily devoured his medium rare (not medium well) burger, he proclaimed it one of the better renditions of the combination that he's had. The bacon was crisp enough to hold up in the burger, but not so crispy that it shatters into pieces or cuts your mouth. The beef was seasoned so nicely that B ate several pieces plain and said he'd be happy having it served on a plate, steak style. B got the shortest end of the short stick on the last BBP visit so I was thrilled that he was having a BBP lovefest on our return engagement.
Because Garth was intent on giving us a true taste of the menu (and a coronary), he brought out regular fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings. The onion rings, when served hot, are noteworthy. The fries, though much better hot than lukewarm (as they were last time), are still not making my heart sing. I like them when dunked in one of the many dipping sauces, but I think calories are better spent on the burgers and shakes.
So, would we go back to BBP when we're paying for it out of our own pockets? For me, the answer is yes, not only because I was very impressed by their desire to right their new ship, but I also liked the food when I didn't have to wait an eternity for it. At this price point (burgers less than $8), I think the variety of toppings and quality of beef is hard to match. I stick by my original rant and maintain that Bobby-freaking-Flay should be held to a higher standard. Thankfully, on his second at bat, he rose to the challenge.
Second Thoughts From B
Call me impressed, but not for the reason you think. Yes, I appreciated the free meal. Yes, I thought it was a huge improvement over the hockey puck I ate previously. Yes, I'll admit that it was nice to get my ego stroked a little. But, I was most impressed by the sincerity and seriousness in which the entire organization took our feedback.
No blog, much less this little production, could make a dent in the Bobby Flay culinary empire. After all, he is arguably the most recognizable chef on the planet. You would think that the guy could slap his name on a turd sandwich and it would sell. (That theory was put to the test by the show America's Next Great Restaurant... and failed miserably)
But my point is that our feedback could have easily been ignored or dismissed, and BBP would have done just fine. The fact that they cared so much (to the point it was almost uncomfortable), probably has a lot to do with why Bobby Flay is Bobby-freaking-Flay.
With all that said, unless you're an Iron Chef judge, you'll probably not receive the careful, individual attention that we were lucky enough to enjoy. It is a fast, casual burger joint after all. So what are my expectations when we return to anonymity? First and foremost, I think it is fair to assume shakes that rival any in the city (Good Stuff Eatery setting the gold standard). I'd also expect onion rings, that when served hot and fresh, are in the conversation with Z Burger's rings of deliciousness.
As for the burger, the range between hockey puck and patty perfection is rather vast. I've seen the potential, now I'm looking for consistency. And the fact that I'm willing - even enthusiastic - to figure out if BBP can deliver, is a true testament to a great organization.