Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bobby's Burger Palace

If I had to come up with one word to describe our experience at the new Bobby's Burger Palace, it would be "oy." I had my eyes set on BBP from the minute Bobby (that's Bobby Flay to those of you who don't live and die by the Food Network) announced he was bringing his burgers to DC. I hoped this post would be about how much I adored his Palace O' Burgers and couldn't wait to get back. Instead, I'm just going to tell you how it all went down.

B's parents arrived at National Airport at 9:00 pm. Knowing BBP closed at 10:00 pm on Thursdays (I knew this because I called them, not because their website has hours. Lame.), we hustled ourselves over to 21st and K by 9:30 pm. Since we'd heard there had been really long lines for BBP in recent weeks, we were pleased when we saw about five people in line in front of us. The line moved quickly enough and we were soon standing before the cashier who greeted us by saying "everyone is so angry tonight!" I responded that "I hope we don't find a reason to be angry too!" She laughed, took our order, repeated it back to us, and we were on our way to a table.

Since the empty tables had not yet been bussed, we sat down at a dirty table and began the hunt for someone to clear off the trash. After getting up and asking a couple different people, our table was cleared and we sat and pondered the unique design choices. B's mom liked the curved Linkcounter area and I agreed with her that the chairs were comfy. B dug the retro vibe while B's dad would have preferred a more conventional design.

After about 15 minutes of sitting and waiting, we began to realize that the restaurant was nearly empty yet we hadn't seen any food. I flagged down a staff member who shrugged and returned a couple of minutes later with our milkshakes.

B and I thoroughly enjoyed our blueberry pomegranate shake. It was the right thickness, great flavor, and had a fun "boba-style" straw. My only complaints would be that it was pretty small (think: a water glass) and in a plastic cup that caused it to get pretty melty quickly.

We sat longer, enjoying the conversation, but having a hard time ignoring the growing hunger pangs. It was now 10:15 pm and we still had no food. I got up again to find a staff member to inquire about our food. He stared at me for a bit then grunted "How long you been waiting?" When I told him 45 minutes, he turned around and walked toward the kitchen. He disappeared and we still didn't have any food. Other staff people walked by and we asked about our food. Finally, almost 50 minutes after ordering, the burgers began to trickle out from the kitchen individually.

We nibbled on the onion rings and sweet potato fries while we waited for all 4 burgers. Bobby provides a plethora of dipping sauces and I can see why. The fries and rings were completely average and you need the sauces to pep them up a little.

While B was still burgerless, I started in on my Santa Fe burger with queso sauce, pickled jalapeno, and blue corn tortilla chips. I figured this would be where Bobby shines because he's never met a "Southwest" dish or a pepper he didn't like. The burger was cooked as requested (medium rare) and I like that you can have your burger cooked to the temperature of your choice. The queso sauce was nice and creamy, and the jalapenos were sufficiently zingy. However, the chips were soggy and in such tiny pieces that they added no crunch. This was a wanna-be New Jack Zing Burger that is firmly entrenched in the wanna-be camp.

B's mom tried a "topless" burger which is any of the signature burger flavors served over greens instead of on a bun. She liked the Napa Valley flavors (goat cheese, Meyer lemon), but thought it fell flat when served on the greens. Her advice is to order a burger when you go to a burger place, not a salad masquerading as a burger.

So, now it was about 10:25 and everyone was commenting on their burgers when I looked over and realized B still doesn't have his burger. At this point I'm ready to lose it and I desperately flag down a staff member who goes back to the kitchen again to check. Someone comes out with B's burger and says "you wanted this medium well, right?" I'll spare you a giant rant on people who order their meat well done and just say that B absolutely did not - and never would - order something medium well. He ordered it medium rare and the cashier repeated it back as medium rare. Since it had been almost an HOUR since we ordered, B just took the burger and started to chow down. He quickly noticed that not only was his burger cooked so that it resembled a hockey puck, it was also missing the potato chips that make a burger "Crunchified" in Bobby speak. B's sad little burger went back to the kitchen for a dusting of potato chips.

His long-awaited burger was the Buffalo Style Burger with red hot sauce, bleu cheese, and watercress. Food Network personality Claire Robinson called this burger the best burger she's ever eaten. Sorry Claire, you need to get out and eat some more burgers. I don't know if any burger can overcome such a ridiculous wait and bad service, but this one definitely did not.

Before I get angry comments saying that this is a new restaurant, let me leave you with this:
  1. We waited several weeks after opening to try it.

  2. We went at a time that we knew they would be less busy (but allowed plenty of time before closing) to avoid issues with long lines.

  3. This is not Bobby's first Palace. He has had five other openings to figure this out.

  4. It's Bobby-freaking-Flay. He's famous enough to be a recurring character on Entourage. This isn't a mom and pop operation.

  5. Nobody, not ONE single person apologized for the wait or offered to help us. A simple apology would go a really long way.
Now we know why the cashier said everyone was angry. Oy, Bobby Flay, Oy.

Second Thoughts from B

Nice rant J! Couldn't have done better myself. Like Ari Gold's wife, I flirted with Bobby Flay. I wanted to like him, I really did. I figured such a bad actor had to be a great chef. So I left my familiar and reliable burger spot to gave him a shot to win my heart. But I found myself disappointed and running back to my first love. Take me back Ray's Hell Burger, I never stopped loving you.
Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon


Laura said...

a great rant! my friend, who tried it, said he enjoyed his shake, but found everything else to be lacking. and yes, agreed that any sort of acknowledgement about the situation would go a long way. i had the same experience recently at another recently opened joint, and the waiter literally avoided us for 45 minutes, instead of just offering an apology and acknowledging the wait.

J said...

It was the exact same thing with BBP. The staff knew things had gone badly and they all hid and avoided eye contact. All it takes is for one person (hello, manager??) to say "We're having a rough night, I'm sorry." To be fair, BBP corporate saw our tweet and reached out to us. I'll be chatting with them tomorrow.

World in Motion said...

And here I was really wanting to try this place out! Now I know what I might expect.

If you get a chance, I would check out Black & Orange (previously called Rogue States). They have some pretty solid burgers. My personal favorite is Burger Joint.

Hopefully corporate hooked you up with something nice!

B said...

Rogue States was a favorite of ours before it was shut down (see here: http://twodc.blogspot.com/2010/06/rogue-states.html). Good to hear a positive review after its return as Black & Orange!

Can't say that we were as fond of the Burger Joint though (http://twodc.blogspot.com/2010/02/bgr-burger-joint.html).