Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Bobby's Burger Palace

For those who don't know, the "Bobby" in Bobby's Burger Palace is none other than the chipotle-slinging, omnipresent darling of the Food Network, Bobby Flay, who makes Philly a legitimate three-Iron Chef town. Of course Bobby himself wasn't there for our visit, much to the dismay of my visiting mother-in-law, who also mused whether Bobby would show up to challenge himself to a Throwdown. The metaphysical ramifications of such an event would be truly staggering, but it's all beside the point if the guy doesn't put out a good burger. So, does he?

BBP is located on what's becoming a Penn Kid Restaurant Row, on the same block of Walnut Street as the likes of Capo Giro, City Tap House, and Hummus. The interior is very sleek and modern, with a thick multicolored-stripe theme throughout, and a broken-up, undulating counter that takes up the full depth of the restaurant. You'll get in line to order, have your order confirmed back to you (with a graphic description of what the various levels of doneness mean; no doubt a safeguard against tort-happy law students in the area looking for a quick buck), and then get a little numbered placard and put it at your seat. This is a pretty nice compromise between a traditional fast-food model and true table service.

The menu is pretty simple; burgers with various themes, available in beef, turkey, or chicken-breast-sandwich varieties. The Cuban, dressed up like a Cuban sandwich with ham and pickle and then pressed, sounded intriguing, but I was won over by the sound of the Burger of the Month, the "Louisiana Burger", with a blackened-style crust, tasso ham and remoulade. Any burger can also be "crunchified" with the addition of potato chips on top of the burger for no additional charge.

I think the end product is decent, if not spectacular. It seems like good-quality ground beef is used, and the soft, sesame seed-coated bun is a wise choice in that it's innocuous enough not to overwhelm its contents. The crust on the Louisiana burger was quite tasty, even if the burger's presentation was slightly unappetizing (with the top of the bun half-off, revealing the sloppy muddle of remoulade, ham and hot sauce underneath). The patty itself is juicy, but not terribly thick.

The "crunchburger", a standard patty topped with double American cheese and potato chips, is a good concept, but the laws of osmosis mean that your crunch isn't going to stay crunchy for long ... which is especially problematic when your burgers are sitting at the window waiting to be picked up for several minutes, as ours were. This might also be to blame for the fact that they arrived overcooked – our medium-rare orders turned out medium-well, with not a blush of pinkness in sight.

The fries are another mixed bag: they're available in standard and sweet potato varieties, and they're quite pleasant to eat given that they're not overly greasy, but they're also not too big on flavor. I was wondering why, until I looked at the bottom of the fries' cup and found a good bit of loose, coarse salt. I think coarse salt on fries is a non-starter to begin with because it tends not to stick the way you want it to, but the total lack of salt adhesion leads me to suspect that our fries weren't salted while fresh out of the fryer.

Still, for $7.50 a burger, it's not all that bad. I would liken the quality more to an upscale fast-food burger experience than something like a good gastropub burger. The sane portion size and non-greasy fries also means there's less post-lunch regret than you would get from a more hard-core burger.

If you're in the neighborhood and after a burger, it's worth a shot to try the place out, but I wouldn't see myself making a special trip. The concepts and flavors are good, but the execution is certainly not Iron Chef-worthy.

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

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