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All We Can Eat
Posted at 07:45 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Bobby Flay doesn’t sweat the burger competition

Iron Chef Flay doesn't let the competition see him sweat. (Ben Fink/Bobby's Burger Palace)
Good Stuff Eatery. Shake Shack. BGR: The Burger Joint. Z-Burger. Ray’s Hell-Burger. Five Guys. Elevation Burger. Big Buns. Urban Burger. Bobby Flay will compete with many, if not all, of these joints when he opens his Bobby’s Burger Palace next Tuesday on K Street. And that’s not counting the steakhouses, upscale bistros and white-tablecloth restaurants, such as Palena Cafe and Central, that pride themselves on serving a tasty patty.

Flay’s not exactly staying up nights, fretting over his place in the D.C. ground-beef hierarchy.

“There’s always going to be somebody else doing something good,” Flay told All We Can Eat during a phone interview. “You can’t worry about the competition. It’s always going to be there.”

“We feel like Bobby’s Burger Palace is going to do exactly what we want it to do,” he adds. “I don’t think you can compare one burger place to another burger place.”

What BBP will do is serve a variety of 6-ounce burgers designed to channel particular regions of the country, such as the “Miami Burger,” which grafts the flavors of a Cuban sandwich onto ground beef, or the ”Philadelphia Burger,” which is sort of a cheesesteak in patty form.

“What I do at Bobby’s Burger Palace is I try to tell a different story with each burger,” the Iron Chef says. “It’s based on my travels through America.”

The great equalizer to Flay’s cross-country selection of American burgers is something he calls “Gettin’ Crunchified,” a contrived country term that means, simply, to add potato chips to your hamburger. It’s like a blue-collar version of Michel Richard’s potato tuile atop his $17 burger at Central.

What’s more, BBP is aiming for a slightly more user-friendly experience than many fast-casual burger joints, Flay notes. For starters, runners will bring your order to the table, and busers will clean up after you. There will be none of that full-time self-service mindset that dominates the new generation of gourmet burger outlets, where you place your order at a counter, pick it up there and bus your own table after you’re done — an designer burger trapped inside a fast-food playground.

But the D.C. outlet of BBP, the sixth in the growing chain, will also draw inspiration from old American diners. It will boast a winding, serpentine lunch counter where customers can interact with guests eating around them — or not. “It’s good burger-people watching,” Flay says.

Bobby’s Burger Palace, of course, will live and die on its food, not the atmosphere and service around it. Flay’s burgers don’t rely on any proprietary blend of beef cuts; instead, his place serves a simple 80-20 blend of ground chuck and sirloin Certified Angus beef. All those designer blends with brisket and short-rib meat thrown in? Flay isn’t sure how the owners maintain a constant ratio of beef cuts for every patty.

Flay’s burgers can be paired with hand-cut, double-fried fries as well as a milkshake made with 11 ounces of ice cream. In that sense, Bobby’s Burger Palace won’t be a place that Michelle Obama visits without drawing more unwanted attention.

“If you’re going to have a burger, is it going to be the healthiest meal of your week? Probably not,” Flay says. Which is why he thinks if you’re going to indulge, “indulge in a quality way.”

Bobby’s Burger Palace, 2121 K St.NW; 202-974-6260.

By  |  07:45 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Categories:  Chefs, Comfort Food | Tags:  Tim Carman

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