‘When most people see a map of the country, they see states or regions. I see ingredients’. That was one of Bobby Flay’s first comments as he addressed the media and crowd at the press conference that included the opening of his fourth ‘Bobby’s Burger Palace’ (BBP) restaurant. The grand re-opening of the Winter Entrance at the Casino of the Earth at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut included other eateries as well, but I was there for the burgers. And as I learned, regional ingredients are the bases for Bobby’s Burger Palace.
What was I doing here in the first place? Well, after the New York Times featured our ‘Burger of the Month’ (BOTM) Club in their Wednesday Dining Section this past May 6th, the PR people from Mohegan Sun contacted us and invited The BOTM to the opening and press conference of Bobby’s Burger Palace on July 1st. I was the lucky BOTM representative whose schedule allowed me to make it from New York to Connecticut for the festivities. The plan was simple: arrive at the casino Tuesday night June 30th, accept an invitation from the casino to try burgers from some of the other restaurants throughout Mohegan Sun (their Executive Chef even provided a list of suggestions), attend the press conference Wednesday morning at 11:00am, review the burger, and possibly say hello to Chef Flay when the media had access to him (yes, for the is event, I was ‘media’). Well, lucky for me the plan did not follow the script . . .
After checking in at the casino Tuesday night, my girlfriend and I headed for the elevators (hey – I didn’t say I went alone). A man who happened to be wearing a ‘Bobby’s Burger Palace’ T-shirt got into the elevator with us. Turned out to be Chef Flay. After a quick introduction it was great to hear that he had heard of the BOTM Club’s NY Times article and even tried to get onto our burgerrankings.com website the day all the traffic from the NY Times article crashed it (sorry Bobby, but it’s up now!). He explained that the press conference and official opening was the following morning but the restaurant had actually opened that night and if we wanted to come down he would give us the grand tour.
Thirty minutes later we were walking into the newly opened Bobby’s Burger Palace. True to his word, he personally gave us a full tour. He explained the menu and theme behind the restaurant, and the importance of being able to taste each ingredient in each burger. Besides the Palace Classic Burger (American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion), the Bobby Blue Burger (blue cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato) and the Crunchburger (double American cheese & potato chips – more on that later), the menu is comprised of burgers from different regions of the country, with each burger consisting of ingredients and characteristics inherent to that region. (It was about this time that Bobby introduced us to his business partner, Laurence Kretchmer who gave the BOTM Club a nice shout out with a ‘Burger of the Month Club in the house in Connecticut’ cheer)! We ended up trying the Crunchburger, the Dallas Burger (spice crusted, coleslaw, monetary jack, BBQ sauce and pickles), the Buffalo Style Burger (red hot sauce, blue cheese dressing, watercress) and the Napa Burger (fresh goat cheese, watercress, Meyer lemon honey mustard).
A word on the burgers – 6oz Certified Angus Beef cooked on a griddle top and served on a toasted seeded bun (although you can get any burger made with ground turkey or chicken breast). Evidently Bobby is a stickler for proper burger cooking techniques and the rules in the kitchen are that the burgers can only be flipped once and there is a big sign reminding the cooks to ‘melt the cheese completely’. The burgers are cooked medium unless another temperature is requested by the customer. You can get regular fries, sweet potato fries or (very) thick onion rings. Once you order, you receive a number and your food is brought to you when it is ready.
After the trip up from New York City we were ready to eat. The burgers were excellent; juicy and cooked perfectly to medium (pink at Bobby’s Burger Palace). The first thing you notice when eating one of the burgers is the range of tastes you get. Each of the ingredients jumps out at you and works nicely with the others. The coolness of the coleslaw of the Dallas Burger worked great with the bbq sauce and spice rub (the only burger on the menu that has a rub). The hot sauce and blue cheese went great together on the Buffalo Burger (Note: There are actually two blue cheeses on the Buffalo Burger, a crumpled blue cheese and the blue cheese dressing).
Although I don’t think they were needed, each table had a ketchup, chipotle ketchup, yellow mustard, jalapeno sauce and burger sauce.
The last piece of the burger puzzle at BBP: 'Crunchified’. Crunch-a-what? That’s exactly what I thought. But you can add potato chips – at no cost – as a topping on any burger to make it ‘Crunchified’. The chips add a whole new dimension to the burger and immediately seem to win people over.
The press conference on Wednesday was busy and after Bobby and a number of others made speeches, there was a very nice Mohegan Tribe ceremony and the ribbon was cut on BBP. While multiple TV interviews took place, we tried the Philadelphia Burger (provolone cheese, griddled onions and hot red peppers), the Santa Fe Burger (queso sauce, pickled jalapenos, blue corn chips), the LA Turkey Burger (avocado relish, watercress, cheddar cheese, tomato) and the Buffalo Chicken Breast. By the way, if you think I had a lot of burgers in a two day period, then I would suggest that a Burger of the Month club may not be for you.
If ‘crunchifying’ was the last piece of the burger puzzle, then the milkshakes were the last requirements of the meal. There was a long list of flavors, including ‘spiked’ shakes. Each are made with 11oz of ice cream. We had a black and white (three times) and a Mocha Kahlua Vodka shake. Both were outstanding.
If I had to pick my favorite burgers (and I guess I do), I would choose the Dallas (the coleslaw/spice combo made it my favorite on the menu, the Philadelphia (the heat from the hot peppers was fantastic, even a bit surprising) and the Buffalo (the blue cheese taste lingered with each bite). Definite thanks to the people at Mohegan Sun and to Bobby and Laurence who were both very generous with their time. We had a lot of fun talking burgers with them and the BOTM Club looks forward to a Burger of the Month Club night in New York City with the two of them as special guests!