Restaurant Roundup: Bobby's Burger Palace

As I mentioned in It's a Date, Shaun and I spent Valentine's Day 2009 at Shake Shack. Call it our love for a juicy burger or our utter refusal to get into the whole Valentine's Day price fixing, but I was excited to turn this fast food date into a Vday tradition of sorts. After all, there is something romantic about a laid back, comfortable Saturday night, isn't there?

This year, when Shaun suggested branching out from the Shack and trekking out to another upscale fast food join, Bobby's Burger Palace in Paramus, I jumped at the offer. The brainchild of Bobby Flay, Food Network personality and founder of Mesa Grill, Bobby's Burger Palace features high-end cheap-o burgers at their best. Though the name does leave a bit to be desired (I mean, really...Palace?), the food was worth the trek out to North Jersey. (Oh, and did you know there's a Nordstrom Rack out there? I didn't either...) Anyhow, a way more civilized set up than Shake Shack's Upper West Side location, BBP boasted burgers that sounded, and ultimately tasted, nothing short of divine.

For the night o'food, we decided to get a few different menu items and split 'em down the middle in an effort to maximize food tasting (for research purposes, of course). And since we were sharing, Shaun graciously gave in to my request for 'medium' burgers, as opposed to 'medium rare'. Love ya honey. First up, the burgers. Though apparently Bobby has trademarked the whole potato chips on burger routine as his signature burger fare (the Crunch Burger, if you will), we decided to play it a little less than traditional, since, let's face it, we can put potato chips on our own burgers, after all. Instead we went with the Dallas Burger...
and the Buffalo Style Burger
Each was mighty fine in its own right. Though I could have tolerated more hot sauce on the Buffalo Burger, it boasted a creamy blue cheese sauce with actual crumbles mixed in. It didn't overpower the burger, which is really the way it should be. Have you ever seen a burger look so delectable? The Dallas Burger, on the other hand, was full of sweet and smokey flavor due to a combination of barbecue sauce and coleslaw. It's all about the sweet and savory with this one, and it really shined as a drastic contract to the Buffalo Burger. Oh, and I should mention the sides; fries...
and onion rings... The Pluses: Unlike Shake Shack, with its anxiety-driven table scouting, BBP had a server actually seat guests as orders were frying away. Like I said, much more civilized.
The burgers were wonderfully cooked and full of flavor. And for a satisfying dinner under $25? It was inexpensive, to boot. Ok, with the high fat factor in this meal, I wouldn't recommend it for regular eating. It's a specialty place and should be treated as such.

The Not-so-much factor: Ok, I know that the universe doesn't revolve around Manhattan, but when it comes to Bobby Flay's burgers...I just think it should. The fact that this place is part of a mall in Bergen county just doesn't sit well with me. I need easier access...and by easier access, I mean somewhere I don't have to drive to. After all, one step inside this place and it screams "Less expensively decorated Mesa Grill..." But I suppose I should follow my own advice, above...

The Bottom Line: A super burger joint with one seriously low price. Ok, you have to drive out to Jersey to get it, but it's worth it.

Restaurant Roundup: Mesa Grill

What: Chef and Restauranteur Bobby Flay’s first restaurant, mixing Southwestern flavor, spicy spices, and lots of grilled meat.

Where: 102 Fifth Avenue
Why it Rocks:
Okay, perhaps this is a given New York must, but in all of my city years, I had never been to Mesa, or any of its counterparts, in any other locations in and outside of the country. This has been on my to do list for a looooong time. In a none-too-pretentious atmosphere, the décor was simple and the restaurant was fairly small, both huge pluses in my book. Reservations are recommended (via OpenTable) and we were sat only slightly later than our designated time. Be sure to arrive early for a drink at the super Southwestern chic bar. The food caused surge of new respect for Bobby Flay, whom I’ve always loved in my irrational Food Network obsession. Not sure if it’s the dorky Irish thing or his beyond gorgeous Brooklyn apartment, but Bobby Flay has that sort of geeky sexy thing going on, and his food is delicious to boot. Do NOT skip the Goat Cheese Queso Fundido with blue corn chips appetizer. The only downside is that it essentially diminished my palate for any other cheesy fundidos that I may have had in the past (my beloved Rosa Mexicano, this means you). For dinner, I had the Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin and hubby had the Sixteen Spice Duck Breast. Although I’m not by any means a duck-lover, both dishes were the best of their kind, but beware, the pork had a spicy kick. While there are no substitutions on the offered side dishes, if you ask nicely, they may oblige. Either way, the roasted corn is a must. The only downside was that we were both too stuffed to try the
 varied dessert options.
While very open and inviting, it is loud as the high ceilings just allow the noise the travel. Sit upstairs for a little less noise, but be prepared to speak loudly to hear your counterpart. Beware: Blink-and-you-miss-it restaurant entrance
Bottom Line:
I was skeptical that the hype would outdo the actual experience. Fear not, because Mesa delivers in taste like few others. 2 restaurant meals in my recent past stand out in the ‘best food I’ve ever had’ category. The first was a teeny, virtually unoccupied bistro in Budapest. For me, the second is Mesa Grill.
2 drinks a piece, 1 shared app, 2 delicious meals…
Total dinner price: Under $150