Of all the Food Network celebrity chefs, Bobby Flay may be the most ubiquitous. He was one of the first, and he’ll be one of the last — after the nuclear war, it’ll just be Bobby, grilling radioactive ancho-rubbed steaks for his merry band of roaches. He’s hosted more than a dozen FN shows, including the forthcoming Beat Bobby Flay, not to mention being an original Iron Chef (America). Although usually when I turn on FN these days, Guy Fieri is yelling at me through his peroxide-bleached, grease-slicked goatee. Maybe I need to watch at different times.
Anyway, one might hope that a Food Network all-time-great would own great restaurants.* Mesa Grill is supposed to be good, or at least used to be, I hear. Haven’t been there. One of Bobby’s newer endeavors is the Bobby’s Burger Palace chain, of which there is one at the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, across the driveway from the Arundel Mills outlet mall. Bobby’s Burgers Live! It’s all so charming, there in the shadows of the discount shopping and the bleeping and blooping and bedazzling of the “slot machines” (21st Century slot-free).
* One might sometimes be disappointed. Speaking of Mr. Fieri…
When you put “Burger” in your restaurant’s name, it had better live up, and I’m not sure Bobby’s burger does. It looks good, sitting in front of you; all the parts are there, but deconstruction reveals flaws. Like, the thick beef patty is insufficiently charred and lacks flavor. Mrs. Me ordered medium and got medium; I ordered medium-rare and got medium. Beats well-done, but still, I
expected hoped for better accuracy and more juiciness. Toppings are okay, nothing special. And the sesame seed bun is the biggest fail, not nearly big or sturdy enough to handle the large burger and burger accessories. We didn’t try the “crunch burger” (potato chips inside the bun), which is part of Bobby’s burger shtick. I don’t think potato chips would have helped much, although the extra salt would have been welcome.
Maybe you are supposed to drown the burger in sauce. There are five to choose from: ketchup and mustard, plus the (1) creatively-named “burger sauce,” kind of ancho-flecked bbq, our favorite of the five but still not really my preferred burger moistener; (2) “chipotle ketchup” because Bobby = chipotle, but it didn’t taste much different than regular ketchup ; and (3) “jalapeño hot sauce,” not particularly hot and also weirdly pale and glutinous, like the chef whipped up a big batch of corn starch gastrique and infused it with just a few jalapeño shards.
The best sauce is the sixth sauce (I see hungry people!) — the “fry sauce” which is like Shack Sauce (or 1,000 Island dressing) but with a nice chili kick.* Fry sauce is what I want on my burger, as well as my fries, if only there were more of it (I probably could have asked for more). It comes in a little dish next to the fries, which are pretty good themselves, thin-cut, crisp outside, fluffy inside, appropriately salted, and presented in a nice metal pot. I suspect they may be from frozen, though.
* I should disclose that I am naturally biased in favor of creamy orange things: fry sauce, creamsicles, Dutch speed skaters.
Oh, each burger comes with a big dill pickle slice — those are good.
Should have tried a shake? Maybe. I might have tried a margarita, but the only one listed on the menu was some foofy frozen prickly pear situation, and homie don’t play that. Around the corner, at least at the Maryland Bobby Flay Live! location, there is a full bar, so I could have had a regular margarita, but by the time I figurered that out, the moment had passed. You can’t see the bar from the line. I say that’s a marketing fail.
Bun fail, marketing fail…for the money, I found less value at Bobby’s Burger Palace than at the similarly-priced, superiorly-burgered Five Guys or Shake Shack or BGR. The other main drawback to BBP is the oddly retro multilinear seating, with few (no?) real tables, just a series of zigzagging counters, resulting in constant traffic right in front of you no matter where you sit, which I found distracting. Not distracting enough to make me forget about the problems with the burgers, but still.
They also spend quite a bit of space and effort selling Bobby Flay — books, sauces, t-shirts, burgers, Bobby Flay is omnipresent. Bobby Flay! The food isn’t bad, I’m confident there are significantly worse options at Arundel Mills, but I certainly wouldn’t rush back. Fortunately (on multiple levels) Mrs. Me is primarily in charge of the household outlet shopping, and I don’t expect to be within eating distance of Maryland Bobby Flay Live! for a long time.