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It’s been five years since celebrity chef Bobby Flay opened his first Bobby’s Burger Palace in Long Island, N.Y. And yesterday, his 16th location opened in Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. That makes five BBPs in the D.C. area (including downtown D.C., College Park, Hanover, Md., and Woodbridge, Va.), all trying to convert diners to the “crunchified”—potato chip-topped—burger.
The inspiration for that signature item came from Flay’s childhood habit of combining crispy chips with his burgers. Now half the diners at Bobby’s Burger Palace crunchify their burgers, Flay told guests at a media preview prior to yesterday’s opening.
There are a lot of Flay’s quirks in the BBP model. The design for the serpentine counter was originally hand-drawn by Flay, so diners could see around the entire restaurant. All burgers are cooked to medium unless otherwise requested, and burger toppings are inspired by geography, like the Santa Fe burger with queso and Philadelphia burger with provolone. (Sorry, no D.C. or Bethesda burger.) The milkshakes use ice cream so thick that it’s almost meant to be chewed. A sign in the kitchen reads, “Bobby says melt the cheese completely.”
“When I go to a restaurant and they don’t melt the cheese completely I get very upset,” Flay says. “It doesn’t taste the same.”
One thing he didn’t get his way on was the mustard selection: “I wanted Dijon mustard, but my whole staff went on strike and revolted,” he says. The tables are set with yellow mustard and Flay’s three proprietary sauces: chipotle Ketchup, burger sauce, and jalapeño hot sauce.
As the restaurant prepared to open to the public, a line of 30 Flay fans queued up outside waiting for the doors to open. “We’ve been trying to get into Bethesda for three years,” Flay says, citing the area’s demographics and enthusiastic eaters. But finding the right location proved challenging, until the company landed this corner of the mall right next door to construction on a new Cheesecake Factory. “You sort of have to wait your turn,” he says.
Photos by Adele Chapin