It seems so long ago that Richard Blais, Atlanta’s first Top Chef hometown hero, opened Flip Burger in West Midtown in 2008.
Though Atlanta had plenty of fantastic hamburger joints that had been in business for years before Flip opened their doors, Blais’ celebrity combined with his left-of-center cooking techniques and wildly creative burger selection stirred up a foodie frenzy. I might even go so far as to call it a “hoopla”.
Thus began the so-called Atlanta “burger wars”.
This Tuesday marked the grand opening of Flip’s 2nd Atlanta location, right in the heart of Buckhead. Taking over the vacant Blockbuster in the Tuxedo Festival shopping center on Roswell Rd., Blais’ and owner Barry Mills hope to duplicate the success they’ve seen across town, as well as at their 2nd location in Birmingham. And if the crowds lined up for the past two nights are any indication, I’d say they are on the right track.
If you’ve been to the original location, then you pretty much know what to expect here. The aesthetic remains the same, though the bar area is more separated from the dining room and the wood-paneled patio is completely covered. Regardless, as soon as you walk through the door, you know that you are in a Flip Burger.
I’ve eaten here on their first two nights open to the public…all in the name of journalism, of course. I can’t – or won’t—comment on the service, as that wouldn’t be fair when they have only been open for 48 hours. But if you already know that you like Flip Burger, you surely won’t be disappointed in the food.
While the vast majority of the menu is the same as the Midtown location, Blais (Creative Director) gives each of his executive chefs some autonomy. Granted, the menus at all of the Flips change frequently, so it’s tough to tell what is unique to the Buckhead location, and what happened to catch the chef’s eye at the market that day.
Unlike some restaurants in town, Flip downplays their dedication to local ingredients, and I respect that. Rather than make it into a marketing gimmick, they turn to locally sourced produce and meats for the right reasons: It tastes better. And I’m sure the whole “good for the local economy” thing plays a part too.
While many of their staples, like the deep fried Southern ($7.50) or the savory Butcher’s Cut ($7.50) remain unchanged, some have subtle tweaks like swapping out the fragrant gremolata mayo on the Ossobucco for the headier Marrow-naise. And there are some exciting newcomers to the menu, like the crunchy foie gras nuggets ($6) or the Belly Melt burger ($7), topped with onion, lettuce, tomato, house-made pickles, “FLIP” cheese, and a slice of crispy pork belly.
If for nothing else, the last few years of burger joints popping up like Starbucks’ in the mid-nineties has given me a new appreciation for Flip. Not because they are the “best” burgers in town, but because they are doing something unique, and that makes it worth the money in my eyes. I got out of there last night for $15, which bought me a burger topped with pork belly, a nut-n-honey milkshake (including ground Honey Nut Cheerios), and a side of fries. I’ve spent more than that on substantially less memorable burgers lately.
Yet I can’t help but wonder: Can Atlanta handle two Flip Burgers? Will the Buckhead/Sandy Springs/Brookhaven crowd now stop driving to Midtown for their Krispy Kreme milkshakes?
What do you think? Is there such a thing as too much Flip?
-Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast