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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Flip Burger Boutique and Yeah Burger: A tale of two patties

In lieu of a starred review this week, we’re taking a look at the sequels to two of Atlanta’s best known burger restaurants — the new Buckhead location of Flip Burger Boutique and the Virginia-Highland installment of Yeah Burger.

Now that Richard Blais has just completed his second mega-successful run on “Top Chef” — having narrowly won in a chopping, sautéing death match against Mike Isabella in the finale — he has cemented his status as Atlanta’s most famous chef.

Review by John Kessler

By John Kessler

Among his many ardent fans count my sister, who can’t wait to eat at his restaurant when she next visits us in Atlanta.

“It’s a hamburger place, you know,” I remind her.

“Blais’ restaurant is just a burger joint?” she says, with utter surprise in her voice.

Well, no, not just a burger joint. Atlantans do actually get to eat those witty little plates fashioned from unlikely ingredients and highfalutin’ culinary technique. Only thing: They come between two halves of a bun.

Since Blais opened his first Flip Burger Boutique in west Midtown in late 2008 and followed it with branches in Buckhead and Birmingham, he has done a smart job of extending his brand by cooking food that most people can actually afford.

A visit to Flip will showcase Blais’ wit and perspective, and for most diners it will mark their first exposure to the style of cooking that used to go by the hideous sounding “molecular gastronomy” and now sports the much more descriptive moniker “modernist cuisine.”

Is that Reddi-Wip? Nope Swiss cheese foam. (photos by Becky Stein)

Is that Reddi-Wip? Nope Swiss cheese foam. (photos by Becky Stein)

Here’s a delicious irony: While most people can’t possibly afford the definitive and just-released text on this culinary movement — the 2,500-page “Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet (Cooking Lab, $625) — they can waltz into Flip and order a tuna tartare “burger” on a lettuce wrap ($10). It arrives topped with something that looks exactly like a raw egg yolk. But, in fact, this quivering yellow orb contains mango puree, “spherified” with a membrane after twin dunks in calcium lactate and then sodium alginate. You puncture it and mix in the glistening ooze, just like raw egg.

flip2You can wash this down with a funny “apple pie” milk shake ($6) frozen with liquid nitrogen and trailing a cloud of cold smoke. You want more? How about a mushroom Swiss burger ($7.50) topped with cheese foam that has been aerated with nitrous oxide. It looks just like the Reddi-wip on your strawberries.

Sure there’s a parlor trick element to this (the waitress tells us the “smoked mayo” served with fries gets that way from a hefty dash of liquid smoke). But isn’t Blais observing the first commandment of modernist cuisine by encouraging diners to rethink their assumptions about food?

I have to say the one meal I had at Flip Buckhead wasn’t terribly good. The burgers made from actual ground cow and the milk shakes both hit their respective spots well. But Blais likes to re-imagine other foods in the form of hamburgers. Despite his clever way with visual puns, here’s where he falters.

A blackened shrimp burger ($9) with “cajunnaise” sauce and a fried lemon slice has enough spice and textural interest to usher you through two bites before you actually taste the thing. Burnt spices cover a weirdly translucent patty of heavily processed seafood. A “fauxlaffel” ($8) features tangy pickled veggies over a crusty chickpea patty that kind of deflates and disintegrates as soon as you start manhandling it like a burger. Big pieces of it pinch off and land with disconcerting plops on the plate.

The food looks great, each dish bursting with color and sporting minced herb garnishes. But we’re not happy with either limp fries ($5) or caramelized Brussels sprouts ($5), rawish with the lighter-fluid taste of a gas grill flare-up. As fun as that tuna tartare was for its yolk, the net effect was sweet and slimy; I think I’d rather eat tuna poke from just about any decent sushi bar.

But I do like this well-run and well-priced restaurant well enough. It is fun to sit in this dining room lined with floor-to-ceiling plush white booths that give it the aura of a fashionable womb. More than that, I like the surface contact with Blais’ interesting and engaging culinary mind.

I have to tell you, though, Mr. Top Chef: I know Flip Burger Boutique is more than just a burger joint, but it’s still not enough. Not from you.

Flip Burger Boutique Buckhead: 3655 Roswell Road, 404-549-3298. West Midtown: 1587 Howell Mill Road, 404- 352-3547 . Also a location in Birmingham. $$

————-

Blais’ doings aside, it wouldn’t be wrong to claim that the “burger trend” is over. All those stories have been written, all those conversations have been had.

This is all good and true, but let me tell you: Burger restaurants are here to stay. They are fruitful. They have multiplied. And they serve as the advance guard for what will be a slew of cool-looking, slightly upscale places with liquor licenses and attractive waitpeople that do foodie-forward takes on hot dogs, pizza, sausages and every iconic sandwich out there, from the Philly cheese steak to the po’ boy. Mark my words.

They may no longer be outrageously exciting, but these places do help us deal with those need-to-feed quandaries that we all face, well, daily.

Yeah Burger has its second location after its successful launch in west Midtown last year. The Virginia-Highland location has taken over a corner auto shop that has looked ripe for a dining concept for at least the past decade.

I didn’t love my first visits to the original Yeah in 2010. The double-stack grass-fed beef patty was a dry, dry affair, and limp fries didn’t help. It seemed just another wimpy mistakenly claiming star status.

A bison burger with loads of toppings

A bison burger with loads of toppings

But once I stopped looking for burger fireworks and started looking for dinner, Yeah revealed its charms. Chef Shaun Doty, another bright light on the local dining scene, keeps his ego and cheffy ways in check, and lets the ingredients make their own case. Good thing he favors local and organic foodstuffs, because they are persuasive.

Yeah is a build-it-yourself kind of place, where you pick the patty, the bun, the toppings, the sauces, the sides and so on. By that point you are usually so exhausted you don’t have the will to chew.

I like to eat with health in mind whenever I can, so my usual is the naturally raised turkey ($5.99) with a whole-wheat bun, sliced avocado ($1 supplement, always perfect) and the “hot Alabama relish” that strikes a great sweet-spicy-sour chord.

But I thoroughly enjoyed my non-usual — a double-stack ($6.49) with American cheese (89 cents), bacon jam, lettuce and tomato. Not the juiciest, but I think I could put on five more garnishes and still be able to pick this thing up. There’s a place in heaven for burgers like this. The bison burger ($7.99) brings one thicker patty that does drip a little if that’s your litmus test.

I always love getting a side of organic greens ($3.99) made with organic lettuce, sprouts, cukes and tomatoes in a lemon-herb dressing with a fine undercurrent of shallot. And I almost never like the fries ($2.49) that routinely come out limp and cold. I would honestly prefer crinkle-cut fries right from the bag, given my druthers.

One other small complaint about Yeah Burger: The kitchen takes its good time, sometimes 10 or 15 minutes.

That said, everything else about Yeah works well for me. The food tastes clean, and I don’t mind feeding it to my kids. Maybe it’s just a burger joint, but it’s my kind of burger joint.

Yeah Burger Virginia-Highland: 1017 N. Highland Ave., 404-437-7845. West Midtown: 1168 Howell Mill Road, 404-496-4393. $$

54 comments Add your comment

[...] over placement: Th&#1077 AJC’s John Kessler reviews two ordinary burger destinations | … Related Posts:The AJC’s John Kessler reviews Local Three, Buckhead | Food and M… Local [...]

smc

March 31st, 2011
8:43 am

I’ve never been disappointed with Flip Burger Boutique. We’ve found the fries to be great. Food at Yeah Burger was good, too, but I much prefer the thicker beef patty than two flat ones. Reminds me of a Steak n Shake burger. I love both chefs and would eat anywhere they work or anything they served me!

Kristen

March 31st, 2011
8:53 am

Now that he’s won, I pray that Chef Blais is able to open a fine dining establishment. Although we know how well those do in this city and economy…but I’ll be there opening night with bells on. Congrats, Chef Blais! Well done!

Midwest west girl

March 31st, 2011
9:16 am

Both restaurants are pretty good but we prefer Flip over Yeah. Flip’s burgers are better (to me) because they are inventive. When I went to Yeah and made my own sandwich, it wasn’t that good. And I agree about the fries…very disappointed. But I felt like the food was “healthier” since it’s local organic. For families, I would say that Yeah is a better choice because it seems to be more kid friendly. Flip does have a grill cheese they will make for kids but it’s not on the menu. Also Flip’s milkshakes are so much better than Yeah’s. Yeah’s tasted like something from McDonalds.

dawgfan

March 31st, 2011
9:52 am

Flip, shock of all shocks, is overrated. 10 bucks for a hamburger about the size of a Krystal burger and no better than what you would find at your local Applebee’s. Its just another pretentious Atlanta restaurant that will be gone in a few years. Yawn.

Never been to Yeah.

Thanks.

BlueRidgeRick

March 31st, 2011
10:10 am

How do you get lighter fluid taste from a gas grill?

Really?

March 31st, 2011
10:22 am

The smoke mayo is not liquid smoke it is a smoke powder. Look into it, the flavor is amaizng.

jb

March 31st, 2011
10:24 am

yeah burger also has gluten free options…buns, fries and onion rings all gluten free. that is a brave step in its own right. its hard to pull that off in a restaurant covered in flour from buns and breading, but yeah takes its precautions and does it right. the options actually taste good as well.

Al

March 31st, 2011
10:33 am

the sweet potato tots (had them at the original flip) are amazing. i’ve contemplated going back just to eat multiple orders of those.

jimmy

March 31st, 2011
10:40 am

My guess – no way Blais gets back behind the stove full time. There’s waaaay too much money in TV and demos and all this other stuff he’s been doing. And he has a family now.

But now he has some cash for a bigger equity stake in his next place. I’ve been told that Blais owns very little of FLIP, at least the original location.

Native Atlantan

March 31st, 2011
10:54 am

Not a big fan of Yeah either. Been twice and haven’t really been satisfied either time. Expensive burger with little flavor and ditto on the fries — limp and normally cold. Farm Burger in Decatur was decent but again, not a ton of flavor. I’ll settle for 5-Guys which is a little more affordable and alway served hot — burger and fries.

Carla Roqs

March 31st, 2011
11:01 am

interesting, was gonna hit flip when im home next, you are turning the tide on that idea, john.

Josh H

March 31st, 2011
11:56 am

Mr. Kessler didn’t like Yeah! Burger when Doty had just expanded and was the darling of the local media. Now, Blais, who is riding high from his TC victory, doesn’t cut it anymore with his goofy burgers (which have always been praised in this column). After the Bourdain debacle, I’m starting to sense a little jealousy in these blogs/articles/journal entries. Maybe your next one should be about the best Atlanta spots for Haterade?

Erik

March 31st, 2011
12:03 pm

Hi John,

It’s Erik Maier from YEAH! BURGER. Thank you very much for your article and feedback. We’ve taken the comments on our fries to heart and are working to improve them. In keeping with our green efforts, we opted for first generation electric fryers because they are more energy efficient. They’ve been very problematic with regard to temperature consistency, so we’re upgrading to the next generation which should help make a big provement in our product. We’d love to have you come back in few weeks to get your thoughts on our new fries.

Best regards,
Erik-
Managing Partner, YEAH! BURGER

James

March 31st, 2011
12:10 pm

Nice rundown, John. I kind of felt the same way about flipburger – love the inventiveness but the flavors fell short. Need to give it another try, though. And I’m very excited by the prospect of Richard opening his dream restaurant here. Still need to make it over to yeahburger…

And please don’t deny yourself the pleasures of a grass fed beef burger in the name of health anymore :) The animal fat/heart disease hypothesis has never been proven, and in fact should’ve been discarded based on the evidence decades ago. Fortunately, this notion is slowly creeping into the mainstream media (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22116724, http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-carbs-20101220,0,5464425.story?page=1)

Sorry for the comment drift ;)

John Kessler

March 31st, 2011
12:29 pm

Carla – It’s a reasonably priced meal. It’s fun. You’re a Blais fan. Go.

RK

March 31st, 2011
12:34 pm

Maybe you could get the tuna tartare if they had it on the menu…or hadn’t shrunken the menu…

There’s something going on with Flip, which I love. The last 3 times I’ve been there, they’ve had major issues. The (cooked) tuna burger was so incredibly dry that it was inedible. The fauxlafel is really really dry. And they’ve mixed up the cook temp on burgers.

The Black Diamond is one of their new great choices…

As I mentioned, the menu, which used to have plenty of fun choices, has shrunken — I would guess because execution is off.

RK

March 31st, 2011
12:35 pm

Carla, it is a great restaurant, with great prices, too — I’ve just been there a million times, so I notice when things are off. I can’t avoid the smoked mayo or pistachio/white truffle shake when I’m there.

Mike in Marietta

March 31st, 2011
12:41 pm

John,
I highly respect your opinion and I often agree with you. I read most of what you write and I enjoy eating at the places you review. I couldnt agree more with this review of both of these places. I have been to both on a couple of occassions.

I dont know if you are familiar with The Red Eyed Mule in Marietta but I highly recommend it. I have recently discovered it and it is definitely worth writing about. The burgers are big and juicy and are so good they would make you wanna smack your mama. I have only been there once but I plan on going back because I hear the blackbean burger is amazing. I promise I do not work there or even know anyone that works there. It would be a trip worth making up to Marietta.

Mike in Marietta

March 31st, 2011
12:43 pm

Erik, your cole slaw needs some work, and I just about broke my tooth on a piece of bacon in your bacon jam. I was just there over this past weekend. Over all a good experience but there is definitely room for improvement.

John Kessler

March 31st, 2011
12:47 pm

Thanks for the tip, Mike!

tammy

March 31st, 2011
12:49 pm

These places are both busted institutions for aging hipsters and their whiny babies. YUCK!

Coop

March 31st, 2011
12:59 pm

My daughter has celiac disease so we are always appreciative of restaurants with gluten free options. Yeah Burger caters to the GF crowd by offering a variety of GF options. It is the first place we have come across that serves GF fries and onion rings and the onion rings are particularly delicious. Yes it can be pricey but we are accustomed to paying more for our food and it’s great to have a good ole American style “burger joint” our whole family can enjoy.

otp

March 31st, 2011
1:12 pm

tammy, quit whining

bat hunter

March 31st, 2011
1:12 pm

Skip the Buckhead location of FLIP…It’s terrible when compared to the West side location. Its really disappointing the two locations can’t get some semblance of consistency going. It’s burgers for C’s sake!

Praveen

March 31st, 2011
1:14 pm

I ate at the Flip Howell MIll location. Had a regular cheeseburger and fries. You know something. It was good, but nothing special. I could go to the Vortex and have a better bigger burger at a cheaper price.

John Kessler

March 31st, 2011
1:33 pm

Interesting, Bat Hunter. It really didn’t live up to memories of the Westside location.

Eater of Food

March 31st, 2011
1:42 pm

@Praveen
In Flip’s defense, the Vortex is considered to have one of the best burgers in the country. But point taken, I think I’ll stick with Five Guys…

I M O ...

March 31st, 2011
1:51 pm

To Erik, above, (Managing Partner YEAH Burger) ….

Dude, Why J.Kessler the be-all-end-all when it comes to fries? Just b/c HIS personal tastes aren’t for limp fries doesn’t mean that’s EVERYONE’s or even the majority’s taste. And it surely doesn’t mean you should change the way you do things. Stiff, crunchy fries SUCK! McDonald’s has limp’ish FF, and think you’ll find they have “billions and billions sold”

Kessler may not like peanut butter either … does that mean Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy, et al should stop making PB?

Until you have NUMEROUS customer complaints on your FF, I say don’t change a thing…

Regards,
The French Fry Guy

LGF

March 31st, 2011
2:07 pm

2 words….FARM BURGER. By far the best burger in Atlanta!!

Brazen Unicorn

March 31st, 2011
2:13 pm

Love Yeah Burger and can’t wait to try Flip.

Bev

March 31st, 2011
2:31 pm

Love Yeah Burger! The fries are terrific (and hot enough) and so is the bison burger. I’m a gluten-free eater and appreciate the options available for me at Yeah. My family does not eat GF and they love the regular fare at Yeah as well. Just wish Yeah was in the new Flip location!

Carla Roqs

March 31st, 2011
2:35 pm

thanks guys, we will see. home for a just a weekend from the wicked north dictates absolutely delish food. really great to keep up with different places through your bogs!

Carla Roqs

March 31st, 2011
2:36 pm

blogs, sorry.

amanda

March 31st, 2011
3:16 pm

I made some comment on another website last night about “maybe Blais will open a real restaurant now” and someone got all snarky towards me until I said “but it’s just several locations of burgers.” People assume that what he does on Top Chef is what he does here in Atlanta, which sucks, cause that would be great. Now’s the time to do it with those winnings, seriously.

eatoutatlanta

March 31st, 2011
3:42 pm

Really a review on a burger joint…What is next for the AJC?
There is a krispy kreme doughnut shop on Roswel Rd….

Wino

March 31st, 2011
4:33 pm

The problem with Richard opening a restaurant is that 200k less taxes is far too little to be 51% or more owner. If you don’t own more than half, you really don’t own anything. It would be hard to open a fine dining restaurant for less than a million five, and in this business getting a loan would be sketchy.

Having said that, I hope he finds a way. I have enjoyed many meals at his fine dining stops. The man can cook.

Josh H

March 31st, 2011
6:21 pm

@eatoutatlanta – Nothing wrong with reviewing a burger joint (although I thought that was Jon Watson’s job) but it is a little strange considering both restaurants have already been reviewed in the last six months. That means either A) they are running out of places to review (which we know is not true) or B) there was something purposeful about the timing.

Lorenzo

March 31st, 2011
6:31 pm

Maybe they keep reviewing these high-end burger restaurants because you people keep reading the reviews.

KoPP

March 31st, 2011
8:13 pm

Sorry – for these prices, the burger should be cooked to order. Funky toppings should never hide the flavor (or lack thereof) of the beef.

G

March 31st, 2011
11:19 pm

I’ve been to both and I don’t see the point in either. Burger, fries, and a shake for lunch at Flip…$20. Give me a break. The rest of the menu looks like a toymaker came up with it. Kessler, no matter how much liquid nitrogen gloss you put over it, Flip is STILL a burger joint.

While I appreciate what Yeah! is trying to sell, the whole feel-good “story food” thing, his grassfed beef is from the Wal Mart equivalent of the natural foods arena. Doty should have kept Shaun’s open where his talents really were showcased. But, like Blais, I suppose it was time to make a buck. Though I’m not sure how much stake RB has in Flip.

I find it kind of crazy that this amazing talent’s only successful endeavor is a place that sells hamburgers. Now that Blais has another reality chef show appearance under his belt, it’s pretty pitiful that he’s been dubbed Atlanta’s flagship “chef”, one with a regional burger chain as his flagship to cast a shadow over the string of failed restaurants (what is it, over a half-dozen?) he has in his wake.

Jenny

April 1st, 2011
9:07 am

I am a huge fan of the hot dogs at Yeah Burger; they’re very tasty and the toppings are great, especially Yeah Sauce. Also love the flaky onion rings and fried pickles, which the review doesn’t mention at all. To me, these are the best things on the menu at Yeah Burger, even if they’re aren’t burgers.

RK

April 1st, 2011
10:06 am

Yes, how dare Doty sell out and close his money-losing restaurant to try and make money selling burgers. For shame!

PJ

April 1st, 2011
10:38 am

I’m a fan of Flip. I love the different burgers – the chorizo one is my favorite, love the fries & onion rings and love the milkshakes. I especially love that my kids love it too. In fact, I would say Flip makes my 4-year-old’s favorite cheeseburger – he weighs in at 33 lbs & will eat an entire Flip burger. Even my non-burger-eating 6-year-old loves the off-menu grilled cheese. We haven’t yet gotten to try Yeah Burger, but it is definitely on the list. We eat exclusively grass-fed beef when cooking at home – Cooking Light’s recent article about the calorie difference vs. grain-fed certainly justifies this as a healthy lifestyle choice.

Reva Ezell

April 1st, 2011
1:03 pm

On the other hand, have you tried the flash frozen cucumber martini at Flip? It’s worth the trip. (And I like the burgers lettuce-wrapped, like an upscale In ‘n’ Out)

eatoutatlanta

April 1st, 2011
1:21 pm

@Josh H, Lorenzo and the rest of us…

My point exactly…both restaurants have already been reviewed in the last six months… You know how many restaurants opened since and have not got a review yet? LOTS……and the closing restaurants also get a finale death review?

I read these reviews because I want to know about the new restaurants that are unique…a new place to enjoy new food ideas, a fresh look on eating out in Atlanta…

Yes you can go to buckhead and with-in 1 mile there are 7 steak houses 7…how much steak can one person eat? And all of them get their meat from the same truck I’m sure…

Let’s hope next week’s review is not about a new Steak House.

Vic

April 1st, 2011
1:32 pm

Burgers? Really?

quake

April 1st, 2011
3:19 pm

Yeah Burger (the Va Hi) location was beyond disappointing….from the total overcooking of the burger to the lifeless fries. Don’t know that I’ll go back. It doesn’t add anything to the neighborhood that we don’t already have. I much prefer the Georges in the hood, the Vortex if not.

And while I was a big fan of Blais on Top Chef, still haven’t made it to Flip. Think I’ll wait a bit longer since everyone and their brother will likely try to get there since the Top Chef finale aired.

LH52094

April 1st, 2011
8:14 pm

Bocado has the best burger in central Atlanta. Hands down. The juicy goodness, the melty cheese, oh my achin’ Lord!

Now the fries for all of these places can’t get it right. Ditch the natural cut fry that tastes of the burnt oil in the deep frier. Give me a nice crispy, salty, golden, potatoe-y stick of goodness any day.

North FLA Falcon

April 4th, 2011
9:19 am

Liquid Smoke is the most vile ingredient ever invented. Any chef that uses it is too lazy to smoke their own meat so instead they put in this nasty concoction. Avoid at all costs.