The Best Burger in Town

America’s obsession with juvenile food is subsiding.

Press your ear (or stomach) to the ground (as we do) and you’ll find the food media paying scant attention to tacos, pizzas and burgers these days.

People aren’t going apeshit over ramen like they were five years ago, cupcakes have been consigned to the corner (where they belong), small plates are sooo 2014, and Brobdingnagian milk shakes have been marginalized.

With any luck, perhaps one of these days the New York Times will end its decade-long love affair with David Chang.

In the meantime, Chang and his bao buns notwithstanding, grown up dining has returned. Classics are back.

If you require evidence, just look at what’s opened here in the past few months. Cipriani, Vetri and NoMad are nothing if not throwback dining experiences. Look past the modern industrial look of Factory Kitchen and what you’ll find is a classic Italian meal. The only thing modern about Mott 32 is the decor and the cocktail program.

Heck, some of these places even offer cheese at the end of your meal. How fin de siecle is that?

But some things never go out of style, and a great burger is one of them.

Amidst all the Eataly anticipation at the end of the year, a sizeable (300 seat) meat emporium quietly opened in the Palace Station hotel. Called BBD’s (Beers, Burgers, Desserts) it brought forth a gargantuan menu of everything from burgers and steaks to amazing bowls of duck ramen ($18) to never-seen-before dishes like Buffalo burnt chicken wings ($13):

On top of those, it also features probably the best beer selection in town (notice I said “best” not “biggest”), fried pickles and hot chicken. There’s a Philly cheese steak served with smoked onions ($15 and excellent) , a one-pound Bavarian pretzel, and even lamb gyros for those so inclined.

But the real stars of the show are the burgers. Three are offered: the dry-aged prime steakhouse burger ($19), a griddle burger ($10 single, $14 double) that seeks (and succeeds) at elevating the In-N-Out burger template, and a steamed burger ($8 single, $12 double) mimicking the chopped onion, grey meat magnificence of a White Castle slider.

They offer 20(!) different sauces (all made in-house), potatoes a number of ways (the classic french fries above, are potato perfection), three salads (who gives a fuck?), and the usual frivolous fat-filled fried stuff (onion rings, poppers, cheese sticks and such).

But your attention is drawn to the meat from the moment you walk past the butcher shop at the entrance, and that’s where your gaze should stay.

Those burgers are each superb. Made with in-house ground beef, juicy and packed with the kind of dense, mineral-rich beefiness that is but a wisp of memory in the hamburgers most people consume. I’ve said for years: the best burgers are always found in good steakhouses, because good steakhouses use the best beef and treat it right.

The beef here tastes like it could’ve come straight from Delmonico or CUT. The grind is coarse and the packing is just firm enough to hold together and sear properly, the better to retain the juiciness essential for proper burger apotheosis. I can’t remember when I’ve tasted better.

Seasonings are on-point, too, telling you that someone in the kitchen is paying close attention to the details.

As much as well love all of the cheeseburgers here, I have to admit the steamed mini-burgers (above) are my favorite. They taste like what White Castles would be if they were 3xs thicker, used great meat sandwiched in a superior bun and satisfied your cravings without laying in your stomach like a cheap, greasy brick. (The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’ve been parking booze in your gut all night.)

Those minis are not to be missed, but neither are any of these meat patty sandwiches. The beef in the dry-aged prime burger (above) is aged for 40-50 days and achieves that tinge of umami-laden gaminess true beef aficionados look for. The grilled beauties (not pictured) are next-level delicious as well — one bite and you might forswear In-N-Out forever.

Put them all together and you have a hamburger hamlet of unbridled greatness, the likes of which Vegas has never seen under one roof.

All of this is the handiwork of one Ralph Perrazzo — a Long Island chef (and Bradley Ogden alum) who won some burger battle on some food network show, paving the way for his expansion to Vegas. Sorry Ralph, but I don’t take those shows very seriously anymore, but your food is the real deal, and whether it’s juvenile or fashionable or not, I intend to eat many more of your burgers, and take them very very seriously while doing so.

(A burger lunch or dinner for two, without booze, should run between $25-$50, depending on how many sides or appetizers you tackle. The beer selection is for serious suds lovers.)

BBD’s

Palace Station Hotel and Casino

2411 West Sahara Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.221.6513

https://eatbbds.com/experience/

 

What’s Wrong With This Burger?

Bar Code Burger Bar has been getting a lot of buzz recently.
So we decided to try one (actually, two).
The one pictured above is called the “Bar Code Burger” — which signifies to us that it’s the standard bearer for the operation.
The other one was called the “Green Chile Cheese Burger”, and it signaled that the owner might know a thing or two about green chile cheeseburgers.
That flagship burger claims to made with a “proprietary blend” of short rib, brisket and chuck  — the former contributing fatty, richness (it was hoped), with the latter two ingredients supposedly bringing exquisite beefiness to the party. Don’t take my word for it, let’s read the menu description:
BAR CODE BURGER $11.95 — Proprietary short rib, brisket and chuck, Newcastle onion jam, smoked bacon aioli, blue cheese, arugula, pickled red onions & peppers.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
And it is…right up until your teeth pierce (and your palate wraps around) the juicy-but-too-tightly-packed meat.
That’s when you discover there’s too much and not enough going on at the same time. Shall we outline our bill of particulars? Oh yes we shall.
> The patty is too thick. 2+ inches by our estimation — which makes it at least 1/2 inch too much to get your mouth around.
> That patty is barely seasoned. If there was but a wisp of salt and pepper present, I’d be surprised. All of which makes for a very thick, very bland burger.
> All that promised beefiness was also AWOL.
> It was also overcooked and none-too tender, which is something you can get away with a thinner burger, but a sin with a big boy like this.
> The onion jam (sweet) and the pickled onions (sour) didn’t exactly fight each other, but they hardly did a one-two taste tango on the meat. Together they stood for the unpardonable (and all-too-common) offense of burger overload.
> As for the blue cheese, well, it was present in name only. There appeared to be a thin schmear of a white, sticky substance on my hamburger that bore a passing resemblance to some sort of cheese product, but the sharp, strong tang of actual blue cheese was harder to find than a high school diploma at a Trump rally. (A cheap, tasteless Sysco product masquerading as the real thing? YOU BET!)
> The arugula was unnecessary (it always is), and the primary flavor was provided by the smoky mayonnaise. (Somewhere, David Chang is beaming with pride.)
Too thick, unseasoned, overloaded, and none-too-beefy….and this is the burger everyone is raving about these days?
And don’t get me started about the highly-confused green chile cheeseburger — another example of how addition by subtraction could help a recipe. (No, I don’t need fried onion rings – even good ones – falling out of my burger bun.)
The owner also needs to use some Anaheim-New Mexican chiles with real kick, not these gringo-friendly poblanos. (Any New Mexican worth his salt knows you don’t put jalopy peppers on top of good New Mexican greens.)
They also commit another felony by placing the roasted peppers underneath the burger. THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT, PEOPLE!
To be fair, there is a lot to like about what they’re doing here. The buns are super fresh, as is the meat, everything is cooked to order, and the fries and sauces are fantastic. And having a home-grown burger bar as dedicated to quality as this is a real feather in our culinary cap.
But these burgers need work, and someone had to say it.
Zeus hath spoken.
BAR CODE BURGER BAR
1590 E. Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702.294.2633

BLUE RIBBON Re-booted

When Bruce and Eric Bromberg (pictured above) shuttered Blue Ribbon last year (after six years at The Cosmopolitan), few shed a tear for its demise. It was an attractive, if disjointed restaurant that always seemed in the throes of an identity crisis. Was it a lounge? A sushi bar? Two different sushi bars? Who knew and who cared? By trying to combine their two iconic New York City restaurants (their gutsy American bistro, and the separate Blue Ribbon Fish), the Brombergs achieved the confusing result of making the whole lesser than the sum of its parts. Not that it wasn’t good (the Brom-boys don’t know how to do “not good”), it just wasn’t focused.

Now they’ve re-opened, ditched the fish, and gotten back to what they do best – which is cooking the most ethereal, eclectic, American comfort food on the planet.

Blue Ribbon started twenty-five years ago in lower Manhattan. It practically invented the whole upscale American food thing (popularizing everything from bone marrow to fried catfish) and was known for the best burger in the business until Daniel Boulud came along with his foie gras-stuffed version, and got everyone on the burger bandwagon. Elevating simple food has always been the mission statement here, and artistic cooking for unfussy gourmands is what has made BR a critic’s (and chef’s) darling since Bill Clinton was President. Now, with its re-boot, BR has gotten back to basics, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Gone is the sushi, the dark lounge-y bar has been replaced with a bright, front-and-center friendly one, and the menu is back where it’s supposed to be: chock full of the specialties that made the Bromberg’s famous.

No one disdains something-for-everyone menus more than yours truly, but in these hands you can just close your eyes and point. Mazoh ball soup? They’ve got you covered? Fried oysters? Leeks vinaigrette? You won’t find better versions anywhere on Las Vegas Boulevard. Duroc pork ribs come sweetly glazed with their own mini-hibachi, the clam soup would make a Mainer proud, and the country pâté deserves to be in the charcuterie hall of fame.

The red (sea) trout with spätzle is also a thing of beauty, and the burger (pictured at top) is every bit as good as I remembered it….from 1993. We only tried one dessert, but they had us at “chocolate chip bread pudding.”

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American bistro cooking is everywhere these days, but the Brombergs did it first and they still do it better than anyone. There are certain restaurants that just belong in Las Vegas, and the new Blue Ribbon – which is really the old Blue Ribbon I’ve known and loved – is one of them.

BLUE RIBBON

The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino

702-736-0808

https://www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/restaurants/blue-ribbon