Burgers & Gelato in University City
None of us could agree on a place to eat tonight. My friend was leaning towards Mexican, but my husband and I felt Mexicaned-out from our trip to Santa Fe. I wanted to try Marabella's meatballs, but my son wasn't with us, and I hated for him to miss it. My husband said he'd be okay with barbecue, but my friend and I weren't bowled over by it. We thought & thought and looked & looked at magazines, then came upon Bobby's Burger Palace. It sounded ridiculous before I learned that it was Bobby Flay's palace, and not just any old burger joint.
We drove about 7 miles from the museum to BBP, which really isn't a lot for us NJ folks, though seems endless in the city. My friend regaled us with both childhood memories of local places we passed by (like the ice skating rink) and pointed out the touristy spots that I wasn't aware of (the high-end shopping mecca on narrow Walnut Street). By the time we got to our destination, we were so hungry that it didn't really matter if we ended up eating burgers by Bobby or Ronald (McD's was down the block), but I was instantly excited when I saw what the fuss was all about.
BBP's location in close proximity to U.Penn explains the lively crowd inside. They have a protocol for their dining experience, and I must admit I was stumped at step #2 as I looked up at the looming menu board. Did I want my burger "crunchified"? Was I feeling Philly, Napa, or Miami? Did I want it on a bun or on a salad? Did I want my dessert with my meal (in the form of a shake) or did I want to stick my husband with designated-driver duties and get a beer? I knew a line was swelling behind me (step #1 is to get in line), so I decided I'd go with a crunchified Napa burger with an Anchor Steam. My husband and friend both got the blue cheese burger, my daughter got her old standby of grilled cheese, and we all shared regular fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings-- so big I had to handle them like mini burgers.
Food aside, the interior of Bobby's makes for a really fun stop for a group of friends who have a hankering for burgers and are in need of their daily dose of "cool". And I say "stop" because you really can't sit around chatting for hours. Once you're done with your burgers, they really pressure you to leave by clearing away the plates as soon as you take your last bite. Step #3 after ordering is to find a seat (and wait for your food)... maybe they should add a step #4 to round things out... eat your food and get out, thankyouverymuch.
P.S. To "crunchify" a burger is to have potato chips on top of it. My Napa burger had goat cheese, honey mustard, and watercress in it (the watercress was almost nonexistent). They have different sauces on the table to change up your experience, all smartly labeled with BBP: jalapeno, chipotle, steak, mustard, and ketchup.
After BBP we just moved over to Capogiro for gelato. This location had the feeling of a Starbucks (I liked the Washington Square West location better) but the gelato is the same. I enjoyed reading the story about the Italian who met the New Jersey-an, who both eventually created Capogiro. The unique flavors and textures of their offerings prove it is a true labor of love.