Friday, April 26, 2013

#BurgerDebate: Upscale Suburban Cleveland Edition / Michael Symon's B Spot Burgers

This past week work travels took me to suburban Cleveland. Like a lot of American cities, Cleveland is experiencing a food renaissance (coincidentally highlighted in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer). The contact for the company we were working for offered lots of great tips for restaurants, and reminded me that I was in Michael Symon country. My days were spent teaching, and evenings were spent prepping for teaching the next day; given my location and the work load, unfortunately I did not have a chance to get out and explore. Meals were in the client's cafeteria or my business-class hotel for the most part. They were serviceable, and one hotel dinner was actually quite good, but I was disappointed that I didn't have time to check out the scene.

Class was finished Thursday afternoon, though, and I wasn't due to fly back to Nashville until today. So, co-instructor Robert and I headed down the Interstate a few exits to check out an outpost of B Spot Burgers, Symon's casual pub. Symon was a key instigator in the Cleveland restaurant renaissance with Lolita, and has since gone on to open several other restaurants and to star in books (Michael Ruhlman's "... of a Chef" series) and various food-centric TV shows. I don't know if/when I'll ever make it back to Cleveland, so I leapt at the opportunity to check this chef off my list AND to continue the burger theme of the blog.

The B Spot closest to our suburban location was at Eton Mall. This is a relatively new, upscale indoor/outdoor mall. B Spot is wedged between a Barnes & Noble and an under-construction Tiffany. We entered the restaurant directly from the outside, but were led through the small restaurant to sit on a "sidewalk" along the interior of the mall. Along the way we passed the bar, which enjoyed a prominent spot near the center. The decor is a combination of rustic bare wood, metal, and eclectic retro and industrial fixtures.

The "B" in B Spot stands not only for burgers but for beer and bourbon as well. A small selection of wine and craft cocktails is also available. In addition to beef, a turkey burger and portobello burger is offered, as well as hot dogs, pulled pork, and other sandwiches. Salads, soups, and a number of sides / appetizers are also on the menu. Each table is decorated with a caddy containing six hefty squeeze bottles with ketchup, stadium mustard, and various sauces, including a coffee BBQ, a balsamic steak sauce (rather like a Worcestershire), and other house condiments.

I chose a basic burger, the Thin Lizzy (minus the dill pickles, of course - blech), with a side of onion rings. Robert got the New Jack City and house made chips. We sampled each others sides, and I liked the chips -- somewhat thick cut and not greasy at all, they were accompanied by a parmesan cheese dip. Robert commented that the combination tasted a bit like loaded potato soup, and I couldn't disagree. The onion rings were very good -- thick-sliced, and battered (rather than breaded), as is my preference. I'm still a sucker for Varsity onion rings, and they will always be my exemplar. These rings were different, but tasty and essentially worth the price and calories, though.

The burgers were excellent. They were a nice substantial size, and worth my while to cut in half to handle, but they were not outsized. The carefully-sourced meat was flavorful, and the bread and fixings were a worthy match. Was it "the best burger in America" as proclaimed by the SoBe Wine and Food Festival? I've not HAD every burger in America, but I'd say it was on par with the burger from DMK; the Au Cheval burger is still my favorite. Sorry, Michael!

We finished the meal with milkshakes, the only desserts on the menu. I had chocolate (extra chocolate, please) and Robert had a special that had bananas, nutella, whipped cream, and I don't remember what all. We walked away stuffed, and glad to have ventured out for a mini-celebration to mark the end of a gig.

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