Food & Drink

Table Talk: Bobby Flay's burger is matriculating at College Park

Did you hear the one about the hamburger that went to college?

Bobby's Burger Palace opens Thursday in College Park, the seventh in a small but quickly expanding group of restaurants launched in July 2008 by the chef, restaurateur and television celebrity Bobby Flay. Upscale burger joints are huge right now, and Bobby's Burger Palace is opening in a particularly crowded field of upscale burger restaurants.

What distinguishes Bobby's Burger Palace is the clear evidence of a chef's personal touch. The American flavors menu is one of its distinguishing point. The Sente Fe burger gets topped with queso sauce, jalapenos and blue corn chips; the L.A. Burger comes with avocado and watercress. Flay's own travels inspired these specialty burgers, the chef says.

Crunchified burgers are a draw, too. "If you go 'crunchify,' you're not going to go back," Flay said. Basically, any Burger Palace burger can be "crunchified" with the addition of potato chips. "I always ended up with potato chips on my burger," Flay said.

"It's about burgers, fries and shakes," Flay said. Hand-cutting the French fries is essential," Flay said, "and soaking them, draining them, blanching them in 300-degree oil and cooking them at 375. It's a lot harder for us to, but it's worth it." The milkshakes come in fun flavors, and can be spiked with bourbon and rum, but Flay said, "We found that a good milkshake has a lot ice cream."

But burger fanatics will be judging the burger itself. Flay is ready: "I've been a burger guy my whole life. When chefs go out for diner, they get burgers, not foie gras."

If you've ever been served a burger with the cheese only half melted, Flay feels your pain. That's why there's a sign hanging in the kitchens of Bobby's Burger Palaces that says, "Bobby Says Melt the Cheese Completely. If you've ever wondered why your burger is on a hard artisanal roll, Flay is promising you a soft, sesame-seed bun.

But nothing disappoints a burger lover, Flay included, like a burger that hasn't been seasoned.

"People don't season food enough. It's kind of shocking. It's the thing I say more than anything else in my kitchen." The burgers at his restaurants are "liberally seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. "Food needs salt," Flay said, "and lots of salt and pepper form a crust on the burger."

And why College Park?

Flay said it was the success of the Philadelphia location, near the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, that convinced him. "We've had great success at that location," Flay said. "College students really want to eat this food. They can afford it, and it's quick."

Located at the Varsity at College Park, Bobby's Burger Palace is at 8150 Baltimore Ave. in College Park. Call 240-542-4702, or go to

The Voltaggios play the stadium The Voltaggio Brothers will appear one night only, Oct. 18, at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick.

VOLT Night at Harry Grove Stadium is a party the Frederick natives are throwing in advance of the release of their cookbook, "VOLT Ink.: Recipes. Stories. Brothers." The book has an official release date of Oct. 25, but the Voltaggio brothers will be signing copies at the party. The event will include performances by the Regal Beagles Yacht Rock Club and Blatant 80s, along with a FACKA (Frederick Adult Co-ed Kickball Association) Doubleheader. The concession food will be the Voltaggios' take on ballpark food, and beer from Frederick's Flying Dog Brewery and Brewer's Alley will be for sale

Tickets are $8 for adults and free for children 8 and under, but children must have tickets. Call 301-662-0013

Back in Baltimore Taste of the Nation, a traveling culinary event, returns to Baltimore on Saturday after a two-year hiatus. The event will be held at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. One of 40 such dinners held across the country each year, Taste of the Nation Baltimore will raise funds for the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, which is dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

Chefs from Michael Mina's eagerly awaited Wit & Wisdom, the signature restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel, will be there, along with representatives from Pierpoint, Charm City Cakes, B&O Brasserie and Clementine.

Taste of the Nation events have been held since 1988, but this is only the second time for Baltimore. The first was a July 2008 dinner held at the American Visionary Art Museum. The Saturday dinner will coincide with Share Our Strength's Conference of Leaders, which is being held at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel Sunday and Monday. Gov. Martin O'Malley will be honored at the Sunday night Leadership Awards Dinner.

Admission is $95 and $150 for VIP tickets. Call 877-268-2783.