Today marks another milestone in DC's ongoing burger boom — the grand opening of Bobby's Burger Palace, celebrity chef Bobby Flay's fast-casual chain known for its regional burgers and the option to "crunchify" them by adding potato chips as a topping. Eater chatted with Flay about his plans for DC, his evaluation of the competition and how he plans to get in on those First Family cheeseburger runs.
So what brought you to DC?
A couple of things. I mean, first of all, we opened up outside of New York City. I live in New York and so I wanted to open up close to New York, especially for the first one or two. The first one was Long Island, the next two were New Jersey, then we opened in Connecticut. And then we moved down a little bit down the coast to Philadelphia. And so Washington, DC, from a geographical standpoint, was definitely the sort of next in line. But, at the same time, Washington has become such an important food city. And so I was happy to join the fray, so to speak.
DC's been experiencing a bit of a burger explosion. How are you evaluating the competition?
We don't think of it that way. Burgers are popular, period. They're popular for every demographic, every age group, every economy. Burgers are just one of those things that America relates to. I consider myself a burger guy. It's the thing that I crave more than anything else. If I'm going out to dinner after working on the line until 11 o'clock, I'm not looking for foie gras and caviar. I'm looking for a cheeseburger. It's the thing that I crave. In terms of competition in Washington, DC, I was born and bred and made my career in New York. It's hard to get a more competitive city than that. I think competition is healthy. I think if there's lots of people opening burgers in Washington, DC, then it's probably a good place to open because it means that there's some demand for burgers. We're just going to be the kind of burger place that we are. I think whoever else is opening burgers will be their own kind of place. Hopefully we'll all have our own customers.
What sets yours apart?
Well, I don't know if it sets it apart, but my focus is basically on telling a short story on each burger in terms of different places in America. I've been fortunate enough to travel America three or four times over. I know that this country has so many great regional specialties. So we're just telling a great food story on top of each burger. So you can get a Santa Fe burger or a Dallas burger or a Buffalo burger or a Napa Valley burger and sort of pulling obvious ingredients from those places and creating a flavor on top of a burger.
And I understand you've also got a location in College Park coming up. How is that going?
It's going well. It's under construction. This will actually be our second campus location. We're in Philadelphia, but we're actually on the University of Penn. It seems to be working very well there, so we're going to give University of Maryland a try as well.
Is there any chance of you bringing any of your other concepts here?
It's definitely possible. I think Mesa Grill or Bar Americain would work really well in Washington, DC. If somebody came up with a really good space and a fair landlord, we would definitely consider it because I have to be here anyway. And I really like this city. It's a totally dynamic city.
The Obama family has been known to go out for burgers here. Are you guys trying to get in on that action?
I was lucky enough to cook with the President about two years ago on the White House Lawn. For about 15 minutes he cooked with me during his Father's Day initiative. And then I was partners with Cristeta Comerford, the executive chef of the White House, in an Iron Chef battle. I've invited everybody to come for some burgers and, you know, if they want to bring the President and the First Lady and the kids with them, that'd be cool with me. We'd love to have them.