The redevelopment of College Park has long been overdue, but it’s finally coming to fruition with the addition of several mixed-use developments along Route 1. From University View to The Varsity, the landscape of downtown College Park has changed dramatically from when I first attended as an undergraduate back in 1999.
With so much retail space now available in a prime location along a major thoroughfare, restaurateurs are taking advantage of the opportunity as there are thousands of customers just footsteps away from their businesses. From ChiDogO’s to Austin Grill Express to a soon-to-be-opened Sweetgreen, College Park looks far different compared to a decade ago.
One of the major highlights of the redevelopment thus far is the newest location of celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s burger joint. Having just opened Bobby’s Burger Palace in K Street last summer, the College Park location followed suit just a couple of months later. My friend Scott and I headed over to Bobby’s last week for a pregame meal before the Maryland basketball game that evening.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea as the line was nearly out the door, although it did move at an efficient pace. The basic burger starts at $6.75, but varieties such as the Miami Burger or Buffalo Style Burger will only cost you a dollar more. You can also have your burger “crunchified”, meaning the kitchen throws some potato chips atop the patty.
They also offer a rotating Burger of the Month, which is what I decided to try. For December, that meant a Pacific Northwest Burger: white American cheese, cremini mushrooms, and a red wine BBQ sauce. I asked it for it to be cooked medium, and also got a side of sweet potato fries too. The cashier gives you a number, and then they bring your meal to your table when the order is ready.
When the burger arrived, Scott instantly remarked how the kitchen “torched” my burger. He was right – the patty was well-done. Meanwhile, his medium-rare burger was prepared the way he asked, so I’m not really sure what happened there. On top of that, we both received our orders of fries a minute or two after they had served the burgers instead of all at once. Rather odd.
I would have sent the burger back, but we were short on time and the kitchen appeared slightly overwhelmed due to so many customers at once, so I just tried to enjoy it. The beef was of good quality, but it was the combination of the mushrooms, cheese, and BBQ sauce that was able to detract from the well-doneness of the patty. The bun, however, was disappointing as it was limp as soon it got to the table. The bottom half was especially soggy, so between that and the overcooked beef, it was a fairly pedestrian burger.
The sweet potato fries were fair, and while they were priced at $3 a serving, at least you receive a decent amount of them. The honey mustard horseradish sauce was a nice touch instead of reaching for the ketchup bottle. Speaking of which, Bobby’s offers nearly a half dozen sauces to top your burger with. The “burger sauce” might have been my favorite, with the chipotle ketchup as a close runner-up.
Our meal cost a little less than $24 for two burgers and two orders of fries. Not a bad value for two people, but honestly, I would take Ray’s Hell Burger any day of the week over Bobby’s. If Flay’s burger joint was the only game in town, then sure, but there are so many other places in the DC area that serve up a better burger for around the same price with much better quality and consistency. As for pregame meals, I’ll be sticking with Fishnet for the foreseeable future.