Today, upscale build-your-own burger joint Flip opened its first location in Bloomingdale's flagship store in New York City. Three of us Serious Eaters headed to Midtown East during our lunch break to bring you a quick look at their burgers.
But first, you have to find Flip. Since it was the first day of operation, there were no signs to guide us to its location, which was tucked in a corner near what looked like an errant an escalator in the mid-level of the lower level men's department. Huh? If you get lost, just ask an employee for help. It's not marked by much aside from the "Wait to Be Seated" sign, although by the time you reach that sign you would have already noticed the seats.
The setting feels a bit like an airport: shiny and clean, low-ceilinged, with soft fluorescent lighting. It's comfortable enough, although it won't make you forget that you're in the basement of a department store.
Flip offers four pre-made burgers for those who can't decide on their own combination of toppings, meat, and bread. And there are a lot to choose from: six buns, nine patties, 12 sauces, eight cheeses, and four other toppings. We each ordered a custom burger, which start at $12 for a "Hearty" (short rib blend) or "Sweet" (brisket blend) and go up to $15 for a "Refined" (American-bred wagyu blend). The beef is provided by Pat LaFrieda and each patty is seven ounces of chopped meat cooked on a flat top grill. The price of each burger includes a complimentary sauce, tomato slice, lettuce leaf, and pickle. Cheese, other toppings, and sides are extra.
"Hearty" short rib blend with American cheese on a plain broche bun with a side of caramelized onions ($13): We asked for medium rare and in return got a moist, pink burger on the edge of "rare" (which was perfectly fine with us). The outside of the patty exhibited a slight char. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the meat had very little seasoning and could've used more salt, although the cheese must have helped a little bit in the flavor department. Juiciness = good. Flavor = not so good. The toasted brioche bun was perfectly fine: soft and adept at soaking up the burger's juices.
"Exotic" lamb and merguez blend on a plain brioche bun with a side of pickle relish ($13): It didn't taste at all like lamb or merguez to the point that we're not even sure that they gave us the right burger.
"Sweet" brisket blend with Swiss cheese on a caramelized onion and sage brioche with a side of garlic aioli ($13): Even though we ordered this burger medium rare, it came out more like medium, causing the meat around the edge to be too dry. Like the "hearty" burger, the patty didn't have much flavor on its own. While I would have never thought of ordering a flavored bun, the bun ended up providing most of the flavor, for better or worse.
We liked all of the free burger toppings we ordered, mostly the garlic aioli that seemed to concentrate a clove of garlic in every smear. It's addictive if you're a garlic fan.
Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise were also complimentary.
You can choose from three kinds of fries: skinny, steak, and chubby (crinkle-cut steak fries). At our waitress's suggestion and for better crust-to-innards ratio, we went with the skinny fries ($5). They weren't anything special, but they fulfilled our craving for crunchy, slightly salty potato sticks and were a great vehicle for eating the garlic aioli.
The thick vanilla milkshake ($7) passed the standing straw test (that is, successfully supported a straw standing upright) and had a strong vanilla bean flavor.
Our meal ended with free red and yellow buttons resembling a subdued In-N-Out color palette.
While the food at Flip wasn't bad, we can't imagine that anyone would go out of their way to eat there. After tax and tip you'll spend more than $20 per person if you want more than a burger, and we can't say it's worth the money. Then again, if you're shopping at Bloomingdale's you probably aren't looking for a bargain anyway. Our waitress told us that Bloomingdale's would plan to open Flip in other stores depending on how well the New York City location is received.
For more photos and a PDF of the menu, visit Grub Street.
Mid-level of the men's lower level at Bloomingdale's 1000 3rd Avenue, New York NY 10022 (b/n East 59th and 60th Streets; map) 212-705-2993