FLIP Burger Boutique Buckhead - 2014

Richard Blais' overwrought second Atlanta location

When FLIP Burger Boutique (3655 Roswell Road, 404-549-3298) opened its first location on Atlanta's Westside, crowds were eager to get a taste of chef Richard Blais' cooking, especially since he'd achieved national recognition thanks to a stint on Bravo TV's "Top Chef." Foie gras liquid nitrogen milk shakes, steak tartare burgers, and other unorthodox creations wooed customers looking for fun with a hopeful side of celebrity. I was a fan of the first FLIP. Delightfully weird burgers. Fun music. Framed flat-screen TVs. Booze. What more could you ask for?

Fast-forward two years, and Blais is back on Bravo and has the beginnings of a weird burger kingdom. After opening a second location in Birmingham, Ala., the third location popped up in Buckhead in mid-October with chef Jason McClure (a longtime member of Blais' crew) at the executive helm.

If you can snag a parking spot (it has taken me up to 30 minutes), you'll find a carbon copy of the original, except slightly larger and somehow less cool as a result. A shockingly loud wall of electro-hipster sound greets you at the door where the intensely chipper hostess will inevitably tell you there's a wait (unless you get there on the early side of lunch or dinner service). Scanning the tables yields a bit of truth about the restaurant: Go ahead and serve all the creative burgers you want, people are just going to order the simplest thing on the menu. I've strayed from the apparent norm and, after three visits, have eaten my way through most of the menu's many selections.

More often than not, the fried sides — vodka-battered onion rings, fried pickles and eggplant fries — taste more of leaden fried bread than whatever ingredient lies beneath. I have had one order (out of three) of crispy and fluffy hand-cut french fries. Intensely sour Brussels sprouts arrive soggy with barely any hints of green. The wedge salad is an inherently beautiful dish, but the blue cheese dressing draping the iceberg, tomato, and Benton's bacon tower is woefully watery and lacks punch.

The burger situation is equally disappointing. The Kbq — a whimsical spin on Korean barbecue — is so salty you can't get past one bite. The churrasco — a wood-grilled grass-fed burger topped with grilled sweetbreads, chimichurri, criolla salsa, and flank steak sported totally raw flank steak and a messy, salty jumble of other ingredients. A shrimp tempura patty topped with wasabi, ponzu, pickled daikon, carrot, and sprouts is a sloppy mess of Asian-influenced items muddled together to the point where any hint of shrimp is lost. The pâté melt tastes like the bastard offspring of those frozen Swedish meatballs from IKEA and Christmas potpourri. Even the mushroom and swiss — one of the simpler burgers — collapsed under the weight of excess seasoning. Each burger tastes as if someone said, "Dude, let's figure out a way to cram a bunch of crap on one plate so the diner can't identify a single ingredient." All of these flavors can be yours for around $60 for a party of three at lunch.

Every meal I've had at FLIP's Buckhead location has been overly salty, overly sweet, overly complicated, overcooked, overfried and just overdone. It's safe to say I'm over it, but it barely matters. It's obvious that Blais' sweetheart appeal is enough to fill the seats of whatever and wherever he attaches his name.

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