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Hey Bobby Flay

The Food Network star swings through town to open a new Bobby's Burger Palace at the Horseshoe Casino.

Bobby Flay’s latest restaurant venture opened its doors to Cincinnatians last night at the new Horseshoe Casino.

But first, pause, turn back the hands of time a little, and you can begin to paint a picture of the inspiration for Bobby’s Burger Palace. A young, pint-sized version of the world-renowned chef and television personality sitting next to his dad at a local burger joint, legs swinging, happily munching on a burger and fries.

“When I was a kid, burgers were my comfort food,” Flay said to the invite-only crowd testing out the country’s newest Burger Palace on Monday afternoon. “I consider it the ultimate sandwich, and it should be given the respect it deserves.”

For Flay, there are four main components to a quintessential burger: certified Angus beef, a soft bun, two slices of cheese (completely melted), and finally, it should be “crunchified.”

“As a kid, I always loved eating the cheese that drips down off the burger and onto the fries or chips. To me, that contrast of texture is what is often missing from burgers,” said Flay. “So we give you the option to ‘crunchify’ any burger on the menu by adding thin-sliced potato chips, for free.”

Flay described BBP—now with 14 U.S. locations, stretching from Cincy to New England—as a “fast, casual restaurant,” where patrons stand in line and select their grub from giant menus on the wall. After ordering, grab a number and find a seat along the restaurant’s serpentine table, created to induce interaction with the other customers.

The majority of the 10 burgers on the menu ($7–$8, all of which are also available as a turkey patty or chicken breast) were inspired by the famous flavors of cities that Flay has visited. The Miami burger—with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise—is pressed just like a Cuban sandwich, while the Santa Fe burger is layered with queso sauce, pickled jalapeños, and blue corn chips.

The Dallas burger, which I indulged in, had some Southern spice, coleslaw, Monterey Jack cheese, BBQ sauce, and pickles. It was just the right mouth-watering combination of juicy, flavorful, and crunchy.

And could there be a Cincinnati burger in the future?

“Maybe we will have a contest for what the Cincinnati burger might have,” Flay offered. “It could have some of Cincinnati’s famous chili on it.”

BBP’s menu also includes a Grilled Cheese Deluxe ($7.50), with tomato and bacon accompanying an array of cheeses, as well as a Crunch Salad ($7.50) piled with romaine lettuce, chopped veggies, tortilla chips, white cheddar cheese, and a balsamic dressing. There are also side options ($3) of beer-battered onion rings and french fries (hand-cut and soaked overnight), though both were firmly on the salty side. Those with high blood pressure (or a sensitive palate) should tread carefully.

However, it’s BBP’s shakes and malts ($5) that are the real danger here. Flay was unapologetic about the high calorie count, noting that they use 11 ounces of their own ice cream recipe in each one. I happily slurped down my Black & White shake faster than I thought humanly possible, but other tempting flavors include dark chocolate, coconut, mango, and even a few “spiked” options ($9), such as Vanilla Caramel Bourbon (made with Maker’s Mark, if you’re curious).

But Flay doesn’t merely want to entice people in with his notable name. He strives to have patrons crave his burgers after they leave and feel the pull to come back for more. He’s even experienced it himself.

“My order would be a crunchified L.A. Burger, fries, and the cult favorite, a pistachio shake,” Flay said. “To me, that’s the quintessential BBP meal.”

Obviously he would know best, though to be honest, it was the back of his Bobby’s Burger Palace T-shirt that summed it up best: Get Crunchified.