Wednesday, December 16, 2009

B Spot Burgers

28699 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
(216) 292-5567
www.bspotburgers.com


by Beau Cadiyo

Bite: Michael Symon's name on a restaurant no longer means it's dependably good. For a better burger, go across the parking lot to Fleming's.


***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***

25 February 2010
5:05 p.m.

In comments to this post, "JB" wrote that the Boca Burger is gone from the B-Spot menu, and that it has been replaced by an absurdly greasy portabello mushroom burger, so disgusting that his pet pig would not eat it.

If true, some might think that this is a victory for the Cleveland Sandwich Board over Michael Symon. However, I don't think it is. If anything, it is a victory of good ol' common sense and self-interest over hubris and an unexplainable lapse of judgment. I think it likely that Mr. Symon realized that by trying to pass off a frozen, store-bought patty under his own name, he was basically telling people, "I'm Michael Symon, celebrity chef, and I can get away with serving you frozen, individually wrapped pressed-food patties for grievously inflated prices just because it has my name on it! Eat it, stupid star-struck consumer, then praise me for being a culinary genius!" Then, in a moment of reflection - I'm imagining something like when Derek Zoolander looked into the puddle after losing to Hansel - Symon probably asked himself, "Who do I think I am?" Then I see...I see...the ball is cloudy...I see the next day, when Mr. Symon realized that his name was losing cache among discerning consumers, and that he should probably at least try to deliver something besides reheated patties.

Again, the commenter "JB" noted that the new vegetarian alternative is not very good. He also noted that his pet pig wouldn't touch it, but that the little oinker loved the bread. Even if it really is crap, though, at least this time it seems to be Michael Symon crap - something that he decided to put some thought into. For finally putting thought into what he is serving, Mr. Symon should be applauded.

Rumors that B-Spot has changed their bread remain unsubstantiated.

Best,
Beau

###

Original review:
After hiking at Chapin in Kirtland for a few hours, Frank Hoxha and I tried to get a burger and fries at some restaurant on SOM Center Road which bills itself as "a fine dining establishment." The problem is that whenever I go there to dine, it's closed, and this was no exception. We then tried Europa, but they were serving brunch and wouldn't open their kitchen for another hour. "Forget it," I said, "lets get food at Trader Joe's and I'll cook."

We drove up Chagrin and walked up to Eton. Something I saw out of the corner of my eye was off; instead of the bright, open windows of Coldstone Creamery I saw tinted, imposing windows and a dark doorway. "BURGERS BRATS BEER" and "B-SPOT" broadcast from the blackness. I gravitated toward it, and Frank asked if we were going. I nodded, entranced, like adulte Roland to the Dark Tower.

Inside, we sat at the central bar. Above us were faux motorcycle parts, pretending to be stamped out of the metal; the lab stools we sat on pulled up against a concrete bar top. A giant beer-can mural, "B" spelled out in red cans, dominated one wall, graffiti art dominated another, and a third opened up into the mall. In the middle of the room was a giant stag-antler chandelier reminiscent more of an Abercrombie and Fitch store than a burger joint. Things started to look familiar - a Lola Burger, Symon and Michael were tossed casually throughout the menu and on a card proclaiming the house rules. "Excuse me," I said to the bartender, "Is this a Michael Symon restaurant?" "Yes, it is - you stumbled into a Michael Symon restaurant without even knowing it!" he exclaimed, smiling like a salesman.

We looked down the menu. The burgers all looked reasonably interesting, but none stood out as a must-have revolution in Burger Dynamics(tm) - that is, until I saw the veggie burger. Of course! Since That Place was closed, and L'Albatros took over, I hadn't had a truly great veggie burger. Michael Symon, of all people, would be the one to pick up the fake meat mantle! But...could he? I was hopeful: "Excuse me," I said to the bartender, "Are the veggie burgers made on-site?" He shook his head. "They're Boca," he said, for the first time not assuming a guise of pride and confidence. I blinked, trying to hide my shock. Boca burgers? Michael Symon would create a burger joint, brand it with his name, and then serve perhaps the most unappetizing frozen veggie burgers available? It jarred with what I'd read the day before in his new book, advice from the man himself to buy fresh, organic, and local. I looked back at the menu, talked it over with Frank, and picked the Shroomage ($9) with some fries ($3). "This one better be amazing," I thought. I was famished.

While waiting, we talked over the interior design and location. What struck me was that this seemed about as far from Symon's other restaurants as one could get. Lola opened as an extremely high-class place in the middle of an area experiencing "redevelopment"; Lolita picked up Lola's special spot in Tremont. They set the standard for the areas, too; next to Lola, for example, La Strada - otherwise quite attractive - looks tawdry. Downtown and Tremont are nicer now, but there are still some parts that don't feel that good or that safe - that still feel a little gritty, even though they've been mostly gentrified. The Shops at Eton Place are the polar opposite - Chagrin Boulevard is about as white and suburban as one could get. B-Spot seemed to be trying to bring a bit of sanitized grit to the neighborhood, but the exposed metal, the beer cans, the stag chandelier all felt fake, non-Symonesque. More confusions came out: while B-Spot has a high-school diner throwback atmosphere to it, when we were there, it was patronized almost exclusively by families and older couples and staffed by 20- and 30-somethings. This, I realized, was the true Symon franchise; Lola is patronized by businesspeople, Lolita by older hipsters. Neither can be copied and then exported with ease. B-Spot is the version that he can replicate and take to every mall in America if he wants to. However, looking around Eton, it started to feel more ridiculous - B-Spot is sandwiched between Barnes & Noble, The Powder Room Makeup Oasis and Boutique and Europa International Salon-Spa. I began to have visions of the genesis of the restaurant: a middle-aged suburban housewife was married to a successful businessman. They have connections, and, somewhat bored, she decided to get Michael Symon to open up a restaurant nearer to her 10-acre lot so that she wouldn't have to travel so far to eat his brand. They put up some money, he signed off on their design and Coldstone Creamery closed. I looked to the right and recognized them: next to us were a 50-something couple, drinking beer and sharing a salad. It was simply a wide, shallow bowl of lettuce, with a few rings of onions, a tomato, mushroom and feta cheese on top, perhaps with olive oil and vinegar. Frank's face scrunched up when they started moaning orgasmically with every bite; Symon had apparently hit their B-Spots. "It's just a bowl of lettuce," Frank hissed at me.

The burger and fries arrived. The small portion of Lola fries were good, but nothing stupendous, and certainly not worth $3 - McDonald's up the street could have sprinkled rosemary on theirs and it would have been as tasty for far less. We sampled the six sauces which were placed in front of us in squeeze bottles and rejected them all - most were apparently house-made, but all tasted heavily of powdered curry. The fries were better on their own. Biting into the burger, juice squirted out - a good sign. However, after chewing through a strong charcoal flavor, I was left with sticky bread smeared across my teeth. "Excuse me," I said to the bartender, "what kind of bun is this?" "Orlando Egg," he replied, grinning widely. Orlando? Imagine another celebrity chef proudly embracing boca burgers and mass-produced buns in his restaurant. Perhaps it wasn't even pride - perhaps he was flaunting it to other celebrity chefs, showing them how powerful his name was: who else but Michael Symon could sell a boca burger on Orlando bread for $7? I kept eating, determined to find something to like about the sandwich. Burger, bun, griddled onions, portabella mushroom cap...I swore there was supposed to be another topping. Only in the last two bites was I reminded what that something was: bleu cheese. It was strong, but there was just a tiny pocket of it, nestled within the onions, and not enough to flavor more than those two bites. Frank had a bite of my burger and a few fries; later, she said that she entered hungry and left not wanting to eat. I finished, left a tip and we left.

On the way out, we passed families and couples seated around tables, most not talking. They were all waiting, with the sort of blank, expectant stares one might see at political rallies or tent revivals. They were there to worship Symon. I felt like we had temporarily joined a mass movement but were escaping the fold, losing only 40 minutes and $15. I wanted to cry out to them to stop, to be critical, to think about what they were doing. I didn't fear for their safety, though; Kool-Aid wasn't listed among the available drinks.

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

38 comments:

Heidi Robb said...

Having made all of the house sauces multiple times while testing them for Symon's book, I can assure you there is not any curry powder in the recipes. A couple of them are cumin-forward and maybe that is what you are tasting.

Anonymous said...

from handheld_
it is like flipping through radio stations only finding angry right wingers yahooing and pop country, another blogger who obviously knows how to use a computer to type words and entertain themselves as opposed using a blog to report and inform and agreeably entertain others. glib shblib.
i truly believe a food blogger would know michael opened a burgee joint. uncannily a sandwich blogger new not nor can let go as read in many of the bloggers blogs, of past restaurants. is the blog a comparative analysis of sequential restaurant tenants or about the food,service and environment? the burgers at bspot are tasty,the concept simple, accessable, fun executed consistently being open only a few weeks and into the hilt of the holiday shopping season in a hyperspending quality retail district (diverse as well. easy on the drive thru demographic survey) and good perceived value looking at the other dining options surrounding. how long were you hiking before tge arrival, 4 maybe 5 years? please,for all of us and yourself, pick up and read an entire new york times, send twenty bucks to public radio, increase your knowledge and eat more than subs and prefab groceria that you will heat and call your own, and properly reconsider your vocation as a sandwich blogger. we thank you in advance.

AS said...

This is brilliant! I especially enjoyed the sentence, "uncannily a sandwich blogger new not nor can let go as read in many of the bloggers blogs, of past restaurants." The punctuation, spelling, word choice and word placement are all really interesting. I'm still working on figuring out what it all means, but if you want to write for us, please let me know!

Yours truly and sincerely, etc.,
Beau

AS said...

Heidi -

Which ones have you made? And which ones are in the squeeze bottles at B-Spot?

Best,
Beau

Bite Buff said...

How interesting. I haven't tried it for myself yet, but this is the first negative review that I've seen. Now I really want to get out there and see it for myself!

Bridget Callahan said...

I have to respectfully disagree about the burgers. The friend I went there with is one of those guys who never gets his burger cooked the way he wants it, and his was perfect. My red hot burger, which is the only one I can attest to, was fucking awesome, really. And I've never been a fan of the fries, but the fondue chips are a much better choice I'm sure, cause we scarfed them.

The locale is creepy though.

Heidi Robb said...

Of the six sauces offered in the caddy, I've prepared the steak sauce, Lola ketchup, ShaSha sauce, coffee bbq. The other two offerings are stadium mustard and ketchup.

The housemade sauce recipes are all available in the Live to Cook book.

Now I'm craving a Thin Lizzy burger.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your very honest post. I am glad you are not just on the Symon bandwagon and gave an honest review, since all of the other blogs I read repeatedly praise him for serving mediocre food. I haven't been to b-spot but am looking forward to trying, I did find Bar Symon to be a disappointment this summer.

LoafingOaf said...

What to make of this review?

First of all, why would you think Michael Symon is the one to "pick up the fake meat mantle"? Michael Symon is all about real meat. He calls the vaggie burger the "Why?" burger on the B Spot menu for a reason. It's obviously just there because sometimes a group of diners find themselves with a vegetarian and they need something to order, too. The menu eve suggests you can get free bacon on the veggie burger....hint hint!

I also don't get why this review is penalizing the restaurant for being near a Barnes & Noble. If the reviewer cares about Cleveland cousine so much, maybe he'd note tha the B Spot is along a road that has some of the best and most diverse restaurants in the region. Paladar (Latin American), Peppermint (Thai), Shuheih (Japanese), Giovanni's (Italian), Marbella (Spanish), Corky & Lenny's (Jewish), etc.

Furthermore, I think the buns are quite good, and they've obviously been custom made for the resuarant (if you say otherwise, please tell me where I can buy 'em cuz I want some!). If they happen to be made by Orlando, so what? It's a local company, so good! They tasted good to me.

The reviewer states: I looked to the right and recognized them: next to us were a 50-something couple, drinking beer and sharing a salad. It was simply a wide, shallow bowl of lettuce, with a few rings of onions, a tomato, mushroom and feta cheese on top, perhaps with olive oil and vinegar. Frank's face scrunched up when they started moaning orgasmically with every bite; Symon had apparently hit their B-Spots. "It's just a bowl of lettuce," Frank hissed at me.

That's amazing! You judged a salad not by actually tastin it yourself, but by your prejudices against the type of person you witnessed enjoying it! How dumb can this review get?

And: Chagrin Boulevard is about as white and suburban as one could get.

Chagrin Blvd. is certainly suburban, and certaintly in close proximity to a lot of wealth, but it certainly is not "as white as one can get". Well, I'm not sure exactly what your bigoted mind's definition of "as white as one can get" is, but if ay group is dominant in that neighborhood I'd say it's probably Jewish-Americans.

Anyway, the burgers are fantastic. The beef used has obviously been carefully selected and uniquely blended, because it doesn't taste like the beef of any burger I've ever had before. I'm not crazy about the Lola fries, but the onion rings are pretty much perfect onion rings and the milkshakes are terrific. Little touches on the burgers, such as the pickled ren onions, are wonderful as well.

But, since you panned the salads not by actually tasting one, but by being prejudiced against the type of person you witnessed praising one next to you, I'm wasting my time here. You intended to go against Michael Symon hype from the get-go, and a tasty burger in a relaxed and fun environment wasn't gonna change your mind.

I mean, how silly can one get when reviewing a burger joint: I wanted to cry out to them to stop, to be critical, to think about what they were doing.

Dear Lord! Maybe they just were bored from the usual Your Truly burgers down the road and were excited to try a different kind of burger, have some drinks, and have a good time?

And maybe they don't want some idiot sitting nex to them being all, Frank's face scrunched up when they started moaning orgasmically with every bite; Symon had apparently hit their B-Spots. "It's just a bowl of lettuce," Frank hissed at me.

Did it ever dawn on you that before you called that couple stupid for so obviously enjoying the salad they were sharing, you should have, like, tried the salad yourself? As it stands, all this review tells me is the couple sitting next to you absolutely loved their salad. I'll have to try one of the salads next time I stop in! :)

LoafingOaf said...

Oh, and btw, the Lola Burger's bun at the Lola restaurant is on a Bay's english muffin that you can buy at any Heinen's. So what?

Anonymous said...

LoafingOaf is missing the whole point. Michael Symon's name is supposed to mean quality, taste and freshness. By serving cheap shit, he's showing that his restaurant, his name and his reputation don't mean anything. If he started serving WalMart beef patties, normal people would dismiss it - but people like you, on their knees ready to tongue-bathe the foreskin of celebrity, would suck them up. If he took a shit in a cup, you'd probably ask for a spoon and a video camera so you could put it on YouTube for your kids to show their friends short-bus friends. If the point is that it's a burger joint, then the salads are probably plastic-wrapped, watered down garbage from Marc's, and you'd probably be happy paying an extra $20 for it to be covered in Michael Symon's enema water.

I've been to Lola, Lolita and B-Spot trying to figure out why they're so popular. You can get way better food minutes away from any of these places. But if you don't care about food, and you're just looking to be a fame groupie, I guess that's your deal, dude.

AS said...

Anonymous -

"tongue-bathe the foreskin of celebrity"???

Yours truly and sincerely, etc.,

Beau

Anonymous said...

(P.S.- Chapin's in Kirtland. ^_^)

AS said...

Anonymous -

Noted and changed! Thank you!!!

Best,
Beau

Anonymous said...

Even Subway bakes its own bread! And McDonald's has its own beef mixed special for its stores! What a crock!

jb said...

Gosh why so nasty and why so hateful towards peeps with a 10 acre lot. Michael Symon cannot be bought. No bored housewife ass kissed her way into restaurant heaven with Mikey. The place is what it is. I like it. I like to run up there have a shot and a veggie burger and go back to my 10 acre lot and ride my horse.

Joel said...

I can't help but to agree, albeit not fully, with your review.

Yes, shamefully, Symon does not practice what he preaches, serving Boca Burgers and mass-produced Orlando roles. This is disappointing to say the least, though I'm not sure enough, on principle alone, to stop me from patronizing the establishment.

The mall-like, synthetically constructed atmosphere pales in comparison to both Lola and Lolita. I don't imagine anybody can refute that issue. It is somewhat reminiscent of faux-ethnic restaurant in a Vegas hotel or a nice Chi-Chis (God I miss that place).

And certainly, the frustration from such a limited array of truly original dishes is only exacerbated by (from my experience and that of my tablemates) burgers and fries that are merely deserving of adjectives such as "um...Good."

I cannot help but to think, however, that the bulk of the frustration of this review lies in the fact that Michael Symon's name is attached to B-Spot. Admittedly, I think alot of people's expectations were contingent on this fact (and, quite frankly, understandably so). Nonetheless, if you take away this simple fact, the meal was a somewhat pleasant. A "good" burger, "good" fries, fairly good service with a knowledgeable staff, a pleasant, albeit somewhat cheesy atmosphere and a fantastic, hoppy amber ale for around $15.

As a young professional, I am not rushing to go back, especially with the saturation of restaurants in that particular area. I am not, however, so distraught with the experience as this reviewer is and boycotting the restaurant on principle alone. I also think it is probably a "safe" place to take the kids for a bite, where they can have the novelty of eating at a "TV star's" restaurant without the usual price tag.

Bottom Line: It is what it is; a burger joint in a mall. For the illiterate (who consequently can't read Michael Symon's name with every turn of the head) it would surely be a different experience. I am disappointed and expected more out of my experience, as did the reviewer. However, I am not sure that Symon expected true foodies to feel any differently.

Thanks for the review Beau, and keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

its michael symon what do you expect

Marcus said...

You know what... If I opened up a "burger" restaurant I wouldn't serve a fucking veggie burger either! I'm sick of veggie weiners, bacon, bologna, turkey and ever other veggie look-a-like. You don't see meatatarians forming ground round into celery hearts do you? Anyway, next diatribe... The burgers, at the B-spot (clever name btw) are quite good. I tried the Symonsays... (burger) and it was, I'd say, fair. My wife had the Reuben burger thingy which she loved. I think the fries are a toned down version of the ones at Lola (almost seemed frozen to me). I think but for the fact the restaurant was located in a very expensive rent district, one could get the burger AND fries for $9 or so. I like the "pickle" bar concept.

FWIW Lolita was one of the best restaurants I first tried in this city and, unfortunately I've found it to decline somewhat. I've also found Lola to be very good but not great anymore. I'm used to it though... Every time we find a restaurant we like it starts to slide. Damnit.

P.S. Mr. Symon, for God's sake get a new pastry chef!

jb said...

you cannot catch cancer if you do not eat meat...and anyway they scrubbed the yummy veggie burger for a disgustingly oily portabella "burger" Yuk. So its off to Chrissie Hynde's yummy vegan place for a yummy veggie burger. Booze btw is vegan...

AS said...

JB -

Please explain - what is the Portabella Burger?

Best,
Beau

jb said...

i have no idea what it is..a big greasy mushy black oily mushroom cap on a bun..I have a pet pig and he would not eat the leftover schroomage although he loved the bun. It was super gross. I had a to go order brought to me at work so there was no sending it back for a redo. I do love the pickle bar though and the bartenders.

AS said...

JB -

Brilliant! Thanks for the report. I'm about to write an update to the original.

If you'd ever like to review the Vegeterranean for us, please let me know!

Best,
Beau

Anonymous said...

I was enjoying the comments until I came upon the one by Bridgette Callahan...using the offensive 'f'ing' word as an adjective is so unecessary and out of place for a food review. Go on a sex site if that's how you love to blog.

Anonymous said...

bspot wins southbeach burger bash and is named best burger in the country for 2010!!!.....they knocked off shake shack, bbp, blt burger, dbgb and 25 other legendary burger joints to win the crown...go bspot....go cleveland...go symon

AS said...

Anonymous -

Yeah, I wonder how bad those other burgers are to have lost to a place like B-Spot?!?

Best,
Beau

jb said...

stop! You guys are killing me! eenyways..hows about NOT BEING ALLOWED TO ORDER AN APP AT THE B-SPOT!!! silly and sophomoric. I want an order of chips while I sit and decide what I can eat at this joint and considering they fry everything in lard well there ain't much. Then again MS is not in the biz of feeding vegans / vegetarians ( although booze is vegan Thank the lord) and I think most people know this and go there with full knowledge of that fact. But LARD? come on now.

Anonymous said...

bspot burgers get props in Time and People magazine this month

jb said...

People mag also said Kendra lost all her baby weight but that was a big fat lie...

AS said...

Ahahahahahahaha

Anonymous said...

One of my friends just showed me this blog..it is quite entertaining...not very factual but yet quite entertaining.
Here are a couple facts..do with them what you may
The meat..The beef is organic beef that is raised on grass and finished on corn, we use no scraps only whole muscle and is is a mix of shortrib, sirloin and brisket
The bun..Yes the bun is produced for us by orlando, it is made using our recipe, is baked fresh daily and has no hydrogenated oils or other stabelizers in it
The sauces..There is no curry in any of the sauces
The veggie burger..I figured calling it the why and serving it with bacon would be a pretty good hint that it was a joke that it was on the menu. Once we realized that no one got the joke we changed to a grilled portabella mushroom.
The salads..I find it humorous that you didnt even taste the salad but chose to mock the people enjoying it

Lastly..like all restaurants we do not claim to be perfect nor do we think we are all to everyone...what we do do is source and make the best possible product that we are capable of and hope everyone enjoys it..when we make mistakes we try to fix them and when we are wrong we admit it.

Sorry Bspot wasnt your thing...i happen to think the burgers are pretty damn good..stay well, cheers and live to cook,
Michael Symon

AS said...

Michael -

Thanks for your comment! I was told last weekend that the meat at B-Spot is shipped special from New York City. Is there a reason that you don't buy it locally?

Best,
Beau

Anonymous said...

It is distributed to us fro Euro Usa which is a local company. We buy from Pat because I feel he is the best butcher in the country and is one of the few that I trust he is also one of the very few that still breaks down whole animals which makes a huge difference in the quality of the meat. Most butchers buy primal cuts which have been cryovaced..imho this really affects the quality of the beef..ms

jb said...

b spot is not really customer centered...why not let people order apps? Why not let people customize sandwiches...

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, although I am very proud of Michael's accomplishments, his places put out a sub-par product. His staffs have the ego Michael should have but doesn't. He gets away with things other restaurants in the area would get crucified for. People really need to think for themselves!

Anonymous said...

I went recently with my husband, and although I was quite UN impressed with our host and server, I found my portabello mushroom sandwich to be out of this world. Really. I could have eaten two of them. And this is coming from someone who eats a lot of vegetarian fare and does not always even LIKE portabello mushrooms. AH-mazing.

Anonymous said...

It takes alot to bash something you obviously know nothing about....from what you tasted in the sauces to saying fake motorcycle parts hanging from the ceiling.....get your facts before you make assumptions...but on an upnote....your derogatory review probably generated more business for the restaurant from people who want to see if your opinion holds water

Anonymous said...

It is possible to have an outstanding Veggie Burger. J.Alexander's has the best veggie berger I have ever had. A Truly fantastic creation. Clearly Simon just doesn't get it.