Food & Drink : Flip for joy

Or at least modest happiness at Chris Erck’s new burger franchise

At 4 a.m., the Cheddar Fries had their revenge. Although I did not accidentally eat any of the foil from which we scraped the last, crunchy remains (one dining companion warned ingested foil can tear tiny holes in your small intestine — something new to worry about while nursing middle-of-the-night indigestion), I did gobble up too many of the accompanying jalapeños and bacon bits.

A selection of Flip goodies, from left: Super Nachos, a Grilled Tuna Sandwich, and Cheddar Fries with toppings.

The fries were the star of a late Saturday-night dinner at Flip, the burger-and-nacho joint that proprietor Chris Erck raised from the remains of Cementville, his ill-fated Quarry bistro. Many of the custom décor and furniture details remain: wooden benches by Peter Glassford, the molecular bathroom light fixtures, a curving rack of water bottles that serves as a room partition, and a fabulous custom terrazo-tile countertop. The blue and orange chips in the latter seem to have inspired Flip’s makeover, which relies on brightly colored tables and sun shades to warm up the original high-art austerity. The atmosphere doesn’t quite gel, but it’s not unpleasant, either.

Flip takes its burger cue from Chris Madrid’s: It’s not about the meat — a thin patty that you can’t really order in any shade other than brown — but the fixin’s, which include cheddar cheese, bacon, queso, and (Madrid’s fans will recognize this one) a Nacho Burger package that comes with refried beans, tostada chips, and cheddar. The burgers are even available in two sizes, Flip and Grande.

I wasn’t bowled over by the Cheddar Burger at a Friday lunch. Service was slow, it arrived cold, and if you’re going to borrow from the Madrid playbook (which I have no problem with, in principle), go ahead and overdo the cheese, too. The rectangular bun was fresh, though, (dining companion found it too sweet for her taste, but I liked it) as were the chopped onions and tomatoes. Lunch date did like her Taco Salad, which she ordered with grilled chicken. It has an old-school, taco-seasoning flavor that transported me, somewhat unwillingly, back to my mom’s Old El Paso dinners. The Sweet Potato Flips, however, are strictly nouveau. A friend and I have a running disagreement over their attributes: He likes the slightly chewy, less-well-done chips; I like the dark brown crispy ones — both of which taste subtly and pleasantly of yams.

Ultimately, the Strawberry Milkshake stole the noontime show, with a creamy texture and the occasional hunk of fruit that won me over despite a lifelong aversion to fruit shakes (Erck, who we saw on our way out the door, recommends the Mexican Vanilla shake).

Saturday was much more successful. In addition to the decadent fries, we ordered a Grilled Tuna Sandwich that arrived on the medium-rare side of the specified rare but was scrumptious. It’s served on a poppyseed bun and garnished with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger á la sushi. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich, a basic model with mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and onion, was almost as good, and one member of the group raved over his Queso Burger — perhaps because it includes crumbled pepper bacon in the melted queso.

The Super Nachos — loaded with beans, cheese, and ground beef, and accompanied with a serviceable guacamole — were less popular because the beef was flavored with more of the generic-tasting taco seasoning. Perhaps that strikes a positive nostalgic note for some folks, but in the epicenter of authentic Tex-Mex, why evoke Midwestern grocery stores?

7310 Jones Maltsberger
11am-10pm Mon-Sun
Price range: $5-8
Major credit cards
Handicapped accessible

Also disappointing were the frozen drinks, allegedly a frozen sangria — which tasted faintly of banana — and a frozen cosmo, which tasted of nothing in particular but was well-chilled (the on-the-rocks margarita is rumored to be good). You can order beer if you’re not in an ice-tea state of mind, but I’d like to see Flip expand its selection beyond Shiner, Dos Equis, and the usual Lights/Lites. After all, the food at the inexplicably popular meat-market next door is just this side of terrible, and Flip’s patio is every bit as inviting, so go ahead and appeal more to the cocktail-prone crowd.

One other small complaint (which I can’t confine to Flip alone): When we placed our group order on Saturday, we asked if there was a way the nachos could come out first. No, our order-taker replied, with an empty room behind him, not possible. When you’ve got a half-vacant patio and a mostly vacant dining room at 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening, why not take the opportunity to impress your guests with your service? But if we blackballed local restaurants because some of the waitstaff can’t be bothered, we’d have to rule out half the dining establishments in town, including a favorite slanted place near downtown.

So we’ll return to Flip for milkshakes, loaded fries, and tuna burgers; we’ll just start lobbying Erck to add Guinness and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to accompany them.

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