Restaurant review: Flip Side

By Columbus Alive
From the March 22, 2012 edition

Sorry, Five Guys. So long, Inferno. Graffiti, it’s been fun. But now my beefwich-loving heart — increasingly endangered though it may be — belongs to Flip Side, the best ground-meat specialist currently pushing patties in Columbus.

To be fair, those other burger-centric establishments I mentioned are goosed-up fast-fooders (and have their place), whereas Flip Side is a full-fledged and chef-driven genuine restaurant. I’m talking inspired craft-beer selection, serious-about-cocktails, surprisingly solid wine list and high-quality (Ohio-focused) ingredient-sourcing genuine.

Located in the Easton Town Center, this inspired Flip Side is the second of its kind — the first being in Hudson (near Akron). Inside, it lets you know about its meaty proclivities via a butcher-paper-brown color palette plus other masculine and metallic accessories. So flatscreens beam in sports, “garage” doors stream in fresh air in nice weather, there’s a large and cushy bar, and the hushed evening lighting — like Flip Side’s general mood — is low-key. But Flip Side’s menu is crammed with highlights.

A nice way to kick open the ol’ tastebuds — and to get a bite of that Akron-area hometown flavor — is with the Housemade Potato Chips ($4). See, a popular snack in Akron restaurants is chips dunked in an amalgam of yogurt and ranch dressing. At Flip Side, it’s a yogurt and blue cheese dressing (ranch’s ritzier cousin) dip served with killer chips and a zingy hot sauce — and it’s terrific.

Less cheeky but also top notch was a Tempura Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom appetizer ($6). Fat caps and thin spears were enhanced by a supremely light and crackly batter; on the side was a fish-saucy sweet Thai chili dip. This wouldn’t be out of place in a much fancier restaurant.

All right, enough prelude, and on to this place’s claim to fame. In an era when 70 percent of the American hamburger supply is said to contain something called “pink slime” (ouch!), it’s reassuring to know that Flip Side’s beef comes from carefully selected, grass-fed, Ohio-raised cows. This gets expertly cooked and handsomely dressed.

For example, the namesake Flip Side Burger ($9) showcased seven ounces of super-clean tasting and wonderfully juicy seared beef with accents of sharp, two-year-old cheddar cheese, really thick and crispy bacon, a fruity and tangy house barbecue sauce, “charred balsamic vinegar onions” (think French onion soup) and a dry-toasted, kinda sweet, sesame seeded brioche bun. To eat this is to love it.

About a dozen beef burgers are offered, and though all are topped with good ingredients, some don’t highlight the meat as well as others. For instance, I thought the hamburger got a little lost in the still-great-tasting Chili Pepper Burger ($9.50), with jalapenos, onion rings, pepper jack cheese and more.

Not in a beefy mood? Then go with the superlative and Greek-hinting Curry Lamb Burger ($11.50), probably my favorite thing here. Perfectly charred, impossibly juicy and with a deep and luscious lamb flavor, it comes with an assertively tart and cuminy “curry yogurt sauce/mint-cucumber slaw.”

There’s also an intriguing Laughing Bird (sustainable) Shrimp Burger with a fried green tomato ($13.50) and an impressively fresh-tasting, and large, Blackened Florida Grouper sandwich ($15). Whatever you get, tack on Flip Side’s fantastic fries ($4 — crispy, with garlic chips, lard-cooked) or marvelous onion rings ($6 — thick, crunchy, spice-dusted) — preferably both.

For a (not too) sweet ending, try a great Flip Side milkshake — like the Date Shake ($5.50, thick with medjool chunks) brilliantly spiked with bacon vodka ($3 surcharge).