When I stepped into the hectic new B Spot, Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was playing. Since B Spot is patriotically burgers-and-fries-focused, that seemed like an appropriate song. It’d be the first of several apt tunes I’d hear.
Arising from eminently likeable Cleveland native/celebrity Iron Chef Michael Symon — who also co-hosts ABC’s “The Chew” with “Molto” Mario Batali — B Spot is a little chain with a big following. Supplying free publicity for this frequently slammed Gahanna-located link, about a week before it opened, Symon appeared in the New York Times as an expert describing how to make the perfect hamburger. Too bad Symon isn’t cooking out in Gahanna.
I’m not suggesting B Spot’s burgers stink, because they don’t. No, I’m saying the Gahanna B Spot makes good — not great — burgers, but attains nothing higher than goosed-up fast food, plus alcohol, in an exuberant setting. Only its food doesn’t always shoot out so fast.
On one visit, while Foghat’s “Slow Ride” interminably played, my burgers took 25 minutes to arrive. On another occasion, as “The Long Run” by The Eagles droned on, I experienced a similar wait. Tack on a half hour to be seated during rush hour, and you’ll find ample time to investigate B Spot’s environs.
It’s got garage doors, a preferred first-come-first-served bar, a shopping mall patio, and an overall playful post-industrial vibe. There’s also the dorm-dweller’s dream of a beer-can-decorated wall.
Speaking of suds, 24 craft taps are offered (most are $5-$6). There are also nice-priced Campuget wines ($6/glass) and an impressive selection of bourbons.
While sipping libations and contemplating appetizers, a friendly waiter explained B Spot’s unfriendly everything-MUST-come-out-at-once! policy. I warily gazed at my companion across our tiny two-top. Shortly after our table-overwhelming dishes were simultaneously delivered, “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel cranked up.
There are differences between good and great burgers. The three beefwiches I tried — two were correctly cooked to my requested temperature — primarily fell short because of their complete lack of a seared crust. Other than that, B Spot’s juicy and grill-marked burgers scored well with their high-quality Pat LaFrieda-sourced meat and OK, glossy buns. Toppings, which include a DIY pickle bar, were hit and miss.
For instance, the barely there chorizo on my Ice-T-would’ve-laughed New Jack City ($10) just tasted salty. New Jack also had lotsa avocado, red peppers, green salsa and melted pepperjack cheese.
I enjoyed the spicy and salty Yo! burger ($10) more. Recalling a Romanburger from Cleveland-based Mr. Hero, it’s outfitted with decent griddle-fried salami and capicola, plus melted provolone, hot peppers and mustardy, relish-like “Shasha sauce.”
The best B Spot burger I tried was the most stripped-down. That’d be the Thin Lizzy ($8), whose harmonious medley of caramelized onions, melted cheddar and pickles didn’t obscure its good beef.
There are also fried bologna sandwiches and bratwursts, such as the no-snap-from-its-soft-wiener-casing Clevelander ($7). Like every “Clevelander” on the night I ate it — right before LeBron finally re-signed with the Cavs — it was a mess, only with cole slaw, hot sauce and fries instead of anxiety.
Speaking of fries, they’re crispy-not-greasy shoestrings. These can be flavor-dominated by rosemary (Lola fries, $4), or promoted to junk-food stardom with tender and vinegary pulled pork, pickled jalapenos, plus Cheez Whiz (Porky Fries, $9 for a mammoth mound of evil fun). On the lighter side, my overdressed Simple Salad ($5) trumped any fast food model.
Ditto for the thick and super-rich $7 Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake enhanced with Frangelico ($3 extra; no booze substitutions!).
Bottom line: B Spot is fine, but paraphrasing “American Girl,” I couldn’t help thinkin’ there should’ve been more.
Photos by Meghan Ralston