It seems that when Chef Shawn Monday goes out, he goes out big. After leaving Downtown 140 in Hudson, Ohio and opening One Red Door around Labor Day in 2010, only a few short months later, he decided to utilize the space right next to his newest culinary creation and open up a second joint featuring upscale burgers and sides. Having only been open for several weeks, I decided to stop in for a Sunday lunch with longtime friend Ken and check out the highly anticipated menu at Flip Side.
Flip Side was located at 49 Village Way, Hudson, Ohio 44236 and can be reached at 330-655-3547. You can also reach them via email. Since the restaurant was in the First & Main shopping district area of Hudson, there were a myriad of free parking options. I ended up parking on the square and walking to the front of the restaurant.
Here was a shot of the entrance to Flip Side:
Once inside, I discovered a fairly small space, seating for perhaps thirty-five patrons with an additional eight to ten seats at the bar. The decor was fairly simple and the colors relatively monotone. That being said, the restaurant had a casual feel to it that should make diners of all ages feel welcome. And speaking of all ages, that was exactly the cross-section of people eating lunch when I arrived. Ken had arrived prior to me and put in our name for a table. Considering that they weren't taking reservations, a ten minute wait for a table seemed entirely appropriate.
After finally being sat, our server left us with the menu to peruse:
It was clear from reading the menu that Chef Monday was trying to occupy a very similar burger-space that Michael Symon's B Spot Restaurant up in Beachwood (and soon Strongsville) currently addressed. While Symon was using Pat LaFrieda beef from New York state, Monday had committed to offering burgers using local Ohio raised, grass-fed beef. Price points on the menu were quite similar between the two restaurants, with your basic burger starting somewhere around $6 and topping out at roughly $10. Sides were in the neighborhood of $3.50 to $5.50. Similar to B Spot's menu, Flip Side also offered milkshakes with adult "mix-ins," if desired.
Knowing how large the sides were at B Spot, I almost suggested to Ken that we split a side. However, something held me back, perhaps the desire to try more than one side for this review. Looking over the menu, many of the burgers sounded good, but when I saw that the Shawn's Burger had both bacon AND a fried egg on it, I knew I was sold.
After a short wait, our food finally arrived at the table. Here was a shot of my Shawn's Burger:
The crown of the brioche bun had been nicely grilled. I assumed that the heel had also been toasted, but since it contained all of the ingredients for my sandwich, it would've been a bit messy to verify this hunch. In addition to the bacon and fried egg, there were thick cut slices of spicy pickles, flat top onions, and a very mild farmhouse cheese. A small cup of mayonnaise was provided for pre-consumption application. I added a light layer of the creamy condiment, topped off my burger and proceeded to cut it in half, thus releasing the golden goodness from the fried egg:
I had ordered the burger to be cooked medium rare and sure enough, it was exactly to my specification. As I attempted to pick up the first half, I noticed the first problem. The heel of the bun had become completely sogged out and lost all integrity. This led to the not wholly unwelcome consequence that this was a MESSY burger to eat. Between the very juicy patty and the runny egg, I basically ate the entire first half before stopping to clean myself up with the extra requested napkins.
So, how was it? It was very good. Chef Monday clearly understood the concept of layering flavors and textures. I quite liked how the pickles lent some spice and acidity to balance out the fattiness from the other ingredients. They also added a much needed crunch to each bite of the sandwich. While I prefer the slightly more aggressive seasoning of B Spot's burgers, Flip Side did a good job of keeping all the flavor elements in balance. The only other downside I found was that while I did enjoy the running egg yolk, since the egg had been cooked sunnyside up, there was a substantial bit of undercooked egg white as well:
While I didn't find this too objectionable, I am fairly certain that others might have a problem with uncooked whites. I had actually assumed that the egg would have come to the table cooked over easy to address this problem, but I do admit that the sunnyside up egg had a more dramatic visual appearance.
For my side, I decided to go with the Chili Rubbed Onion Rings with Remoulade:
When this plate was set down in front of me, I had two initial reactions. "Boy, those look great!" was the first thing that popped into my head. "Wait, is that a full portion size?" was the second. For $5, there should have been at least twice the amount of onion rings on the plate as there were. That would be the portion size of the onion rings at Symon's restaurant. One of the complaints I had heard prior to my visit today from doing my research on the Internet was that people were concerned with the value of the food. Today's serving of onion rings went to reinforce that point for me.
Alright, fine, it was a small portion, but when I finally went to try one of these rings, I was pleasantly surprised to find an expertly fried ring that was thick enough to have some texture, but not so thick that it was still raw. The batter to onion ratio was also very good, having enough batter to convey some of the seasoning and spices, but not so much that it was doughy or undercooked. The chili spice sprinkled on top also gave it a nice little kick. The sauce remoulade, while perhaps not a traditional remoulade, complimented the rings nicely. I ate about half of them with the provided sauce and the other half with the tableside ketchup.
Ken decided to get the Mikey Fries:
These fresh cut fries had been triple cooked and served with grated Grana Padano, salt, and truffle oil. Curious as to what "triple cooked" meant, our server explained that properly cooked fries are first blanched in oil at a lower temperature to cook the potato without coloring it and then finished in oil at a higher temperature to crisp up the outside and give it that appealing golden brown color. "Fine," I responded, "that takes care of two cookings. Where is the third?" Oddly, his answer was, "Oh, they're blanched twice."
I wasn't sure what kind of odd chemistry Chef Monday had employed here, but I couldn't imagine why you would need to blanch a fry twice before finishing it in hot oil to crisp it up. What I could not argue with, however, was the perfect fry job on these potato sticks. Incredibly crunchy on the outside without being the least bit oily, they were equally light and fluffy on the inside. While both Ken and I picked up on the salt, cheese, and fresh herbs adorning the fries, neither of us got any truffle oil smell or flavor. For those who know the heavenly smell of truffle oil, it is an aroma that is hard to miss.
Our meal now complete, Ken and I decided to split the check evenly, even though he had a coke and I simply had a glass of water. With tax and tip, it basically came out to an even $20 per person. Granted, had I gotten my burger of choice at B Spot (Red Hot) and a side of the onion rings, with tax and tip it probably would've come out to a similar amount. The difference would be that I'd be taking home a sizable portion of leftover onion rings for consumption later in the evening. At Flip Side, not so much.
Additionally, while Symon has more or less perfected the burgers at B Spot, my Flip Side burger today suffered from a sogged out heel and a sunnyside up egg that could've been cooked a tad more. Be aware that while refills were free, Ken's glass of Coca-cola was $2.75, which seems a bit pricey for a product that costs pennies per glass. I'm going to recommend Flip Side, because at the end of the day (or the meal), it was still a pretty darn good burger. Should they correct some of the minor flaws I experienced in my meal today, I think I would even move it to very, very good burger status. If getting a price-no-object, grass-fed beef burger in a hip new restaurant is your cup of tea, gentle reader, Flip Side will deliver with reliability. For those looking for a cheaper option of an equally crave-inducing burger, might I suggest Swenson's or Skyway?