Can we talk? Just a heart-to-heart? Right here? In front of God and everyone?
I love writing these reviews. No. Really. I do. I love writing them a lot. But there are downsides to it, including hate mail, threats of litigation, claims that I am unfair, and, sadly, very low commissions from pimping Diet Coke. However, it is all worth it.
What I don’t like about this love is the fact that sometimes I have no choice but to rip to shreds an eating establishment because I have had a horrible or horrific experience. I am not, by nature, a cruel or spiteful person (although people have said my review of That’s a Wrap was cruel to my readers). So, if I rabidly criticize a restaurant, it is not because I am bored or mean or cruel or spiteful.
That being said, I must warn you before you read any further that you should probably keep an asbestos suit and fire extinguisher handly.
On second thought, just climb into the nuclear fallout shelter.
I had decided that what I needed was a burger. A good burger, in fact. My usual choice is Delux at 32nd Street and Camelback because it 1) is convenient and 2) has the best burgers in the Valley. But, I am always willing to try someplace new that offers an interesting menu, even if it is on the outskirts of Phoenix metro.
It was with all of this in mind that I headed over to the Blu Burger Grille in North Scottsdale near the Keirland Commons. It is located in a fancy strip mall on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Greenway Road. I pulled into the mall and simply followed the line of people heading for Blu Burger. (It is just a few doors down from Chipotle.) I walked up to the doors and opened them and had to take a step back because there was no place to enter with all of the people waiting for a table. There is no lobby space to speak of because right next to the entrance are the doors to the restrooms. A few people were standing there waiting for a table and had to move outside in order to allow anyone to use the restrooms.
A gentleman walked up to me and asked me how many were in my party. I indicated it was just myself and then was told there was a table for one available at the very back of the restaurant. I meandered my way around the server area and down a small corridor to find myself standing at a true table for one because one person is all that could fit there. It was a bar-top table next to the back exit to the patio dining. The door was open and I wasn’t thrilled to be sitting next to a blast furnace, but since there was no one outside, I simply closed the door.
While I could handle the tiny table, what made me shake my head was the ridiculous and out-of-place retro-70’s “hand” chair. It was big and ugly and red and velvet. There were just so many jokes to be made, but I really wondered what anyone could have been thinking by putting this chair in this restaurant. There was a reason we left lots of bad interior decorating designs back in the 70s. Thankfully, there were other chairs available for the other patrons that weren’t right out of a set from “Logan’s Run.” But, I took the seat anyway and began reviewing the menu that sat upon the table.
The menu was full of choices including various burger types (Kobe, Angus, Turkey, etc.) and you could choose from various sizes, the maximum being 8 oz. Below that listing were a dozen or so choices you could pile on your burger for free. They included various cheeses, relishes, sauces, vegetables and the like. For an additional charge, you could add Applewood Smoked Bacon or caramelized onions or extra cheese. The rest of the menu was a listing of sandwiches and salads.
My server arrived and took my drink order. I ordered a glass of water with lemon and a Diet Coke ($1.50). She said she would get my drinks and be back shortly. When she returned, I was presented with an Iced Tea. I said I had requested a Diet Coke and she apologized and returned immediately with... a regular Coke. Hoping the third time would be the charm, I was finally given a Diet Coke. I also mentioned my missing water.
My server than took my order. I ordered the 8 oz. Kobe Burger ($10.00) on the Tomato-Basil Bun with Cheedar Cheese, Romaine lettuce, pickles, Dijon mustard, BBQ sauce, red onions and Applewood Smoked Bacon ($0.75). The server asked how I wanted it cooked and I said medium rare. Since my burger came with fries, I chose the sweet potato fries. My server disappeared saying she would be back with my water.
As I waited, I surveyed the room. It was small. Very small, in fact, and a very odd space that was in a shape resembling a question mark. The walls were painted blue and there were some pieces of art on the wall. The tables were all metallic and had a plastic spatula with your table number on it sticking out of a small vase. I was at Table 12. Considering that I was down a corridor from the rest of the restaurant and I am #12, I felt like my experience was either a profile in exile or I was living out a remake of “The Prisoner.” The glassware that the drinks were served in is oddly shaped and my first thought when seeing my beverage was that these could double as specimen bottles. (Yes, my mind wanders sometimes.)
So, I continued to wait. Meanwhile, I was battling the staff running in and out of the restaurant via the patio door that is inches away from me. They were doing so to answer cell phones calls. Most of the time they let the door stay open and I was treated to a nice blast of August heat. About 30 minutes passed before I had reach my tolerance of seeing people’s asses as they squeezed by me and my table to get out the door. What genius thought of this small, cramped space as a spot for a table? Trust me, if another table had been available, I would have moved to it in a heartbeat.
At the 40 minute mark, I inquired about my burger. They assured me that it was on its way, and oftered to get me a refill. I tell them I am drinking Diet Coke. They decided that I needed a Lemonade. Oh, and I was still waiting for my water which they assured me would be coming shortly.
I then overheared a conversation from tables 10 and 11, which are the first ones down the corridor from me. Table 10 was missing fries and they said they had asked repeatedly for them. Surprise! I was not alone in the ridiculous waiting game. Table 11 had an even bigger problem. They had served a patron the wrong burger. He wanted his with caramelized onions and Romain lettuce. Instead, they gave him mushrooms and raw red onions. The server apologized and took the burger back. About five minute passed and a bus person brought me my lunch. But it wasn’t my lunch. It was the burger for the guy at Table 11. Except there was a problem. They didn’t make him a new burger. They pushed the red onions and mushrooms off to the side of the plate and put some caramelized onions and lettuce on top of the burger. This was not going to play out well.
My server suddenly appeared out of nowhere and grabs the plate. “This isn’t yours,” she snapped. She took the plate to Table 11 and the patron was angry. Very angry. “I don’t want any mushrooms,” he said. “Not on my burger. Not on my plate.” The server took the burger back and requested a new one.
Frankly, this was inexcusable. Absolutely inexcusable on every single level and the patron had every right to be angry. I would have been as well. It was simply a cheap stunt in order to get a ticket off the serving line with no regards to the patron. How difficult would it have been to replate the burger and fries sans the mushrooms?
I was now at 50 minutes since I placed my order and I was somewhere between frustrated and angry. The owner walks by (on his way out to the patio) and assured me that my burger was on its way. I tell him I had been waiting over 45 minutes and he gave a pathetic and dismissive “It will be well worth it.” Good God. What a self-serving and meaningless comment. This wasn’t Durant’s or Mastro’s. This was a burger place. I had officially moved into anger territory.
At 55 minutes, my meal arrived. I was dumbfounded. My burger was a charred hockey puck. My Romaine lettuce had morphed into arugula and my red onions were magically turned into caramlized yellow onions. There was no Dijon mustard to be found on my burger. Instead, there was some mysterious sauce that looked like watered down Thousand Island dressing. At least there were pickles, bacon and BBQ sauce. Too bad the bun was a white bread product which had neither tomato or basil in it. I wasn’t even going to complain at that point because I didn’t want to have to wait another 55 minutes for a burger. I took a bite and the lunch was officialy a disaster. I highly doubt that what I was given was Kobe beef. The meat was flavorless and dry. Very dry. A dust bowl, in fact. That is what happens when you get a burger well-well-well done instead of medium rare. After eating one half, I simply had to quit.
Next up were the fries. I took a nibble and they were pretty good. I put some of the homemade ketchup on my plate from the pump bottle on the table and dipped my fries in it. The next thing I knew I was grabbing for my glass of (fill in drink of choice here). The ketchup was sour. I don’t know what caused the sourness, nor did I care. I simply wanted to be away from it. I ate a few of the fries and then dumped the rest on my plate. Only a few came out. I looked into the small metal pail and then went immediately from anger to fury.
The bottom half of the pail had been filled with crumpled up butcher paper. So, instead of getting a nice serving of fries with my meal, I got about 2-3 ounces of fried sweet potatoes. I know there has been lots of talk in the media about the impending “Great Sweet Potato Famine,” but this was just insulting. If anyone saw the fries, they would think they were getting a full serving of fries, not a pail of fries that was only half full.
At this moment, all I wanted was my check and an escape hatch. My server returned and asked me if I needed anything else. No, I said. I just wanted my bill. Or a cyanide pill.
I paid my bill. The total was a whopping $13.71 for this mess. I won’t comment on the service because it speaks for itself.
As I stormed out of the restaurant, the server asked, “Now, wasn’t that one of the best burgers you have ever had?”
Blu Burger Grille
15425 North Scottsdale Road
Notes: Chipotle is located a few doors down to the west.
More photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com