Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bar Symon Food Review

Lola Burger

Super chef Michael Symon has put Cleveland, Ohio (yes, Cleveland) on the culinary map. Perhaps it's not quite a food Mecca yet; but C-Town did produce an Iron Chef/living legend... The proof's on Symon's birth certificate. Thankfully, one doesn't have to visit "the Forest City," in order to taste for themselves. Symon recently opened Bar Symon in Dulles International Airport's Terminal D (near Gate 16) and the results are, for lack of a better term... burger-rific, with a side of Coffee BBQ Sauce.

IAD has undergone a literal metamorphosis of late, both in food & beverage and its retail operations. In years past, a Dulles burger often meant stopping at Burger King or Wendy's (shudder.) Thanks to Symon, Concessions International and United Concessions Group (also based out of Cleveland) those days are way behind us.

Now it's time for incredible burgers (made fresh on site, from three different types of meat, including brisket) creative salads and staple sandwiches... all at a fair price, especially for airport cuisine. It opened last week; but I was able to make my first visit yesterday (it's beyond security, so passengers only.)

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Since I don't know when I'll be able to come back again, I decided to go for broke... ordering two sides, a burger and a sandwich. Rosemary Fries ($4.49) are thin & crispy, dusted in aforementioned rosemary and kosher salt. You can also order Parmesan & Rosemary Fries for a dollar more; or go crazy and ask for Porky Fries (great name) with pulled pork, cheese whiz & chopped jalapeƱos for $7.49. The latter looks and sounds like a full meal, all by its lonesome. The former were hot & tasty, but "came alive" after a few dips in Bar Symon's signature Coffee BBQ Sauce. Lola's ketchup is nice too; but basically tastes like chipotles and little else. It's also not as thick (and creamy) as its coffee-flavored alternative. Just in case you weren't sure: I love, love, love the Coffee BBQ Sauce.

Rosemary French Fries

Beer Battered Onion Rings are nicely sized, but a little light on batter and seasoning. Of course, that's easily remedied by a few ounces of Coffee BBQ Sauce (seriously, they ought to bottle this stuff and sell it.) That sauce comes up again (literally) in the Pulled Pork Sandwich, which includes a generous amount of cole slaw and dill pickles on a toasted challah roll. Don't be afraid to add a little more sauce on your own: Most barbecue benefits from an extra slather or two. The pork is top quality, and the bun... to die for.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

On to the main event, the Lola Burger ($11.89) which combines bacon, cheddar cheese (except on mine) a sunny side up egg & pickled red onions on the same delicious challah bun. At the time, I Tweeted out, "B'fast, lunch & dinner, all-in-1," and 24 hours later, I stand by that assessment. It's a mountain of food (allegedly only 1/4 lb. of meat, but mine looked a lot bigger) with a healthy stack of pickled onions and a glistening egg that pops open after your first bite (ask for extra napkins.) The bacon is divine, well-done and thick-cut as advertised. The meat was cooked perfectly as ordered (MEDIUM) and juicy... as in Florida-orange (minus the citrus taste, of course.) It's so good, in fact... that it cracks our Top 5 Burgers, replacing a really good BurgerFi entry in the process. A Top 5 debut is a big deal where I come from, and well deserved.

It's all in the sauce...

I'm itching to try their Smoked Pastrami sandwich ($11.89) but must temper my excitement just a bit. After all, it's in an airport and requires a plane ticket to purchase. Still, Bar Symon is good enough to possibly influence which airport I fly out of next time. That's JetBlue territory, right there... rarified air, so to speak. Way to go Chef Michael. Way to go Cleveland.

Atmosphere: B (Great for an airport, and they really know how to maximize space.)
Burger: A- (See Paragraph 6. If that doesn't make my point, nothing will.)
Fries: B- (Better with Coffee BBQ Sauce.)
Onion Rings: C+ (Much better with Coffee BBQ Sauce.)
Service: B (If anything, it's too friendly. We'll see how it goes after the first month or so.)
Overall: B (A- for an airport. Awesome burger and signature sauce.)