I’ve long been a fan of Hayes Valley: its high density of restaurants, its rows of cute boutiques where I can always (without fail) find something to buy, its proximity to downtown. Alright, its proximity to downtown isn’t a major selling point, but it’s no detraction, either.
Now that I’ll be spending a good chunk of each weekend in the Valley, I want to get to know the area better. I’ve got the main points, easy — Frjtz, Gimme Shoes, Boulange, &c — but I want to know all the nooks and crannies, too.
Enter Flipper’s. Tuesday, I had an evening appointment; Hook suggested dinner in HV. He first proposed Frjtz but quickly backtracked.
“We know Frjtz,” he said. “Let’s try something new.”
“Word!” said I. It’s hard to break me out of my restaurant ruts, even when those ruts steer me to less-than-blah joints like Squat & Gobble (or All You Knead).
Only one of my friends has ever been to Flipper’s; his description of the experience was, “Eh, it was OK.” This friend (who no longer lives in the city, I’m sad to say) doesn’t have extreme reactions to most things, and I attributed his indifference to his personality. For all I knew, Flipper’s was AWESOME. My friend could have been hiding The Glory of Flipper’s, saving all the curly fries for himself. I didn’t actually believe this, but you never know.
Oh, but I did know — I did my research. Yelpers give Flipper’s 3.5 stars, which is the kiss o’ death: death by boredom. The Yelp reviews that most interest me are the highest and the bottom-of-the-barrel lowest. When a place gets 1,039 five-star reviews, chances are slim that you’ll hate it. On the other hand, places with a lone star (or two) gain mega redemption points if your meal there doesn’t give you food poisoning, if no roach scuttles from under your garnish. I’m a sucker for redemption stories, but it’s hard to bounce back from being meh. What is the opposite of meh? Less meh?
H & I arrived at Flipper’s around 6:15 to a near-empty dining room. We seated ourselves by the aquarium — which looked septic: DO NOT SIT NEXT TO IT IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR APPETITE — and were brought waters & beers right away. The waitstaff were friendly and efficient: our drinks, foodstuffs, and bill were brought promptly and served with a smile-grimace. (I’ve been a waitress; I know how hard it is to fake a smile after 7 or 8 hours on your feet. No points off for the -grimace.)
How did our fare fare? What’s your guess? H got a regular cheeseburger; I got a schmancy patty topped with bleu cheese, walnuts, and chopped beets. Both sandwiches came with curly fries. Despite our dishes’ differences, Hook and I reached the same conclusion: the food was passable. Not bad, really, but not good: totally standard in a cafeteria sort of way. Case in point: I normally love curly fries (and will perform some True Acts of Willpower to avoid eating a plateful), but these were just…eh. Kinda mushy, totally unseasoned. I ate only the curliest fries and left the rest to stiffen in their own grease.
Ordering, I had high hopes for my burger — I’m a beet fanatic (had some at lunch, yo!), and this sammie sounded like a fusion of my fave salad + BEEF. The concept was solid, but the execution bombed. The beets were obviously canned, the blue cheese lacked a distinct flavor, and the beef was rubbery. As we scanned the menu, Hook noted that Flipper’s doesn’t list the ranch from which it buys its beef. No, it’s not that kind of place.
Which is odd, because it defines itself as a “Gourmet Hamburger Place.” I’m not sure how the proprietor made this assessment — the meat itself is hardly gourmet, and though the menu features some interesting topping combinations, the ingredients are of middling quality. If you’re going to compete with the other burger joints in this town, you need to do more than spread some canned veggies on an 80/20 puck.
Flipper’s, I’m sad it had to end this way (i.e., with nary a backward glance). I wish I could incorporate you into my Hayes Valley Restaurant Rotation, but to do so would require me to stomach ounces and ounces of low-quality beef, and that ain’t right. We’re just not meant to be. You go back to your chuck-lovin’ patrons, and I’ll go back to my poppyseed-dusted brioche rolls, and neither of us will be the worse for wear.