I marvel at how my tropical pepper, the Guam Boonie, continues to produce when the weather is so cold.

It’s easy to get lost in the menu of FLIP Burger Boutique. The menu is a candy store for the burger lover. There are just too many things to try in one outing, or even two. And for people for whom a burger is simply a price to pay to get to tasty sides,  there are things to satisfy that urge on both the front and back of the menu. There are fries, of course, but also bottled drinks with the traditional sweeteners (as opposed to high fructose corn syrup), and the spectacular liquid nitrogen shakes.

We didn’t plan to go here, really, but I knew I had to come. FLIP is the Hajj of Atlanta food bloggers. Every blogger who aspires to be respectable has to head down to FLIP, write their thoughts, and let the world know what they think. And really there were two choices: the first was to go after work, during rush hour traffic, or convince my family it was a good idea to come down to FLIP during a weekend when we have family arriving in a week or two.

So I began: “Hon, I have a totally crazy idea.” And thankfully, my family decided to go. It was going to be a lunch outing, heading into the middle of urban Atlanta, which is hardly my favorite place to drive. As traffic in Atlanta has grown worse and worse, I just find myself avoiding downtown Atlanta.

The reality of the situation was very different from my preconceived notions. FLIP is on Howell Mill Road, nestled in a part of Atlanta that lends truth to the idea that Atlanta is a small town wrapped inside a big city. There were no skyscrapers anywhere near FLIP, the road was pleasant, trees were common, and nothing was taller than two stories nearby.  FLIP has parking on both sides of the road, and we found a place to park quickly.

The inside of FLIP is clean, modern, and a little kitschy. The white “picnic tables” in the middle, all crammed together, need to go. There is bar seating for singles or couples who don’t mind, and there are more separate (and better) tables ringing the outside. There is also seating outside, so you can enjoy the small town atmosphere of this part of Atlanta.

Service was excellent. Our waitress was patient and helpful, and it wasn’t as if she were an exception. You could look round and see waitstaff handling people with patience and grace. We ordered drinks, and eventually, we ordered a liquid nitrogen shake (nutella and burned marshmallow), a salad, and four burgers: a lamburger, a turkey burger, a chorizo burger, and a po boyger, which is a kind of shrimp burger.

The burgers are small, the patties are thick, and more filling than you might imagine at first. I can say I totally enjoyed my lamburger, juicy tasty lamb topped with light sprinkling of greens. My daughter loved her chorizo burger, a potent blend of sausage, egg, and cheese.  My wife liked her turkey burger a lot, and the salad was good. The po boyger, a burger we all shared, was just okay, with a taste and texture that tended to wear on us the more of it we ate. In retrospect, I think you have to be a little ruthless in choosing food here. My wife knew she would like turkey and she did. She thought she might like the po boyger and it wasn’t nearly as good a fit as the turkey burger was to her.

Of all the dishes we ordered, the nutella shake was the most spectacular, the most eye popping. And my daughter loved every last bit of it.

In terms of access, FLIP is not going to be an easy drive for any suburban commuter. On weekends, with no rush hour, the drive is pleasant and the neighborhood low key and pleasing. Despite my reluctance in going, I suspect we’ll be back. I have a niece who only eats burgers, and taking her here would be dropping her into a burger Disney World.

Verdict: Informal, popular, creative menu offerings on almost every line. Excellent service. Highly recommended. A ‘must visit’ for the burger lover.

FLIP Burger Boutique
1587 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA, 30318
(404) 352-FLIP (3547)

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Varasano’s Pizzeria is a beautiful restaurant, a great place to take a date. The color theme inside is dark red and black. The bar and first few tables have a pretty salt and pepper stone surface. Otherwise the tables and chairs have the same dark red and black theme as the walls. The waitstaff are elegantly dressed in pure black, and the location Varasano’s cooks the pizzas is open to view, so you can watch them cook (always a plus). If you would rather catch a sunset, Varasano’s has outdoor seating. Instead of parking your own car, there is complimentary valet parking. And the valet who parked our car was a clever, funny guy.

The menu is simple (salads, pizzas, a calzone, and desserts), and the number of pizzas pretty small. You can add ingredients to the pizzas, so the effective number of combinations is pretty large, actually. We asked how many pizzas three of us would require, and the waitress suggested 2. She felt one would not be enough. So, we ordered a Salumi pizza and also a Margherita with pepperoni and mushrooms. My wife also ordered a spinach salad.

The salad arrived first, and it was a good salad, but just that, a good salad with fresh spinach, nuts and a bit of gorgonzola cheese. The first pie to arrive was the Salumi and all of us were hungrier than we expected. That pizza was simply inhaled. One piece of the Salumi was left when the Margherita arrived. That one we spent more time with, thinking about what we were eating.

My impressions of the pizzas were largely positive. The Salumi had great flavor, subtle flavor in the meats and everyone liked it a great deal. All of Varasano’s pizzas are thin crust pizzas, very thin, more in the Saint Louis style than anything I ever recall in New York. These pizzas are too thin to travel and by the time we were eating the last of the Margherita, the moisture and heat of the toppings had steamed the crust of the pizza into a floppy play doh consistency. So, eat fast and if you have to, discard the last slice.

The pepperoni on the Margherita were huge round circles, over 2 inches across. The sauce was also a real treat on this pizza, lots of flavor. The edges of these pizzas were well nigh perfect. My wife and I were munching on the crusts afterwards.

This is very good food in a style I’m not 100% fond of, to be honest. I like thick crusty crusts, crusts more in the quarter inch thickness up to Chicago style. But while I would have said I couldn’t eat a Saint Louis style pizza at all before coming to Varasano’s, this one is really really good. And while these pizzas aren’t going to make me forget Craig Priebe’s “New Orleans” style grilled pizza, they can sure take a lot of the pain away out of losing C. K.’s Pizza.

Verdict: Recommended. Lots of flavor in something that doesn’t leave you stuffed.  A great date restaurant.

Varasano’s Pizzeria
2171 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 352-8216

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