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Bobby Flay opens Burger Palace

Bobby Flay is one of the country's culinary titans.

He headlines "Throwdown!" on the Food Network. He's also an Iron Chef. He operates five successful restaurants, sells a line of condiments, cookware and dishes, is the author of eight cookbooks. He's married to a gorgeous actress. He still has all his hair. What more could a guy want?

A burger joint on Long Island.

Now, he gets one. At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 15, Bobby's Burger Palace will open on the southernmost edge of Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. It is the achievement of a long-deferred goal.

Beef dreams are made of this

"Chefs have funny dreams," he said. "They may have a couple of four-star restaurants, but they fantasize about opening up a hotdog stand. A lot of them think that it's too late, that they're beyond that, but for me, it's the opposite: Now that I've gotten to this point, I can do the thing I crave the most - which is a cheeseburger, fries and a shake."

Flay has brought all his culinary chops to bear on the tasks at hand. The burgers are made of Certified Angus Beef, 80 percent lean. "Any less fat and you lose flavor," he said.

Bobby's Burger Palace (BBP for short) offers 10 burgers, each tricked out in style. Flay has a special fondness for the crunchburger, a classic American cheeseburger topped with potato chips. The Dallas burger, inspired by the way barbecued brisket is served in Texas, is rubbed with spices before grilling, then topped with barbecue sauce (his own), coleslaw, Monterey Jack cheese and a pickle. The eponymous Bobby Blue Burger is topped with blue cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato; the Napa Valley with goat cheese, watercress and Meyer lemon honey mustard. An unadorned cheeseburger is $6.50, the other nine are $7.50

But wait, there's more!

No less attention is lavished on the fries (crinkle-cut in an homage to the fries Flay ate during childhood summers on the boardwalk at Spring Lake, and served with a subtly spiced mayonnaise-based "fry sauce") or the shakes (made with Edy's ice cream and ranging from vanilla and chocolate to coconut, mango and cola). There are "griddled cheese" sandwiches, beer-battered onion rings, soda, beer, wine, frozen margaritas, and even a salad.

The 70-seat restaurant looks great, vibrant with Flay's guacamole-mango-red-pepper palate and dominated by a gleaming serpentine counter.

Bobby's Burger Palace 355 Smith Haven Mall Lake Grove 631-382-9590

More places where burgers rule

Burger 9 Point 5 139B Merrick Rd. Merrick 516-543-4141

At this Merrick hole-in-the-wall, meat is ground daily for an inventive array of burgers -- beef, Kobe beef, lamb, bison, vegetable and turkey. And, talk about toppings -- they've got a slew, from chipotle peppers, Cajun spices and fresh mozzarella to bacon, Cheddar and red onion. Fries are hand-cut and irresistible.

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries 3947 Hempstead Tpke. Levittown 516-796-1237

Sure, this is a chain (based in Virginia), but it oozes integrity. Everything is made to order. While their health policy prevents them from cooking a burger rare, the freshly ground meat comes off the griddle crusty on the outside, juicy within. Free toppings include grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes and, well, you get the idea. Fries are hand-cut and cooked to order, served in an overflowing paper bag.

American Roadside Burger 80 E. Main St. Smithtown 631-382-9500

The burgers at this nostalgia-themed joint are immensely flavorful and appealing. They're fashioned of low-fat beef, topped with low-fat cheese, and they taste surprisingly indulgent. You can customize yours with any number of free toppings, such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sauteed mushrooms, fried onions, red onions and several types of sauce. -- Joan Reminick

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