Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From DCFUD - Cheeseburger in Paradise, Reviewed by the 5PBFC

Have you ever been to a restaurant that you can't stand, yet can't wait to try again? Then you know how the 5PBFC feels about Cheeseburger in Paradise, a Jimmy Buffett-inspired tribute to three of Buffett's favorite subjects - eating, drinking and making money.

Cheeseburger in Paradise embodies and embraces pretty much everything I hate about chain restaurants. Cheesy, overenthusiastic servers who have to follow a greeting script? Check. Stupid names for ordinary menu items (in this case, with a Buffett theme)? Check. Day-glow menu with paragraph-sized food descriptions because "French-Fried Potatoes" is too nebulous for mere mortals to understand? Check. Bartenders who think they're Tom Cruise in "Cocktail?" Check. Acoustic singer/songwriters doing covers of Live, Guns and Roses and Nirvana? Check. Ungodly amounts of tacky crap on the walls? Check. A roaming gangbang of servers singing "Happy Birthday" while food waits under heat lamps? Check. A little too kid-friendly? Check. Mediocre food and drinks at inflated prices? Well...

That's the rub. The food is good - surprisingly so, given the sub-$10 mark on most of their chow. They'll prepare their burgers to any desired temperature, from scorched well-done to scared-with-a-flashlight rare - a nice, wonderful touch in the chain restaurant world. They'll also substitute a turkey burger or a vegan patty on any of their burgers for no charge. The appetizers alone are the size of a meal. Check out the Carnivorous Habits Platter (again with the Buffett theme!). The BBQ Jerk ribs were about as good as any ribs I've had. Perfectly seasoned, just the right combo of spice and sauce, and very juicy. The teriyaki wings were fantastic, almost as good as the wares from Bruce Lee Wings in Baltimore's Cross Street Market.

This is not a restaurant for Alcoholics Anonymous members. Their bar book is the size of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and lists dozens of various margaritas, pina coladas and mojitos. The place has more booze than a hip hop video, and the large variety of rums could make a pirate scream for temperance. The drinks are cheap, just a step above "college dive bar" cheap. The Goombay Smash, somewhat similar to the Gorilla Farts from my beloved Monterrey's in Virginia Beach, is $5.50. That seldom buys a draft beer around these parts anymore. I just wish the fruit garnish wasn't looking at me.

face in the fruit.JPG

CiP is a fine place to take any Parrothead, or perhaps a decent meal after a day in the malls. It's definitely a step-up above the run-of-the-mill suburban chains, and, at the very least, the cheap drinks will make you forget that a dozen servers are singing "Happy Birthday" to some screaming toddler. My biggest complaint is that it tries just a little too much to be cute and pleasing - the overall theme of a beach bar alone would be nice. I just wish it could be a little more Coastal Flats classic than Chuck E. Cheese loud, because the food deserves better.

CiP gets 5 out of 10 Whammies! The food, drinks and overall value would earn it more Whammies!, and the drinks are strong enough to make me think for a second, that, indeed, I am in Key West, but I simply can't fully endorse any place that calls its employees "Islanders" in the middle of a landlocked suburban strip mall.
Cheeseburger in Paradise
5 Virginia Locations - Woodbridge, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Virginia Beach and Newport News
2 Maryland Locations - Pasadena and California

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