Last summer, I was one of the judges at the Best Burger in Vero competition that awarded 2016 bragging rights to The Patio.
I thought The Patio’s entry in the July 4th weekend street festival was good. But in the insanity of an event where one burger after another was pushed in front of the judges and you hardly had a chance to swallow, it was hard to say how good.
So last week, three of us descended on The Patio to more leisurely sample three of this venerable restaurant’s different burgers. It was a gorgeous Vero winter evening, so we grabbed a table outside on the patio – and settled back with our glasses of wine.
Before getting to the burgers, however, we decided to share the flash-fried calamari appetizer ($10). This is not your ordinary fried calamari. At The Patio, they julienne calamari steaks, then after lightly frying the long thin strips, toss them with citrus beurre blanc, sriracha, capers and tomato. Absolutely delicious.
After then enjoying salads (I had a Caprese Rustica with beautiful slices of vine ripe tomato), we got down to business choosing our burgers from a dozen possibilities.
I decided to go with the Napa burger ($13.79), which is topped with brie, figs, caramelized onions and a mustard aoli; our companion chose the Wisconsin burger ($12.85), which of course features cheddar along with bacon, sautéed mushrooms and a tangy ranch sauce; and my husband was drawn to the Raging Bull burger ($13.75), topped with fresh mozzarella, crispy pancetta, and a red pepper and tomato ragout.
Then we waited. And waited. And waited. At first, it was kind of pleasant because Thursday is Dave Scott Blue Jam night, and while it was very loud inside (where a goodly crowd seemed to be having a great time), the music was just right for dining on the patio.
But it was an hour before our burgers emerged. My burger and fries and those of our companion were luke warm and not medium rare; my husband’s was far from rare as ordered. So we called our very nice server, Taylor, and she took them back to have the kitchen try again.
A couple of minutes later, proprietor Bill Brown strode over to our table. “We’re redoing your burgers for you,” he said. “But I will tell you we looked at them inside, in the kitchen. Outside, for whatever reason with the lighting out here, it just doesn’t look the same as inside. But when we put it under the fluorescent light in the kitchen, it was rare as can be.”
“My Raging Bull burger was not rare,” my husband said.
“Trust me, it was,” the proprietor replied. At that point, my husband – who has been eating everything rare for the past half century – became the Raging Bull. “Do you imagine that I don’t know what rare is,” he asked somewhat heatedly. “I don’t care what color it is. It wasn’t rare.”
The discussion went on in this vein for another minute or so, before the proprietor exited, sans apology.
Ultimately, the new burgers arrived – this time perfectly prepared – and all three of them were excellent.
But what sense does it make for a restaurant proprietor to argue with a patron over how the food was prepared? At the end of the meal, the server – not Brown, mind you, but the server – offered free desserts to make up for our long wait, but we had been there two-and-a-half hours at that point and declined.
Had the proprietor come over as we were leaving, I would have told him our visit certainly confirmed that The Patio’s burgers are among the very best in Vero. But we never saw him again. Too bad. I might also have suggested to him that explanations are fine; prolonged arguments with customers, not so much.
A dining experience does not consist solely of food.
I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at email@example.com.
The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.