What'z in a Name?
Reviewer’s assumptions go down in Flamez
A New Year is, if nothing else, an opportunity to re-examine our preferences and prejudices, and—in terms of this week’s restaurant—I’ve been given a great gift: to see how just wrong my assumptions could be. As a writer, I admit to a certain amount of snobbery in terms of language, and ending a word with a “z” instead of an “s” always made me scoff. Ridiculous, I know, but there it is. So it was with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek that I pushed through the glass doors of Flamez Bistro, already sure of what I could expect.
Except what I found instead was earthy tones and polished finishes in a warm, inviting space that was great for conversation and chic without being off-putting, with modern and industrial design and an open view of the grill. Cloth napkins atop sheets of butcher paper are the perfect metaphor—as everything about Flamez is functional without sacrificing stylish refinement.
A weekday dinner crowd was chill, while the weekend lunch crowd was bustling. Flamez closes from 2pm to 5pm every day, so plan accordingly. There aren’t a whole lot of options for vegans, but as a restaurant built around the grill, I suppose that’s to be expected. The menu seems a bit scattershot, with lots of disparate cuisines on offer, the upside of which is lots of intriguing choices. And with generous portions the menu over, even hearty appetites may well end up with leftovers. There’s a decent wine list and some local brews on tap—always a plus.
There aren't many appetizers, so we opted for the fried pickles ($4). Dill pickle spears, flash fried to order in a light batter and served with spicy mayo—the hot burst of salt and crispy batter plus the heat from the dip is sure to please the pickle-lover’s palate. There are sides that can pass as appetizers or additions, including onion rings ($3.75), regular French fries ($2.25) or sweet potato fries ($2.75), and a green chile mac and cheese ($6). The onion rings, like the pickles, are fresh fried, thick cut, and sumptuous, while both types of fries are satisfying—in particular the sweet potato ones. The green chile mac is a smart blend of a more typical mac and cheese with hunks of green chile and a creamy queso-like sauce. It’s a little heavy for a lone diner, but excellent for sharing.
When it comes to entrees, there’s only one rule: Come hungry. No matter if it's burgers, sandwiches or salads, you’re getting a serious plate of food. If you have your eating pants on and want a challenge, go for my favorite: the Angus beef burger with Swiss ($9), caramelized onions (+$0.50), green chile (+$0.75), bacon (+$1.25) and avocado (+$1.25). This is a massive burger—juicy, textured and hard to get your mouth around! One bite and it’s easy to see why the restaurant is built around the grill. The menu relies on quality proteins, cooked to order, to separate itself from more run-of-the-mill casual fare, and Flamez does it well.
The Greek salad ($14), like most of the salads, comes served with a giant burger patty atop it—in this case, a ground Colorado lamb burger—with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, kalamata olives and feta cheese. The feta is pungent without overpowering, a perfect counterbalance to the lamb, which is ground to keep the patty from becoming too gamey. Like the burgers, the salads are gigantic too—plenty for two to share.
If it’s a sandwich you’re after, I recommend the Cuban ($12) with roasted pork, smoked ham and Swiss cheese, all hot-pressed with pickle and yellow mustard. The slicing on the pork was a bit inconsistent, and the yellow mustard seemed an odd choice considering the terrific global mustard options (stone-ground, Dijon, etc.) available, but clearly I’m nit-picking here. It’s a sturdy sandwich, and the side salad with a luxurious bleu cheese dressing kept the filling meal just light enough.
When it comes to vegan options, your best bet is the bistro salad ($6, available only on the dinner menu). It’s a blend of different lettuces and veggies, carrot ribbons, tomatoes—a generous portion for one. If you’re game, try the sesame ginger dressing—a bright, spicy and delightful change from the typical.
If I am honest, I might never have tried Flamez—and really only because of the intentional misspelling. And that would’ve been a shame. They do up big, tasty meals in an open and friendly atmosphere, support local businesses with their beer and wine options, and give solid value for your dining buck. You know what happens when we assume, right? I’m living proof—having made an ass of myself over the whole “z” thing. So this New Year, drop in for a giant burger, and revisit a few of your own fragile assumptions.
9821 Montgomery NE # C
Hours: Sun 12-2pm, 5-9pm; Tue-Sat 11am-2pm, 5-9pm
Vibe: Modern and industrial, with cloth napkins atop butcher paper and plenty of space
Alibi Recommends: Fried pickles; the Swiss, green chile, caramelized onion, avocado and bacon burger with a local brew