It doesn't seem possible that anyone in Kansas City wouldn't know about Blanc Burgers + Bottles, the enormously popular fancy-burger concept created by the team of Ernesto Peralta, Jenifer Price, chef Josh Eans and bartender David McMullin. But when the quartet decided to expand its mini empire to the eastern suburb of Lee's Summit — in addition to the Blanc location on the Country Club Plaza, there's a second outpost in Leawood — Peralta decided that "no one there would know what Blanc Burgers + Bottles was." So, he says, "We went back to the drawing board."
The result was something different and less expensive but still full-service: B:2 Burger Boutique. Think of it as Blanc's country cousin: not as sophisticated as the original Blanc (though Jenifer Price's stylishly stark, cool interior here recalls her designs for the other restaurants), with a lower price point. It's cheaper in part because the burgers are smaller. All but one of the B:2 beef burgers are made of 6-ounce beef patties, whereas Blanc uses 6-ounce patties for lunch and steps up to 8 ounces for dinner. Also: A beer menu is fitted only with American craft beers (leaving behind Blanc's United Nations-ready approach to suds).
It's a small-town version of Blanc, done up in white and shades of royal blue, with a dozen specialty sandwiches (including a black-bean burger, a beer-brat burger and a beer-battered cod sandwich). All of them are different from the snazzier choices on the Blanc menu.
"We didn't want to be competing with ourselves," Peralta says. "We wanted to complement ourselves."
In the five months since B:2 opened in the upscale Summit Fair shopping center in Lee's Summit, Peralta and his partners have realized that sticking to uncomplicated comfort food was the right move for this suburb. Lee's Summit diners didn't care for the restaurant's first attempt at a vegetarian option, for example, so the eggplant burger went away, replaced by the much more popular black-bean patty.
"Our B:2 customers don't really want fancy burgers," Peralta says. "We added a turkey burger that's selling really well. And our top-selling sandwiches are our B:mac and the Summit burger."
The B:mac is a spin on a certain iconic double-decker. That sandwich was first known as the Big Boy, at the old Bob's Big Boy restaurants, and then was seared into the American subconscious by copycat McDonald's, which introduced its Big Mac in 1968. The Summit burger is a little more out-there by comfort-food standards: a grilled patty topped with blue cheese, pickled red onion, arugula and horseradish mayonnaise. Don't expect McDonald's to steal this one.
I did love the faux Big Mac, though. It's a stack of two 4-ounce patties on a Farm to Market sesame-seed roll (which fell apart in my hands after the first bite) under a house-made "secret sauce" (it tasted a lot like Thousand Island dressing to me) and a slice of punchy white Cheddar, pickles and red onion. Would I order it again? You bet.
Peralta is especially proud of the crispy chicken wings on the limited starter list. (The appetizers number only three, and one of them is chili.) I think they need to be crispier, given their generous blanket of "wing sauce" that's slightly vinegary under its cayenne spice. B:2's executive chef is longtime Blanc staffer Andy Ward, who has been with Peralta's creative team since the first Blanc opened in Westport. He's a real talent, but he can go wild with the salt shaker. Yes, I know that lots of Kansas City diners prefer a saline level in their food that's roughly equivalent to that of the Dead Sea, but I'm not one of them. These wings were as salty as they were spicy. And the truffle fries were so salty that I finally gave up trying to eat them.