Bad Ass Beef
Writer Jason Harris and his doppelgänger Chef Ralph Perazzo sit down to a meal of bBd’s finest coal and wood fired steaks.
Photos by Joshua Greenway
The phone rings.
Calling me is Ralph Perazzo, the large and excitable man behind bBd’s, the new burger joint in Palace Station. The first point here is that calling bBd’s a “burger joint” doesn’t exactly do the place justice, so shame on me. The second point is that if Perazzo is calling, one should expect the unexpected.
In the past, Perazzo’s queries have gone from the cultural:
“Is there a good Jewish deli in Las Vegas?” This one was not so out of the ordinary and the answer is: for New Yorkers, no, for everyone else, Weiss’s and Bagel Cafe are pretty great.
To the more spontaneous:
“Do you want to drive to Los Angeles today, eat an unholy amount of food at various restaurants and drive back to tomorrow?” I would have liked to, but I was unavailable.
This time, not only was the ask one I wasn’t ready for, but it was one I didn’t understand. “Why don’t you suit up?” Perazzo presses me.
Suit up? My mind goes wild.
Is Chef Ralph asking me to join some adult, relive your high school glory football team with real jerseys, coolers of beer, and drawn up plays on the dry erase board? Some real weekend warrior shit.
You see, Perazzo, 39, and I are similar. We are both burly gentlemen with somewhat intimidating statures. Each of us tops 6 feet and are both bald with large Rabbinical style beards and sizable bellies. In other words, we are both incredibly good looking.
So together, we could perhaps become a vicious professional wrestling tag team. Our gimmick would be our knowledge of food and when the referee has his back turned, we’d shove raw meat down our opponents’ throats, incapacitating them for long enough to hit our running splash/senton bomb combination finisher maneuver.
Or with enough leather apparel, we could portray a pair of bikers in the background of bar scenes in movies where the hero somehow ends up in some back road, how did I get here honky-tonk, where he accidentally offends us locals by talking to one of our girls respectfully.
Or maybe we are going to be a pair of offensive linemen in this grownup, make believe football league I am pretty certain Ralph is asking me to join.
My mistake here was not taking into account Perazzo’s sense of whimsy and his love of sharing his food, as his request of me had nothing to do with us becoming tag team champions, working actors, or a fearsome lineman duo.
Let me ask you a question: how many “burger joints” do you know that have their own butchering room? And if you do know any, how many of them display said butchering room to customers right when they walk in?
bBd’s – which stands for burgers, beers, desserts – is the only one I can think of. Before you get to the table to chomp down on some tasty meat patties, and even before you see said makeshift butcher shop, you walk through a hallway that looks like it will lead you to a dungeon. A large, goth-style wooden door opens up to a corridor splattered with dark, blood-red paint. Art work that appears to have been bought at a Manson family garage sale adorns the walls. Paintings of discombobulated babies and wizards holding lathes on mountains stare back at you from each side of the path. If Lord of the Rings was a horror movie, this would be a good set for a hobbit beheading.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take this entranceway over the shitty corporate “neighborhood” burger restaurants any day of the week. I’m no fan of the inauthentic flair (or cuisine, for that matter) at those places: Banners representing hometown sports teams the corporations know nothing about; Pictures of groups of friends from the 1980s, so young they are still naive enough to still have hopes and dreams; Hard working men in greasy undershirts tinkering with classic cars. It’s like they bastardized a John Mellencamp song, if that’s even possible, and put whatever came out the other end on the walls at those T.G.I. ChileBee’s.
With the much more original bBd’s gateway to hell, what you’re getting is an accurate representation of the owner. If you could bottle those walls and sell them as a cologne, they’d be the “Essence du Ralph.”
But, as mentioned, it only gets more morbid from there. Once through the stylish hall of nightmares, you are met at eye level with giant hunks of raw meat hanging from massive hooks. From time to time, as you look through the window to the butchering room, you see cooks expertly cutting, emulsifying, and grinding the meat you might be eating soon. Just your average, friendly neighborhood burger joint, right?
With that information, we can now revisit the original question Perazzo called and asked me:
“Why don’t suit up?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Get in uniform, come butcher some steaks with me, then we’ll cook them and eat them,” Perazzo explains.
Basically, he’s inviting me to butchering fantasy camp. Yes and please and thank you. Let’s go.
Perazzo is proud of his meat. Every burger eaten at bBd’s is ground in house. He has different blends of lean and fat for each style he presents. He has also done extensive research on the product he puts out. Perazzo states that while 5% of all beef in the United States is considered prime, only 40% of that 5% is actually prime, so it’s really only 2% of US beef that’s prime and yes, I did that equation by myself, without calculators, in my head. And yes, I’m also terrified for when my child is old enough to start using new math in school and I’ll be f****n dumbfounded on how that works and why they changed it from the way we learned it to begin with.
Currently, beers, burgers, desserts serves four types of burgers: a steamed burger that tastes like if White Castle had class and cared about itself; a griddled burger that will bring you back to the pleasure of eating at old-school diners; a prime burger that can compete with any steakhouse burger in Las Vegas; and Perazzo’s newest creation: a charbroiled burger that is so damn good, it’s best to just eat it with cheese and no other accoutrements on it. The salt and pepper crust on this burger packs so much flavor into the thing, it’s a damn wonder.
That type of care goes into everything served at bBd’s. It sounds wacky but it’s absolutely true that this place, with its vault of raw meat showcased for all who enter, also has one of the best vegan menus in town. Don’t believe me? Order the vegan wings, which utilize seitan that Perazzo sources from a small purveyor in Philadelphia and tell me they aren’t as good as any version of the bone-in fowl appetizer you’ve had anywhere.
Speaking of appetizers, the massive cheese sticks, which feature a secret mix of cheeses that both another food writer and I couldn’t figure out together, are also showstoppers. I never thought mozzarella sticks needed to be improved upon until I tried these delicious monsters.
So you can imagine Perazzo’s excitement to roll out his steak program. He is proud of the fact that he gets the same meat from the same farm as famed steakhouse Peter Luger’s. And why wouldn’t he be? What other “burger joint” can say that, or even attempts to go that big?
We suit up. White butcher coats. Bandanas that we wear over our mouths. bBd’s skull caps. Blue latex gloves. If we weren’t butchering, we could easily be a pair of offbeat meth lab assistants who Walter White has to work with after he blows up Gus Fraine. (Sorry for the spoiler, but not really. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad by now, that’s your own damn fault.)
The butchering room is cold. Like really cold. And fans circulating cold air make sure it stays that way so as to not disturb the temperature of the meat. All of Ralph’s toys sit against the walls, ready to help him create his masterpieces. A band saw to cut the meat. Some crazy Swedish emulsification machine for house made sausages. The we-didn’t-try-too-hard-to-name-it “Patty-O-Matic” for his perfect burger blends.
Perazzo, realizing I’m a legal liability, takes a fat hunk of meat over to the band saw and shaves off a thin piece. He makes me eat it raw. I passed his test by getting in touch with my inner Revenant. He passed mine because it was fricken tasty.
Then he cuts your average 3-pound porterhouse. WHAT?! But being that this fat slab of beef won’t be enough for us two beefy boys, he also cuts out a ribeye of the same size. But, of course, why have two gigantic steaks when you can have three? So he has also marinated a 3-pound tri-tip in house-made teriyaki sauce.
After the meat is seasoned, we take it a super-hot grill with customized slats to create the crusting Perazzo wants. The heat comes from only coals and wood, keeping the flavor clean. What really impresses me is what happens after we get the char we are looking for.
While the outside of the beef is now flavor-crusted, the inside remains rare. Perazzo slices the steaks one by one and puts each on a sizzling hot plate with some aromatics. The meat is now cooking on the plate. For fans of Japanese food, consider this American tataki style. What takes the whole thing to the next level is while the meat is plate-cooking, Chef Ralph bastes the porterhouse and the ribeye in beef fat and the tri-tip in more teriyaki sauce, amping the flavor of the beef even more.
These are steaks I’d be happy to get at any steakhouse. But thankfully, all I have to do is walk down a hallway of horrors, past the room with the saw and the hanging raw meat, and order them at my new favorite local “burger joint.”