Meaty masterpieces that pay homage to the classics.
These days you can throw a French fry and hit a fast-casual burger concept in most neighborhoods throughout the city. While some manage to appease carnivorous cravings, others leave you stuffed with grease and guilt. Beyond the burgers that feel more like drunk food than a square meal, are the gold standard sandwiches that impel diners to throw caution and calories to the wind in heed of the red meat call. Crafting a perfect burger involves nailing the bread to meat ratio, meticulously seasoning each topping so they are tasty enough to be eaten alone and cooking quality beef to a juicy finish. Nowadays, chefs are following trends and taking liberties in their burger-making by not only opting for adventurous toppings but also piling them to towering heights (many thanks to Instagram). Sometimes you want to eat a simple burger sans frills – with both hands and a smile. These picks don’t need lots of extras to distract from the gourmet artistry at hand.
LUCKY BUNS OG Bun (single patty $10/ double patty $14)
Alex McCoy, the capital’s king of pop-ups, has transitioned his special knack for crafting a good burger into an eatery dedicated to them. The corner spot in Adams Morgan is small in size but mighty in vibes. The menu is easy to navigate with seven burger options including the bestselling “The Bogan.” Those looking for a nod to tradition should order the OG Bun (just what the acronym implies: “original gangster”), which, like other burgers, is made to order with Creekstone beef and sauces and pickles made in house. Buns are sourced from the local Lyon Bakery. The option to upgrade from one patty to two is yours. 2000 18th St NW
LE DIPLOMATE Burger Américain ($18)
You’ve heard the hype by now. The six-year-old Parisian brasserie in Logan Circle features bistro mainstays like moules frites and an impressive selection of fruits de mer, but when the red meat itch takes hold, look no further than the double patty masterpiece tucked between two thin buttery pieces of brioche. It is everything that a McDonald’s Big Mac strives to be, with thinly sliced tangy pickles, melted American cheese and special Russian dressing. Spectacular ambiance with a side of crisped pomme frites rounds out the meal perfectly. 1601 14th St NW
THE CAPITAL BURGER Classic Cheeseburger ($15)
The Capital Grille spin-off dedicated to burgers that opened last year near the Convention Center provides a great option for pre-game meals before the Caps or Wizards play at Capital One Arena. Belly up to the stately mahogany bar and pair your burger with exciting “rarely offered by the glass” wine selections (it’s a pleasure seeing you here, Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon!) or a spiked milkshake. Patties feature a signature beef blend sourced from renowned Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors and brioche buns are baked on-site daily. This is where sophisticated, expense-account burger eating happens. 1005 7th St NW
MINTWOOD PLACE Wood-Grilled, Dry-Aged Bacon Cheeseburger ($17)
For his juicy 8 oz. patties, chef Matt Cockrell uses a custom blend of chuck, brisket, short rib and kidney fat to give the burger umami as it cooks over a wood-fired grill. Thinly sliced dill pickles and lettuce help keep it crunchy until the last bite. 1813 Columbia Rd NW
THE LOUNGE AT BOURBON STEAK Oak-Fired Prime Steak Burger ($19)
Quality steaks are a priority at the Four Seasons’ resident restaurant, but the attached lounge also provides an ideal setting for a thick patty stack. The burger is made of “ruby veal” from the rare Randall Linebacks heritage breed of cattle raised in Shenandoah, Va. In addition to a homemade thousand island sauce and Cabot aged cheddar, red wine and port braised shallots are what make the dish a standout. Diners would be remiss in not pairing it with the lounge’s famous trio of duck fat fries. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
As we were going to print with our March issue Reverie’s juicy burger caught our attention – too late to make the page, but too good not to mention.
REVERIE Burger ($18)
At the newly opened restaurant in Georgetown, chef Johnny Spero forms his patties from the trimmings of the kitchen’s dry-aged ribeye, giving it a unique, almost funky flavor (vegetarians can opt for an Impossible burger substitution). In the name of “Modernist Cuisine” Spero uses a technique that converts cheddar slices into a more melty American cheese-style version of itself. Pickles get misozuke treatment, which means they are cured in miso for several days. They pair well with onions cooked in butter over low heat. The burger is topped with a yellow mustard-based special sauce and sandwiched between Martin’s Big Marty sesame bun. 3201 Cherry Hill Ln.