Monday, February 1, 2010

BGR - The Burger Joint

In D.C., burgers are as trendy as cupcakes and frozen yogurt. We're slowly but surely making our way through the new fancy burger places, and our latest stop was BGR - The Burger Joint in Dupont Circle. When you enter, walk past the disco ball in the window and place your order at the counter in front of the open kitchen. The menu is pretty straightforward: plain burgers, fancy burgers, fries (including asparagus and sweet potato fries), and shakes/drinks.

After placing our order with a less-than-friendly cashier, we ventured into the brightly-colored (and crowded) dining room to find a table. They give you one of those light-up buzzer things to let you know when your order is ready.

The atmosphere is casual and whimsical, with funky mosaic tables that are packed just a little too close together.

Our buzzer flashed and when I went to the counter to pick up our food, B's rootbeer float was missing and my burger was topped with the receipt and an onion ring. I could do without the receipt on top of my food. Also, my burger was crowded onto a little metal platter with the mega onion rings leaving little room to enjoy the messy burger without spilling it all over the table. Next time I'll ask for an extra platter or a plate.

The onion rings were huge and tasty. I ordered the "The Burger" (served on a fresh, buttery-toasted brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mojo sauce). The burger was juicy but completely fell apart after 2 bites. The mojo sauce was your standard thousand island burger sauce. It was a good burger but, in my opinion, not head and shoulders above Five Guys.

B tried "The Wellington" (roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic with a touch of mustard seed, and blue cheese, served on a fresh, buttery-toasted brioche bun with mojo sauce). The presentation was very minimalist, but it packed a flavor punch.

We washed down the burgers with rootbeer and cherry coke floats, which were solid but not as good as those at Ray's Hell Burger (see post here). The whole experience left me wishing I was somewhere else. I think you can get better burgers at Ray's, better sides and shakes at Good Stuff (see post here), and spend a whole lot less at Five Guys. $30 for 2 burgers, 1 side and 2 drinks? For that price it should be mind blowing... and it just wasn't.

BGR = Better Go to Ray's.

Second Thoughts from B

Here's the bottomline. If I want a great burger experience, I'm going to Ray's or Good Stuff. However, if I'm confined to Dupont Circle, I wouldn't hesitate going back to BGR. My burger was all sorts of savory brown mush, mixed together in a mess that ended up all over the place. Sounds appetizing, right? Appearance was certainly not the strong suit of this burger... but taste was. It was a cross between beef stroganoff and a steak covered with bleu cheese. In other words, cardiac arrest on a bun.

My mother was the first to impress upon me the importance of presentation when it comes to food. Never will a plate leave her kitchen without careful consideration of the colors presented. It is something subtle and easy, but goes a long way. In short: If it looks good, it'll taste better.

It is like rankings in college sports. For no good reason, we insist on ranking teams before a single game is played, all based on a few experts that are asked to be familiar with the relative abilities of hundreds of teams. Not only is this impossible, it has a significant impact on the season. No matter how well a team actually performs, if they were not well thought of at the beginning of the season, they'll most likely be excluded from the possibility of a top ranking at the end. Same thing with food. Appearance is the starting point. If you start high, it is much easier to end high... But I digress, back to BGR.

When my burger came out, it might have been the least interesting (my nice way of saying ugly) thing that has been put in front of me in a long time. It took some head scratching to figure out how to photograph it without it looking like Juno's hamburger phone. But despite this handicap, it was quite tasty. And for someone who actually enjoys eating with his hands, having it get all over the place wasn't a bad thing.

But let's be clear, I'm not advocating for Ray's or Good Stuff solely for appearance sake. They are certainly more than just a pretty face. While BGR's burger was tasty, I felt it was somewhat one dimensional. Yes, I know it is just a hamburger and I'm probably nitpicking. But if it wants to compete with the big boys, the devil is in the details...
BGR: The Burger Joint on Urbanspoon


Beth Oppenheim said...

I definitely had a similar experience there last week! The one thing I have to say was that my fries were very yummy. The burger was also almost raw when I asked for Medium Well. Another definite downer.

Insana Collins said...

Funny, I just visted this place yesterday and also ordered the Wellington. I wish I hadn't!

World in Motion said...

Found my way to this post from my last comment (thanks!)

I must say, you've certainly had some misfortune going into some of these places haha

Though to be honest, I don't think you could really put Good Stuff ahead of Burger Joint. I loved Good Stuff for their different sauces that accompanied their very delicious fries (which Spike took from his mentor, Eric Ripert). You'll see the same fries at Eric's restaurant at the West End Bistro.

The fries were certainly spot on, but the burger on the other hand was average. To be honest, it reminded me of a burger seen at McDonalds.

Maybe after this next comment you will navigate me to another post but I'm sure you have already tried out Shake Shack. Before I read your post (if there is one) I'm going to go ahead and say all that hype that surrounded it was a huge let down. The servings were tiny and the burger was average at best.

Great reading your reviews so far!