Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burger Tap & Shake

Lately it feels like there is a new burger joint opening on every block. Bobby's Burger Palace opened on K Street in late summer and shortly after that, Burger Tap & Shake opened right down the street on Washington Circle. The folks behind Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and Passionfish decided to throw their hat into the burger ring. In addition to BT&S, they opened District Commons right next door.

I've always thought of Washington Circle as just another roundabout that stands in the way of us getting to Trader Joes. With the recent opening of Whole Foods and a slew of new restaurants, it is becoming hipper and more action-packed. Since it is set basically in the middle of the GW campus, these places are filled to the brim with college students.

As we entered BT&S and started to place our order at the counter, the cashier told us that we could take two open seats at the bar and order right from the bartender. We took a stool in between exhausted-looking students in the midst of finals week. You know the look: sweats and wrinkled shirts that normally would serve as PJs but, during finals week, become a convenient 24-hour wardrobe staple. The people watching was pretty great.

If you're into beer, the "tap" part of BT&S means they have a lot of interesting beers on tap. They also blend "shaketails" which are boozy milkshake concoctions that look a lot like those served up at Ted's Bulletin. We skipped the alcohol and split the BT&S shake (Butterfinger, Twix & Snickers). While packed with candy fun, the shake itself was a little on the thin and icy side. Not the best in town, but solidly above average.

B ordered the Apache Sweat Lodge burger ($8) with fire-roasted green chiles, pepperjack cheese, smoked onions, and spicy XXX sauce. He was afraid it would be all spicy and no flavor, but was impressed by its depth. The XXX sauce did not wipe out the other subtle flavors and B gave it two messy thumbs up. We split an order of onion rings and they were a big disappointment. Not particularly crunchy or interesting, just "meh."

I ordered the house burger called the Six Buck Chuck. It comes topped with lettuce, pickles, onions, tomato, "Government Cheese (aka American)," and their signature AP sauce (a blend of ketchup, mayo, mustard, BBQ, and chipotle). I asked them to add some jalapenos for extra zing. The first thing I noticed about the burger was the quality of the bun. They make them fresh every day and you can tell. Buttery and perfectly toasted, it made a very nice vehicle for getting the juicy burger to my mouth. About half way through however, the juices from the burger won their battle with the fluffy bun and I resorted to eating the last bits with a knife and fork. Luckily they serve their burgers on paper-covered trays so I didn't make a ginormous mess.

All of the burger places run together in my head but I'll remember BT&S for the great bun, big and juicy patty, and the friendliness of the bartender/waiter. Next time I'd skip the onion rings and order a different shake. Have you checked out BT&S? Where do you think it ranks in DC's oversaturated burger market?

Second Thoughts from B

Because of the prevalent gourmetization of the all-American hamburger and our need to try every place in town, it is hard to resist the urge to rank our favorites. At the same time, it is hard to separate so many great offerings. But as we sat at the bar, watched the scene, and stuffed our faces, we couldn't come up with a burger joint in the city that we definitively liked more.

The selling point for BT&S would be perfectly-seasoned and cooked patties and fantastic buns. (Internal debate: do I make a joke about my wife having fantastic buns too?) The trick to fantastic hamburger buns is texture and proportion. Many places get the texture right but are so infatuated by their achievement that they forget that the role of the bun is to complement, not consume, the patty. BT&S nailed it.

Unfortunately, the onion rings were as disappointing as the burger was impressive. The shake wasn't bad but they looked so good on the menu that I think our expectations were too high. The service and the scene were both very good, which is certainly factored in when we decide where to go.

I still think Good Stuff is the best all around burger joint in the city (burgers, fries, and shakes considered) but I'd not be upset if runs to Whole Foods included a stop at BT&S.
Burger Tap & Shake on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Are you guys serious? I tried BT&S last Wednesday, ordering the six buck chuck and, as you were, was impressed with the bun. But the accolade(s) ends there. I had my burger cooked to medium well, but it had no flavor. I repeat, it had no flavor. The fries were ok, but that isn't saying much--how difficult is it to make tasty fries? Maybe I caught them on a bad day--perhaps similar to the experience you guys had at shake shack. That being said, I was disappointed with the experience. I'd be surprised if BT&S is still around 2, 3 years from now. But I could be wrong.

BTW, I really enjoy your posts and look forward to them appearing in my RSS feed. Keep up the good work. Cheers.

Sonya Thomas said...


J said...

Anonymous: We definitely had a different experience with the burger flavor. Maybe it was the medium well? We sampled some of the beef from our burgers and thought it was pretty flavorful. One benefit of having so many burger options in DC is that you can try a new one if you don't like one of them :)

Sonya: The CJLCSDB will always have a special place in our hearts but the Six Buck Chuck is a lot closer to our neighborhood.

Kire said...

Had the Apache burger last night, awesome! Fries were good, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of the onion rings at Bobby's Burger Palace. Haven't tried BT&S yet but it's on the list for soon.