After penning two of the most well-regarded posts in the history of the Bitches Who Brunch franchise (National’s Park Best Bites 2016 and National’s Park Best Bites 2017) Cori Sue, Stephanie, and Annie have invited The Bearded Bitch back for a guest blog! When my wife, Stephanie, shared the news I was totally overjoyed – I love reading that guy’s work! – but then I quickly remembered that I am The Bearded Bitch and I had better get to writing quickly because the DC team runs a tight ship.
The pattern I am finding in my marching orders from Steph is that, because of my jovial attitude and my proven inability to count calories, I am generally asked to write posts about foods that are both horrible for you, but are also best enjoyed with friends and family. You know what Bitches? I am OK with that. I want you all to have a good time, and it is plenty acceptable to have cheat days or cheat months or cheat decades. With all of the boutique fitness classes you are all running back and forth to and the constant juggling of personal and professional lives, one of us has to make sure you’re eating!
Each year, as Americans, we enjoy Memorial Day together by hosting barbecues and tipping back a few cold ones or glasses of Rose in celebration of the “unofficial” start to summer. To me, it’s like a warm-weather Thanksgiving, where we replace the family arguments, uncomfortable sweaters, and overcooked white meats with real American stalwarts. We pause to remember the heroes and patriots who protect our freedom, while coming together around the grill in anticipation of what I view to be the ultimate American meal: the good, old fashioned cheeseburger, tried and true as it was on the day Tommy Jefferson celebrated with one after signing the Declaration of Independence. We the People need to eat!
It just so happens that Memorial Day falls on National Burger Day this year, and in honor of such a once in a millennium occurrence (need to fact check this), and in case you don’t have access to said grill, it’s my honor to share a few of my favorite burgers around the city with you. Enjoy (and I leave you with a picture of our pup supporting this post)!
Best Burger and a Beer: Right Proper Brewpub, Shaw
As I mentioned before, a burger should just as much be about the experience and your surroundings as it is about the food – and Right Proper never disappoints. Bring your friends and once you are seated, promptly ask for the Wood Grilled Burger, add bacon, (served with Tillamook Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and pickles and your choice of fries or a salad) and ask the friendly staff for their recommendation of their favorite beer to wash it down with. I generally go with their best selling batch, Raised by Wolves, but their revolving menu won’t leave you thirsty. Songlines and Soitenly also come highly recommended. Don’t be surprised if you end up sticking around well past dinner – this perfectly solid and dependable burger may not change your life (I love the smoky taste and consistency from visit to visit), but your overall experience may make RP your new favorite hangout in Shaw.
Old Faithful: Le Diplomate, 14th Street
In my opinion, once it has been established that you are a burger person, you generally fall into one of two categories. I call these categories your “Steak-House-Burger” folk and on the other side we have your “Grease Monsters.” I am a SHB guy – I like a more substantial burger, generally a bit thicker, smokier, and “cleaner,” which tastes more like a meal than a guilty pleasure. To my absolute fortune (double the burgers!) Steph falls directly on the other side of the spectrum, and her favorite type of burger is the kind that requires 19 napkins (for both face and hands), with the faint smell of sauce and grease still present as she dozes off into a nap on the ride home from the restaurant. She doesn’t believe it’s a good burger unless texting on your phone after eating is harder than trying to hold onto a greased watermelon. I have been surprised to learn that a lot more people fall into Steph’s side of the debate than mine – to each their own. If the following is news to you, you have been living under a rock: Le Diplomate NAILS this type of burger – the burger Américain is your guilty pleasure, cancel the rest of your day burger. Served with pommes frittes, American cheese, and their special mayonnaise sauce, this is a can’t miss burger, especially for all of you Monsters out there. You also feel extra guilty leaving a “see and be seen” DC restaurant hoping you don’t have any of the sauce left on your face.
Best Hidden Burger: Beuchert’s Saloon, Capitol Hill
The first thing you will notice when walking into Beuchert’s, near Sixth and Pennsylvania Ave SE with the US Capitol in view, is the large buffalo head looming over the bar. To many, this may seem intimidating, but one piece of advice I’d happily share with the broader audience here is that during my many travels I have yet to experience a place that proudly displayed hanging beasts on the wall, while also struggling to excel at cooking meat. To us in the finance and analytics game (surprise, not a professional blogger), hanging buffalo heads are generally what we call a “leading indicator” – your meal is about to be real nice. Even with all of this added expectation, the burger I had at Beuchert’s recently was an absolute home run. Firmly on the SHB side of the equation, this is a substantial burger and the high quality Roseda beef was cooked to perfection, easily ranking as my favorite burger of the year, thus far. My advice is to go “All the Way,” adding cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg. Between the delicious burger, sophisticated menu, tremendous service, and charming, romantic atmosphere I seriously doubt this burger remains hidden for long. Locals won’t be thrilled I’ve let this buffalo out of the bag.
Best Newcomer: The Salt Line, Navy Yard
Tucked between Nats Park and the Anacostia River, Salt Line opened into locals’ welcoming arms about a year ago, offering a top notch New England inspired seafood restaurant and date spot, run by a perfectly professional yet unpretentious staff, paired with one of the best outdoor-drinking spots in the city. We anticipated that it would turn into the date-night spot for locals and NW DC pilgrims alike – which it certainly has – but Salt Line brought one thing that we didn’t foresee. This seafood joint dropped a big time pin into DC’s burger map, and, although in their first year, they are the first place I have seen in a few years that is actually giving a serious challenge to the Le Diplomate burger with their version of the New England Smash Burger. Smothered in American cheese and served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayo, this is now a must try. To cure a hangover or to celebrate the weekend, I have no doubt you’ll agree that Salt Line’s burger punches above its weight, offering waterfront views and Del’s Shandy to boot.
Biggest Conundrum (it’s a good thing): Duke’s Counter, Woodley Park
After all of this talk about Harry and Meghan, I figured I would have my peace on Memorial Day, a day where the focus shifts across the pond and onto all things American, including our glorious burger. We’ve visited restaurants adorned with red, white, and blue flags, written about spots next to teams called the Nationals, and rubbed heads with buffaloes, for goodness sakes. But no column about DC burgers would be complete without mention of the British restaurant known as Duke’s Counter. This casual, come as you are, family-friendly joint, located across from the Zoo is an easy destination for young families and leisurely catch up sessions. This is one good looking burger, but don’t be afraid to dive right in when the heaping Brekkie Burger served with cheese, onions pickles, and arugula on a buttered, grilled bun arrives. It actually wasn’t that hard to cut or eat, even when you upgrade your burger with avocado, bacon, a fried egg, truffle, and French fries. Dukes delivered the perfectly cooked medium rare burger meat, warm bacon, and perfectly fried egg – which made me feel like we maybe should have gone a little easier on them during the Revolutionary War.