Behemoth Burgers, Grease & More at Vienna’s New Firebox Grille

Firebox Grille, the new burger concept that quietly slipped onto the scene in Vienna this past month, has the potential to be one of the top burger joints in the D.C. area. It just has to work on its consistency. The spot is located in a tiny strip mall, just across the street from the "Toilet Bowl Building" near Tysons Corner. Surrounded by office buildings, it was packed during our first visit at lunchtime, with a line snaking all the way to the back of the restaurant. The queue moved pretty quickly, despite the convoluted ordering system (more on that later), and we got to the front in less than five minutes. There was no crowd during a follow-up trip on Saturday.

There's no signature burgers here-- every one is a do-it-yourself job. First, you select your meat, then bun, cheese and whatever you want to slap on top. There's a pretty decent selection of 17 free and premium toppings (including guacamole, pastrami, Black Forest ham and a fried egg) and 15 different sauces. There's also the option of doubling up your meat. And about that-- on top of the standard beef, chicken and veggie options, we were surprised to see the additional choice of "organic beef." It's not too often we see two beef options for our burgs, though we gotta admit, it's a lot less disconcerting than Cafe Luna's choice of "certified Angus beef' and just plain "beef."  If you decide on organic, it ain't cheap: going the feel-good route will add three bucks. Per patty. (For the record, we could find no difference in taste between the two, so save some scratch and just go with the regular, premium beef.)

Good luck getting this into your face.

Though you may be tempted to double the meat, we strongly recommend against it-- just one of their six-ounce patties is plenty satisfying. But being the insatiable beef eaters that we are, of course we doubled it up, but for the average Joe Burger Eater out there, it's too damn much. These fuckers were so big we had to put our faces into the burgers rather than around them-- our jaws don't open that far. But hey, if you're part constrictor, don't plan on operating any heavy machinery for the rest of the day and down for an immediate onslaught of the meat sweats, go for it. One of the first things we noticed upon receiving our orders were the gigantic buns accompanying the beef. And while there is just a touch too much bread, it looks much more intimidating than it actually is; the flaky brioche collapses nicely and makes for a good bun-to-beef ratio. And the bread itself got universally high marks from the Crew, though we think a toasting might have made it even better. (The whole wheat buns we spied were smaller than the brioche.)

This burg got the pink treatment.

Our experiences with the flame-grilled beef patties, however, were varied. When we asked if burgers could be cooked-to-order we were told medium rare is the default, but if we wanted them more well done, they'd hook it up. That sounded fine to us-- med rare is good for the Crew, but upon receiving the grub, our patties ran the gamut from rare all the way to well done. Needless to say, the well-done kids weren't thrilled about their meat. And continuing with the inconsistency, the amount of grease that accompanied the beef was a toss-up. Now, it's well documented we love the grease, but one of our double burgs had so much of it, we had to make two trips to the trash just to clear the pile of used napkins from our table. And afterwards, we desperately needed a shower. But the patties that were cooked on point? Daaaamn, those burgers rivaled some of the best we've had so far this year. An ideal, crispy, crusty shell around the seasoned beef packed an excellent smoky flavor before giving way to a juicy, but not-too-greasy middle. It reminded us of burgers fresh off the backyard grill. Sublime.

A Firebox burger done right.

The inconsistencies didn't stop with the beef, however-- they carried over into other areas too. One burger came with two nice and crispy pieces of smoked bacon while another had some of the soggiest and lifeless strips of pork we've ever encountered. In fact, we had to take the soggy stuff off the burger. And we never, EVER pass up the pig. They hook up a good selection of sides including some tasty sweet potato fries and a loaded pile of excellent chili cheese fries. But continuing with the order variations, our one order of regular fries came seasoned with what we think was paprika while another was absent of any kind of spice. Weird. A place where Firebox does do very well is price. A single burger costs $5.95 and the double-decker behemoth is $7.95, but from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, their lunch box combo hooks up the burgers with a drink and side for just $2.50 more. Sides are also quite thrifty-- the chili cheese fries are the most expensive at only $2.50.

Chili. Cheese. Fries. We like all things that are good.

Firebox has only been open for three weeks and they're obviously still ironing out some wrinkles. One thing we'd like to see change is the way orders are taken. Right now, it's a confusing, fill-out-a-paper-menu system where it's easy to get the salad, burgers and combos mixed up. And when you get to the front of the line, you're not sure whether to tell them your order or just silently hand them the paper and nod "hello." Scrap the pen and paper and just talk to the customers.

The only place you'd confuse burgers and salads is on Firebox's order sheet.

Despite our reservations, there were far more hits than misses here, and when they're on, Firebox produces some damn fine burgers. With the lack of any really good joints in the Vienna-Tysons area (there's Five Guys but going to the mall for a burg is a pain in the ass), they're a welcomed addition to the scene. If they can step it up and deliver a more consistent, quality burger experience like it appears they're capable of, we'll be planning many return trips. Cheap Burger Alert: Firebox is having a Valentine's Day special Tuesday, hooking up 2 for 1 burgs, salads and wraps all day long. Peep the deets here. Firebox Grille | 8417 Old Courthouse Road | Vienna |     

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