BOTM Review for August: Clarice, Harissa, Carolina & Another Hawaiian
We’re champions of creativity here at Burger Days– it’s one of the reasons we highlight the area’s special monthly burgers with our BOTM posts. Not content with just reading about them, we also make it our mission to seek out and throw each of these creations into our faces.
The latest BOTM review gives the run down of August’s burgers:
The Hawaiian – BGR The Burger Joint
BOTMs are the opportunity to pull out all the stops. To open that tattered, grease-stained notebook filled with Franken-burger ideas and put forth a creation that should never achieve a permanent spot on the regular menu. For one month only, this beast will rear its beefy head and then -POOF!- just like Dave McFly in a photograph, it’s erased from existence. This is the time to get fucking nuts.
Or you could just slap some ham and pineapple on a burger and call it a day.
For the second consecutive month, there’s a Hawaiian BOTM with the latest version coming courtesy BGR The Burger Joint. Like Dogwood’s BOTM from July, this latest Polynesian burger came topped with the aforementioned fruit and pork but instead of a pineapple-BBQ sauce, it had a dousing of teriyaki.
Now, the burger wasn’t bad (though it was boring), but it wasn’t all that great either. The pineapple was fine –ripe, crisp and juicy– but the slices were too small and didn’t cover the whole patty. That’s not so terrible, but it meant several bites were just bread and meat and missing a critical component of the BOTM. But while the pineapple was in absentia through parts of the burger, the sauce was most definitely not. And that was a problem.
Sauces can –and oftentimes do– work great with burgers, but moderation is so damn important. The Hawaiian was served sitting in a puddle of the stuff. With a sauce like teriyaki, a little goes a long way. And a lot goes and turns a burger into a sweet, sticky mess. A burger should be less cloying and more savory.
Here’s hoping this is the last Hawaiian burger we see for a while.
BOTM Rating (out of 10):
Creativity: 2; Overall: 6
Clarice Starling – Burger Tap & Shake
OK– throw out the images of skin suits and Buffalo Bill’s tuck job and instead focus on the gloriousness of BTS hooking up yet another spectacular BOTM. Normally, the purist that I am frowns upon non-beef burgers but if this Foggy Bottom joint keeps knocking ’em out of the park, I’ll keep shoving them into my face.
BTS’ August burger, named for everyone’s favorite serial killer-thwarting fed, was a dead-on-balls accurate (it’s an industry term) lesson on flavor-matching and burger creativity. The Clarice Starling’s lamb patty was supremely juicy and, while not possessing such a pronounced flavor like beef, had a mild yet distinct –but not gamy– taste with spot on salt-and-pepper seasoning. The standout toppings were both the goat cheese and mint pesto, each contrasting nicely against the acidity of the pickled onions– even if the ratio was slightly off. The burger could’ve used slightly more cheese or slightly less onions because the dominating flavor of the latter did its best to cover up the taste of the former. The Chianti mustard aioli was slathered on the top bun and while I dig its inclusion, I had trouble noticing the sauce’s flavor amid the other ingredients. Regardless, kudos to them for getting Hannibal’s vino of choice all up in the mix.
All of the above, combined with one of the best housemade buns in D.C., left me damn near beef-level satisfied and itching to put some lotion on my skin.
BOTM Rating (out of 10):
Creativity: 8; Overall: 8.5
2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW | DC | burgertapandshake.com
Carolina Burger – Bobby’s Burger Palace
I see Bobby’s Burger Palace as an enigma in the world of burgering. With Bobby Flay the face and presumed brains behind the BBP empire, it has decidedly more pedigree than most of the other burger spots out there. Yet, with all its clout and cachet, I’ve been consistently underwhelmed with the joint. The service has always been excellent –friendly and speedy– and the burgers are solid, if unspectacular, yet I’ve never really enjoyed eating there. The communal tables don’t feel right and the whole place is too plasticky and sterile. I’ve never had a bad experience there –not at all– it’s just that I’ve never had a memorable one either.
So color me greasy and tickled after my visit last month for the Carolina BOTM, which I can confidently say was the best burger I’ve had yet from Mr. Food Network’s joint.
It’s not all that elaborate – a burger topped with smoked cheddar, green onion slaw and mustard BBQ– but each component was quite good and made for an exceptional collaboration. Despite my gripes with BBP, one thing they’ve always done right by me is topping execution. When it comes to accessorizing the burgs, they use top-notch ingredients with expert preparation (they should teach a course on the proper way to serve bacon) and, most importantly, they use them in the correct amount.
While BGR’s burger was left swimming in sauce, BBP showed proper restraint when dolloping on the mustard BBQ. Acting like the complement it was supposed to be, the mustard BBQ sauce tickled my taste buds after each bite rather than bodyslamming them into sweet and sticky oblivion. I loved the cheese too– the smoked cheddar was melted through and through and coated the burger like an orange skull-cap. There was a bit of slip up with the slaw, however, as I struggled to taste any green onion in the whole thing. The cabbage was crisp and fresh though and added a great bite to the burger. They were heavy-handed with the pepper on the patty and no so much with the salt but that was OK, because it still left the beef front and center.
Last but not least was the sesame seeded-potato bun, almost certainly of the Martin’s variety, that tied the whole thing together. The soft and squishy bun is the picture perfect burger holder and wrapped up this surprisingly very, very good BOTM.
BOTM Rating (out of 10):
Creativity: 5; Overall: 7.5
2121 K Street, NW | DC | bobbysburgerpalace.com
Harissa Burger – Dogwood Tavern
I didn’t know quite to expect when I heard about Dogwood’s August BOTM. The Falls Church restaurant and bar has shown a knack for creativity in the past (fatty melt BOTMs, kangaroo burgs on Leap Day, etc.), but word of its Harissa Burger left me less than impressed. Granted, they’re not the most common of ingredients –a harissa and beef blended patty topped with mozzarella and a cucumber pico– but nothing to get my juices flowing.
Despite the ho-hum description, the real thing was actually pretty good. There wasn’t a whole lot of heat to it, or if there was it was masked by the mozzarella, but the overall flavor was pleasantly different. It wasn’t a beefy burger, instead the harissa-infused patty tasted like it took a roll in the hay with a spice rack. Chili and garlic were the most evident of flavors along with a smattering of other herbs and spices. The generous portion of creamy, melted mozzarella was appreciated while the cucumber pico — a mix of cukes, tomato, onions, garlic and lemon– was scant and seemed like more of an afterthought.
BOTM Rating (out of 10):
Creativity: 6; Overall: 6
132 West Broad Street | Falls Church | dogwoodtavern.com
August BOTM Rankings:
1) Burger Tap & Shake – Clarice Starling (8.25)
2) Bobby’s Burger Palace – Carolina Burger (6.25)
3) Dogwood Tavern – Harissa Burger (6)
4) BGR The Burger Joint – Hawaiian (4)