Burger Days’ 2013 Burgers of the Year
For the past twelve months, we welcomed yet another horde of burgers into our faces, continuing our never-ending quest to find the Best of the Best. And while we have yet to discover the Alex Gradys and Tommy Lees of the burger world, we’ve found a whole bunch that we wouldn’t hesitate to put inside us again.
Each year around this time, members of the Burger Days Crew are faced with the near-impossible task of choosing one –ONE– burger from the year’s conquests that was above and beyond all others. It’s an arduous task we don’t take lightly (though, after a year of eating burgers, there’s nothing we take lightly). We don’t call these D.C.’s Best Burgers –even though some very well may be– but these Burgers of the Year are all superlative creations and our favorites over the last 365 days*.
We eat more burgers than you. That’s a given. So take it from our knowledgeable, greasy, hypertensioned asses and read up on the 2013 Burgers of the Year:
Red Apron Butcher’s Original
Red Apron Butcher | 8298 Glass Alley | Fairfax | 1309 5th Street SE (Union Market) | DC | redapronbutchery.com
Jody (@burgerdays) says: New to the scene in 2013, Red Apron Butcher quickly secured itself as my go-to burger spot on any given day of the week. The fact that its Mosaic location is the midway point between my crib and the office has done my waistline no favors and only succeeded in giving me moobs. The joint’s whole lineup of sandwiches is pretty stellar but none (not even the Porkstrami) can compare to their subdued and simple Original burger.
On paper, it’s nothing special –cheddar, shredded lettuce, onion, pickles, tomato and “Island” sauce– but every single ingredient in this thing combines for a burger I’ve become near-addicted to. The patty, a coarse-ground, 80/20 blend of brisket, short rib and sirloin, is phenomenal and (for the most part) has been cooked expertly each time I’ve gone. It’s served on a sublime, toasted brioche bun that combines buttery, pillowy goodness with an ever-so-slight crunch. The cheddar is no slouch either, providing coverage D’Angelo Hall could only dream of. (And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some cheese fried up, all nice and crispy, on the griddle.)
Normally, I pass on the produce toppings, preferring the purity of bread, beef, and cheese, but not with this one. No fucking way. The onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles– everything about them –from the quality to the proportions– are just so goddamn perfect. And I swear there’s something in my DNA that’s got me predisposed to craving their pickles.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Apron’s fries. I’m not one for hyperbole but their beef-fat fried spuds, tossed with rosemary and whole cloves of garlic, are some of, if not THE BEST, in all of D.C. You’re doing a disservice to your face hole if you don’t eat them every chance you get.
Other Notable 2013 Burgs: The Pig’s Burger, Holy Cow’s The Southern
Jody’s Past BOTYs: 2012- 2941’s All American Burger; 2011- Shake Shack’s Double ShackBurger
Green Pig Bistro’s Bacon Cheeseburger
Green Pig Bistro | 1025 North Fillmore Street | Arlington | greenpigbistro.com
Adam (@addc) says: This past year was a burger blur, highlighted by my consumption of more burgers in 10 minutes than most people eat in six months. There were numerous burgers of the month that could have qualified for my favorite burger of the year but none had the execution to warrant consideration. All in all, I had a lot of good burgers but when I tasted the bacon cheeseburger that Green Pig Bistro dishes out, I knew I had my winner. This burger is exactly what a burger should be: great tasting beef with complimenting flavors and devoid of frivolous toppings (vegetables). It also exhibits something that sets it apart from the competition, the ace up its sleeve– delicious, smoky bacon mixed in with the patty that accents, but doesn’t mask, the beef taste. The patty was well executed, with a top-notch grind, and not a single bite lacking in beefy, bacony goodness. To top it all off, the bun is excellent and the selection of cheese perfect. Overall, this is a top-class burger and must be tried by every burger connoisseur. At least once.
Other Notable 2013 Burgs: Ray’s B.I.G. Poppa, Shake Shack’s Cheddar Brat Burger, Z-Burger’s #7
Adam’s Past BOTYs: 2012- Mad Fox’s Cowboy Burger; 2011- BGR’s Red, White & Blue Burger
Burger Tap & Shake’s Tatanka
Burger Tap & Shake | 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW | DC | burgertapshake.com
Matt (@yaysaps) says: Back in June I called BTS’ Tatanka my leading candidate for Burger of the Year. Well, six months and many (many) burgers later, the Tantaka remained the standard by which burgers were measured. A clever twist on the classic BBQ burger, the Tatanka delivered a bison patty with buffalo mozzarella, crunchy onion straws, and an amazing smoky chipotle BBQ sauce (that BTS doesn’t offer that sauce on a full-time basis is a crime against humanity). There was such a great balance of salty, smokey, sweetness in every bite, with a perfect amount of heat on the side. Just a perfect execution of an excellent burger concept. Hopefully, like its four-legged namesake, we’ll see the Tatanka make a comeback and once again roam the menus in thunderous herds.
Other Notable 2013 Burgs: Scion’s Scion Burger
Matt’s Past BOTYs: 2012- Granville Moore’s Sunrise Burger, 2011- Stoney’s Texas Burger
BurgerFi’s Breakfast All Day (B.A.D.) Burger
BurgerFi | 1608 Village Market Boulevard SE | Leesburg | burgerfi.com
Jason (@wipps) says: I’m a simple man with simple tastes. Save your foie gras, your pickled-everything-that’s-not-pickles and your fancy bread options. When it comes to food, I’d say 50% of my meals are either breakfast related or burgers. When I first went to BurgerFi, I saw the B.A.D. on the menu but resisted in order to try their house burger first, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The potato roll (my favorite) complemented a super simple, yet tasty burger which is exactly what I want. My next visit brought me face-to-face with my favorite burger of 2013.
The B.A.D. burger at BurgerFi is the best of both worlds for me. Gooey egg? Check. Thick bacon? Check. Hash brown? Check. Maple Syrup??? Check. Oh yeah, that great classic simple burger on a branded, luscious potato roll. It is everything I expected, wanted, hoped for and more. The best part is that the “fried egg” still bursts apart during that initial bite into an explosion of oozing yolk. The way it should be.
I mean, look at that work of art: the crispy, salty bacon with the sweet syrup at the top for a crunch…the gooey egg ready to coat the burger like it’s giving it a hug on a cold day. The base of the hash brown to soak up all the juices and keep the bun dry and structure intact. So simple, yet so satisfying.
B.A.D to the bone indeed.
Other Notable 2013 Burgs: Dogwood’s Harissa Burger
Jason’s Past BOTYs: 2012- Shake Shack at Nats Park’s DoubleShackBurger, 2011- Black Squirrel’s Burger
Scion’s Scion Burger
Scion | 2100 P Street NW | DC | scionrestaurant.com
Jeb (@jebgavin) says: It’s probably a stretch calling this the burger of the year, but then I haven’t had a ton of truly amazing burgers this year. Ate a whole mess of them in New York City early on with few surprises and more than a few disappointments. Went to not one, but two burger cook-offs which were almost entirely wastes of time and ground meat (OK, sure, one was for charity, but philanthropic success does not mean gustatory success.) Maybe the only burger that really made me take notice this year was Scion’s burger, eaten on this most recent Burger Day VII in Dupont.
A brief caveat: I was drinkin’. Fuck you if you thing that impairs my judgment when it comes to eating things. I know enough to not drive a car/boat/plane/Zamboni when lit up, but I can sure as hell eat, and assess what I’m eating up until the point at which I’m no longer ambulatory, and usually just after. Since I walked into and out of Scion of my own volition, I’d say their burger was tops of the year for me, without further reservation.
The menu says “ground Wagyu and sirloin” (back in October it read “ground Kobe and sirloin.”) This is a minor irritation, given Waygu is a type of cow from a certain prefecture in Japan (and Kobe the association name for cuts of meat from said cow,) whereas sirloin is a cut of meat, akin to saying your bouquet of flowers are comprised of calla lilies and also petals. The burger itself was juicy, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and was in no way overshadowed by some impressive toppings. Smoked mozzarella and sautéed onions aren’t too big a deal, though they’re a natural pair. What threw me off briefly were the fried pickle chips and peach ketchup.
More often than not I have a sort of checklist for a burger, running down the possible faults from most egregious to least. Start with the meat itself, is it fresh, does it taste like ground beef, and is it the beefiest flavor of beef. Is it properly seasoned, is it juicy, is it cooked right? Beyond that you move on to things like balance, which is where a lot of burgers having made it past the primary examination go wrong. We balance sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and meaty for a reason. Aesthetically the combination makes for the most interesting flavor profiles, and the most pleasing tastes. Too sour is gross, too sweet is gross. Very sweet and very sour can work though.
Lots of places think savory dishes, burgers among them, cannot abide even the lightest touch of sweetness (don’t get me started on using hothouse tomatoes, which are basically tomatoes minus all the more important flavors.) Yet we add ketchup, more often than not a sauce made of sugar second only to the tomatoes themselves. So this idea of throwing the briny, salty, crisp pickle chips on top of a burger with already sweet and salty sautéed onions, salty and smoked mozzarella, and topping it with a sweet peach ketchup with just a hint of bite to it balanced things perfectly. Toppings are meant to accompany and enhance the burger, and Scion got it just right.
Other Notable 2013 Burgs: Dogwood Tavern’s Hawaiian Burger (Burgers of the month have proven to be a mediocre mixed bag, and I often dislike “Hawaiian” flavored things out of hand as it seems like a cliché bordering on grotesque. Dogwood’s dressed up bar burger was balanced and on point, and went as far as to make me hate Hawaiian pizza less. A rare feat)
*In an effort to introduce you to D.C’s new and different exceptional burgers, we do not consider previous BOTY winners.