Burger Days’ 2014 Burgers of the Year
Another year in the books, another pile of burgers in the face and another 20 pounds in the midsection. It’s that time of the year again when we reflect on the plethora of ground beef that entered our systems over the past 12 months and choose the greatest of the greasy bunch.
In our quest to find the best in the D.C. area, we took on yet another whole shit-ton of burgers in 2014. Some of them were bad. Some of them were good. Most of them were just OK. After a long and hard examination of the year’s meaty memoirs, we’ve selected our five favorite creations and awarded them our coveted Burger Days Burger of the Year awards.
We’re not declaring these special blends of meat and bun the “Best of D.C.” – though some might very well be – rather, each one of the following was the best we ate over the last 12 months*. And considering we eat more burgers than you, you best take our overweight, cholesterol-laden, grease-tinged word for it.
So in our humble – and totally qualified – opinions, here are the 2014 Burgers of the Year:
BLT Steak’s American Kobe Hamburger
BLT Steak | 1625 I Street NW | DC | bltsteak.com
Jody (@burgerdays) says: Lace up those shiny shoes and strap on the cummerbunds – the best burger I put in my face all year is some swanky-ass shit.
Now, don’t ask me what I was doing inside BLT Steak, but while there – trying my hardest not to class down the joint – I indulged in one of the finest meat and bun creations I’ve enjoyed during my lifetime of burger inhalation. The American Kobe Hamburger is the most expensive burger in all of D.C. and while it’s hard to justify dropping almost 30 bucks on any sandwich, it helps when someone else is buying (Thanks, Mark).
Maybe it’s because of the guys in the kitchen or maybe it’s because this thing is made from fancy cows, but each and every bite I took of this burger created a party in my mouth and, very nearly, in my pants. The half-pound, fat-heavy mix of Wagyu, blanketed in completely-melted cheddar (like ALL burger cheese should be), was seasoned to perfection. They fucking nailed it.* And if BLT Steak’s meat and cheese on a toasted buttered bun was all it was, it’d still be one of the best I ate all year. But because this is such an expensive burger, there damn well better be more to it. Well, there is, and the final two components make it some next-level shit.
Slight pressure on the top bun unleashes a gushy wave of yellow, spreading over the top of the patty and pouring down its sides. A fried egg makes every burger better and here is no exception as its runny inclusion infiltrates every nook and cranny, unifying the top and the bottom in a gooey puddle of yolk-y cohesion. And lastly, providing a noble, yet woefully inadequate shield for the bottom bun, is a slab of pastrami. The salty strip of meat would be a pleasure to eat on its own but here it excels, playing wonderfully with the richer Wagyu patty. Its location under the beef does its best to save the stability of the whole egg-drenched creation but it’s no match for the onslaught of yolk and burger juices. Oh well, just bust out more napkins.
I’m not gonna lie – a $27 burger is a hard thing to swallow. But BLT Steak’s near-perfect execution makes it a hell of a lot easier.
*I don’t know how many times this year I sat down to a perfectly cooked burger, thrown together with top-notch ingredients, only to find a barely seasoned disc of blandness lurking inside. It’s fucking infuriating and makes me want to punch something.
Other Notable 2014 Burgs: America Eats Tavern’s Blue Cheese Burger, Shelly’s Back Room’s Stuffed Mack Burger
Jody’s Past BOTYs: 2013 – Red Apron’s Original; 2012- 2941’s All American Burger; 2011- Shake Shack’s Double ShackBurger
Gypsy Soul’s Gypsy Soul Burger
Gypsy Soul | 8296 Glass Alley | Fairfax | gypsysoul-va.com
Matt (@yaysaps) says:
This one came out of nowhere. I’d been meaning to check out Gypsy Soul in Mosaic District since it opened but, until last month, this was just another unchecked box on my ever growing “to do” list. Sure, you’d think having a brand new restaurant from James Beard award-winning chef RJ Cooper open up a few short miles from my front door would jump toward the top of my list, but I’ve been busy procreating and raising the future generation of burger enthusiasts, so lay off me already.
Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure I was going to order a burger – everything on the menu looked awesome, and since I’d been meaning to hit the place up for such a long time, I thought, “maybe I should save the burger for another time?” Yeah, I know, life is full of difficult decisions. Fortunately our bartender was able to offer some pointed advice at just the right time. “Get the burger…then add bacon…then add cheddar…then add an egg.” Yes…yes…yes…and oh HELL YES.
What arrived was a farm-to-table masterpiece. Dual patties made up of a righteous blend of chuck, brisket and short rib, with grilled pickled sweet onions, chow chow, green tomato compote shallot aioli and a chiffonade of romaine lettuce (the condiments change with the season). Oh, then topped with cave-aged cheddar, a cage-free pasture-raised hen egg and thick slices of smoky Benton’s bacon. If all that sounds like a lot…it is. The burger is huge, both in size and in flavor – and while there is a lot going on, everything comes together in one beautifully sloppy burger eating experience. By the end of the meal I was sopping up every salty, savory, creamy, sweet, juicy, runny, glorious remnant from my plate. That a restaurant with such a rich pedigree can proudly serve such a magnificently messy meal is a real testament to just how much the food comes first at Gypsy Soul. Definitely the best burger I ate in 2014.
Other Notable 2014 Burgs: B Side’s Italian Beef Burger
Matt’s Past BOTYs: 2013 – BTS’ Tatanka; 2012- Granville Moore’s Sunrise Burger; 2011- Stoney’s Texas Burger
Holy Cow’s Hot Mess
Holy Cow | 2312 Mt. Vernon Avenue | Alexandria | holycowdelray.com
Jason (@wipps) says:
I had been hearing about Holy Cow for awhile thanks to the many trips by fellow Burger Days crew members (who lived much closer than I) did. I took it upon myself to find a way to convince my wife to make the extended trip from Loudoun Co. to Alexandria for a burger. Behind an elaborate “date day” of sight seeing, geocaching and kayaking at the National Harbor, I made sure that we happened to be within range of Holy Cow come lunch time. The plan worked as my wife begrudgingly accompanied to yet another burger joint in the hopes for that jaw-dropping, mouth-watering perfect bite. As my wife perused the menu, I already knew what I was going to order: The Hot Mess, which happened to be the “Burger of the Moment” at Holy Cow. Occasionally, the chefs there concoct a very off the wall, but extremely appetizing burger and post it on social media. This one was described as a burger with smoked gouda, bacon, Chipotle mac & cheese, crispy onions and sriracha aioli….giddy up!
Even with all the extras on it, the important part of any burger is the burger itself, and Holy Cow does it properly. Well seasoned, cooked properly and well proportioned to the bun, it hit a definite home run. The bacon, onions and sauce each added their own texture and taste and who doesn’t love mac and cheese, with or without burger? It all worked and worked well. I’m amazed I remembered to get a picture of it before devouring it.
As for my wife, who ordered just the regular, no frills burger off the menu uttered “This might be my new favorite burger!” Boom! Believe me, that doesn’t get said much. It made for a perfect moment of our day around town and easily qualified as my 2014 Burger Days burger of the year.
Burger Days Pro Tip: The Hot Mess is still available as an off-the-menu item. Since sister-and-neighboring restaurant Pork Barrel BBQ has mac and cheese full-time, they can hook up all the topping for you any day of the week.
Other Notable 2014 Burgs: Ray’s Hell-Burger’s Brimstone
Jason’s Past BOTYs: 2013 – BurgerFi’s B.A.D. Burger; 2012- Shake Shack at Nats Park’s DoubleShackBurger; 2011- Black Squirrel’s Burger
Duke Grocery’s Proper Burger
Duke’s Grocery | 1513 17th Street. NW | DC | dukesgrocery.com
Adam (@addc) says: Earlier this year, I swore off burgers with more toppings on it than I’ve got fingers. A burger with just some nice beef, a slice of cheese and a dollop of sauce sounded pretty good to me. It sounds even nicer when you’re stuffing your face with whatever random ingredients the BOTM chefs come up with every month. But who would have thought burger redemption would come from a British place that doesn’t even serve fries?
The Proper Burger has two beef patties, cooked either pink or well done. My pink burger came out excellently between medium rare and medium which is not something you see often with double burgers. Then they put gouda, red onions, sweet chili sauce, garlic aioli and dill pickles on top of what the Brits called Rocket inside of a Brioche bun. This is everything you want in a burger.
Other Notable 2014 Burgs: Mintwood Place’s Burger
Adam’s Past BOTYs: 2013 – Green Pig Bistro’s Bacon Cheeseburger; 2012- Mad Fox’s Cowboy Burger; 2011- BGR’s Red, White & Blue Burger
Rustico’s Three Little Pigs
Rustico |827 Slaters Lane| Alexandria | 4075 Wilson Boulevard | Arlington | rusticorestaurant.com
Murph says: The big bad wolf can huff and puff all he wants but he’ll just need to go to Rustico if he wants a taste of the Three Little Pigs burger. My burger of the year is a combination of smoked bacon, BBQ pulled pork and smoked ham atop their beef patty with aged cheddar, and it is spec-tac-u-lar. Not that this mammoth isn’t already stacked high enough, it’s topped off with a pile of very tasty crispy onion straws. And I wouldn’t usually call out pickles, especially with the variety of pork, but the two-day process for making these bread and butter chips is evident. They provide a nice contrast to all the pig stacked on this thing and I’m pretty sure it’s the healthiest part of this beast.
Lastly, the glistening buttery bun may not break the internet like Kim K’s shiny big buns, but it’s the perfect complement to this porker of a burger. Now, this is a lot of food but if you ask me to share? Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!
Other Notable 2014 Burgs: BLT Steak’s Wisconsin CAB Hamburger, Del Ray Cafe’s Black Angus & Blue Cheese Burger
Murph’s Past BOTYs: 2012 – BGR’s Chili Mac; 2011 – Burger Tap & Shake’s Apache Sweat Lodge
Jeb (@jebgavin) says: I get asked with some regularity which is the best burger. It’s always either within a time period or in a geographic area. I’ll give an honest answer when asked, and I’ll listen politely to someone tell me I’m wrong, as though I didn’t know this was entirely subjective and they don’t know I had a degree in aesthetic philosophy and also write burger reviews all the damn time. But when asked about the best burgers of this year, I’ve been dragging my feet, hesitant to put into words what I know to be true: this year has been a let down.
Not saying I haven’t had a few good ones. Not saying some of the burgers I’ve tried this year weren’t inventive. But I’ve eaten more poorly thought-out, pun-named burgers this year than any year before. I’ve eaten In-n-Out and a dozen fast food clones of In-n-Out and found every one of them wanting. I’m not saying I need foie on a burger, covered in gold flake, sous vide in butter, made of someone’s sacred animal, but if we’re talking best burger of the year, I can’t say I had one. Good burgers, sure, the occasional interesting burger, fine. But nothing I’d call the best. This whole year has run the gamut from near misses to cartoonishly big hay makers that were never going to connect, to well-made burgers topped with fresh lettuce, crisp onions, secret sauce, and nothing of consequence. And I don’t want to bash well-made burgers.
Bourbon Steak’s regular old burger is a damn fine burger. Of the one’s I ate in LA this past summer over the Fourth of July weekend, Grill ‘Em All in Alhambra really impressed me. Even some of the Burgers of the Month were decent. But nothing hit that mix of execution and innovation that made me say, “this is the best burger I’ve eaten all year.”
Now tell me I’m wrong so we can start the cycle all over again.
*In an effort to introduce you to D.C’s new and different exceptional burgers, we do not consider previous years’ BOTY winners.