Burger Days 2016 Burgers of the Year
Forget the eggnog. Forget the fruit cake. Forget the candy canes. This is what you need to be noshing on this holiday season.
After another 12 months of eating way too much meat, popping way too many Lipitor and eating far too little salad, we’ve somehow managed to survive. Along the way, battling through a barrage of food comas and meat sweats, we researched, analyzed and carefully curated the absolute best group of burgers we deposited into our cavernous face holes in 2016.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t healthy and it was strongly discouraged by our families and doctors. But damn it, it was fun. And, remember, it’s all for you.
Read up, burger faithful, and be ready to get hungry. Here are the Burger Days 2016 Burgers of the Year:
Alfie’s OG Burger
Alfie’s | 3301 Georgia Avenue NW | DC | alfiesdc.com
If D.C.’s burger scene had a trending topics list, #anothermccoyburger would be right at the top. Chef Alex McCoy can do no wrong when it comes to our whole raison d’être. As the creator of Duke’s Grocery’s Proper burger, the guy has already earned a spot in our Hall of Fame but the fact is, McCoy’s creation at Duke’s is just one bullet point (a tasty, tasty one, mind you) on his burger building resume.
Earlier this year, McCoy somehow managed to make a Thai joint into the best new burger spot in the District. At the Park View pop-up Alfie’s, he served two of the greatest burgers we ate all year. The Aussie burger – a sticky, sloppy cacophony of beets, pineapple, cheddar and fried egg – was magnificent but it was the back-to-the-basics OG burger that nabbed 2016 Burger of the Year honors.
“I like the classic,” says McCoy, about the traditional stack anchored by five ounces of 80/20 Creekstone Farms beef that he cooks in short rib fat. With smoked cheddar, pickles, red onion, arugula and a slathering of sweet chili sauce mayo, the OG is simple but still thoughtful, precise and, most importantly, fucking delicious. It’s reminiscent of the original Duke’s burger and that’s no coincidence – McCoy says the Proper burger was based on a Thai-style burger.
Unfortunately, like many a wonderful thing in 2016, the OG burger was not long for this world. Since all that pop-up must come down, Alfie’s wrapped up its run last July and, with its shutter, the curtain also came down on the OG burger.
At least temporarily…
Alfie’s is set to return – in a new space – in 2017 and that means the OG burger will be all up in our faces once again. In the mean time, Tchoup’s Market (McCoy’s replacement for Alfie’s) will finish up its run this Wednesday, Dec. 23, so that means burgers likes this and this, can help you close out 2016 with a beefy, greasy bang.
Rebellions’s 1836 Burger
Rebellion | 18th Street NW | DC | rebelliondc.com
When Travis Weiss told us he was leaving his post at Mad Fox Brewing Company earlier this year – the spot where he cultivated its “Epic Burger” program, where he created an unholy hybrid of a burger, chimichanga and a Reuben and, not to mention, where he served one of the top burgers we ate in 2015 – it got us worried.
Did we just lose one of D.C.’s best burgers? Would Weiss’s burger-making magic translate to his new kitchen? WHAT WERE WE GOING TO DO?
But then we stopped into the Dupont whiskey bar Rebellion, Weiss put a plate in front of us and said, “This is the best damn burger I’ve ever eaten.” Suddenly, all was right in our meaty, greasy-tinged world.
“I wanted to go with an all-new grind,” Weiss told us, deciding to move on from the signature beef blend he created at Mad Fox. But because Rebellion’s kitchen is much smaller than the one he had at the Falls Church brew pub, he couldn’t do an in-house grind. Instead, he hooked up with meat supplier Capital Meat Company to create his own custom blend for his new burger, a mix of brisket, chuck and coulotte (part of the sirloin) and the key to his new blend: leaf fat. The resulting mix makes for a juicy, rich and beefy patty with enough integrity to stay together throughout the meal.
The 1836 ditches the monstrous novelty blueprint Weiss is known for and instead, sticks to the basics: meat, cheese and bun. The smash-griddled, double-pattied stack is covered in soft and creamy white American (“Just like me,” laughs Weiss), shredded lettuce (he says “it’s old school”), red onion to give it crunchiness and bite, housemade B&B pickle sandwich slices and a slathering of 1000 Island (“I wanted smoked bone marrow mayo but that would be too rich for the burger,” Weiss laments). All of the above gets cradled in a toasted and buttered, sesame-and-poppy-seed brioche and – just like that – all our questions had been answered.
Yes, D.C., Travis Weiss’s burgers live on and they’re spectacular.
Market Burger’s The Market Burger
Market Burger | 145 West Main Street | Purcellville | marketburger.net
When a BOTY-winning chef tells you one of his favorite burgers in the area is from a spot out in Loudoun County, it’s time for a road trip. After all, “Have bellies, will travel,” reads the card of the Burger Days crew.
Market Burger is a no-frills, farm-to-table joint, a good one hour away from the District. It’s not in some big town center like One Loudoun or surrounded by a bunch of bars or nightlife spots; it’s literally on Main Street, a small, quaint road in Purcellville nestled between a barber shop and a thrift store, across the street from Catoctin Creek Distilling Company.
This ain’t no big city joint, guys, but the burgers are worth the trip.
There are a plethora of options available to dress up the meat but the shop’s namesake creation, loaded up with all that is good, makes the decision easy. With a crisp bed of lettuce and runny fried egg, a flat-top-griddled patty – each nook and cranny infiltrated by molten cheddar – crowned with salty strips of bacon and a lip-licking spread of herb mayo, the Market Burger melds together in a handful of greasy harmony.
And while we always feel good about eating burgers, there’s reason to feel particularly good while chowing down on this one. Just about everything on the menu here is locally-sourced, from the meat and cheese to the produce and bread. Currently, the beef is from Lynchburg’s Seven Hills but suppliers are rotated often and include Loudoun’s own Oakland Green Farm, Tiny Acre Farm and Silcott Springs. Sterling’s Cardinal Bakery makes the buns, the lettuce is from Endless Summer Harvest in Purcelville, the cheddar is courtesy of Trickling Springs and eggs come from Lovettsville’s Fairbrook Farm. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the most local burger in all of the D.C. area.
One thing we know for sure, however, it’s certainly one of the best.
Crisp Kitchen + Bar’s Patty Melt
Crisp Kitchen + Bar | 1837 1st Street NW| DC | crispdc.com
There are a lot of good burgers in D.C. There are not a lot of good patty melts.
But not only did we find a good patty melt, we found a great one and – surprise, surprise – it comes from a familiar face.
Forgive us if we’re sounding like a broken record but, damn it, that Alex McCoy can make a fantastic burger.
When creating the menu for Crisp, McCoy wanted to take it back to the days of good old fashioned, cheap and simple diner fare. And, to McCoy, nothing says that more than a patty melt. “It’s the old school of old school,” McCoy tells us. “And no one, was serving one.” So, of course, he went out and killed it.
Bottom to the top, the patty melt is flawlessly executed at Crisp. From the foundation made up of two slices of buttered-and-toasted-to-perfection sourdough, to the meat – a loose-packed, six-ounce expertly-cooked 80/20 patty – and on to the cheese, a rich and flowing cheddar that somehow melts perfectly like American, the burger would be exemplary if it ended there. But because it’s #anothermccoyburger, this thing goes to 11.
Do you know about bacon jam? Because we know about bacon jam. And this patty melt has bacon jam. Dubbed pork belly jelly by McCoy, the sweet-and-smoky slathering oozes over the beef along with garlic mayo and caramelized onions, sending this patty melt into the stratosphere of sinful decadence.
Is lusting after a burger wrong? If so, we’ve got a whole lot of Hail Marys to do.
Pearl Dive’s Dive Burger
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace | 1612 14th Street NW| DC | pearldivedc.com
For the second consecutive year, an oyster house has crushed it on the burger front and earned a BOTY nod. Last year, it was Brine that tickled our taste buds with its phenomenal eponymous creation and this year, Pearl Dive gets it done with the Dive Burger.
We love it when burgers bring the heat, be it a spicy kick to the tongue or a full-on fire blast to the face. The pinnacle of spicy burger construction, however, is when a stack manages to mix both heat and flavor together, without sacrificing either. And chef Jeff Black has done just that with the Dive Burger.
Bringing the heat with poblano chilis, pepperjack cheese and cayenne pepper aioli, the Dive Burger isn’t burn-your-lips-off spicy but it is enough that we felt a trickle or two of sweat on our brow while eating. And since this is not ghost-pepper-level spice, the flavors of each component are in the forefront and act as the perfect compliments to the pair of smoky, wood-grilled patties. Top it off with crispy bacon, lettuce, onions and tomato and there’s no reason to feel guilty about skipping the fish for this one.
For those wary of the Dive Burger’s size, relax. The double stack of patties may look intimidating, but at three ounces each, the burger is not a gut buster by any means. In fact, the first time we took this one down, it was our second burger of the day and we finished it without a problem. The double-decker of meat also makes for a better distribution of components with toppings spread out over two levels rather than clumped onto one. And because it’s such a (relatively) reasonably-sized burger, we strongly recommend a half-dozen or more oysters before hand.