We Don’t Ever Want to Stop Eating the Burger at BRINE
Every once in a long while we come across a burger so tasty, so wonderful – so damn good – we want nothing more than to lay down and spoon with the beefy beauty for all eternity. Like love struck teens, we become obsessed and find ourselves non-stop doodling its name over and over in our notebooks, filling page after page of college-ruled paper with grease-laden love notes. We lie awake at night, fantasizing about our next encounter, grinning like assholes in our beds to the wee hours of the morning.
Surprisingly, our latest crush – a burger that has caused so many sleepless nights these past few months – is from BRINE, an oyster house tucked into the back of Mosaic District.
Now, you’re probably thinking: “What the hell are these fools doing ordering a burger at a seafood restaurant?” Well, when the guy running the kitchen is John Critchley, former head chef at Bourbon Steak, slingers of one of the best fancy-ass burgers in all of D.C., ladies and gents, then you get your asses to BRINE and you order that fucking burger.
It’s hard to put into words the exact feeling we get when we bite into this masterpiece. It’s everything we can do to not scarf down this blissful stack of delight in one go. The beef – a half-pound 80/20 mix of shoulder, breast, chuck and ribeye ends – is seasoned with an oniony-garlicky vegetable ash and then cooked to absolute perfection. We’ve downed this burger close to 10 times now and every. single. order. has been dead-on-balls accurate (it’s an industry term): a crunchy shell with a salty, charred crust that gives way to a juicy, flavor-bursting reddish-pink center. If they were ever looking to re-calibrate the industry standard for a perfectly-rare-cooked burger, the powers that be should look no further than BRINE.
The exemplary execution does not end with the beef, however. On the surface, the burger’s components sound simple – billed as red onion jam and farmhouse cheese on the menu – but the deft touch Critchley and his kitchen give to the resulting stack (not to mention, the addition of a key, unnamed ingredient) turns the ordinary into something even more than extraordinary. The cheese – a farmhouse cheddar from Maryland when available or Piave Vecchio when it’s not – lends an earthiness to the stack, mixing sublimely with an onion jam that’s almost equal parts sweet and sharp. The bun, a sesame-seed-studded brioche from Maryland’s Uptown Bakers, is toasted and buttered, and ever-so-slightly squished down so as to increase its diameter, a crucial step in keeping the burger and all its sloppiness in check.
And bringing everything together into a beautiful meat melody we want playing on repeat forever: a slaw-ish topping of shredded lettuce and what Critchley calls Adam Sobel’s (his predecessor at Bourbon Steak) Secret Sauce. The unheralded, unbilled inclusion to the mix gives a crunch and tanginess to each bite, resulting in an eye-closing, moan-inducing experience every time it reaches our lips. Think of it like the Jam Master Jay of BRINE’s burger. Sure, Run (beef) and D.M.C. (onion jam) got all the acclaim but there’d be a big hole in the group without the dude (slaw) bringing it all together on the ones and twos.
It’s OK to shed a tear when eating this, it’s that beautiful.
Critchley says he hopes his newest burger can live up to the one he served at Bourbon Steak. “I think it’s a great adaptation of the best burger in D.C.,” he tells us. We’ve had the privilege of enjoying both and feel fairly confident in declaring that not only has Critchley achieved his goal of Bourbon Steak worthiness, but now, we think it’s the D.C. steakhouse’s turn to try and top him.
BRINE | 2985 District Avenue | Fairfax | brinerestaurants.com