Willow Wins Bash, Takes Home ‘Golden Burger’ for 2nd Straight Year
Last Saturday, the 2014 D.C. BRGR Bash stepped up its game to go along with a change in name and venue. This year’s sold-out burger bonanza featured twice as many competitors slinging beef, pork and lamb burgers as well as more booze to wash it all down.
The field included some of the Burger Days crew’s favorite District burger spots, like BOTY winners Burger Tap & Shake, Granville Moore’s, and 1905. Also represented were last year’s winner Willow, along with Cafe Saint-Ex, Big Buns, Old Ebbitt Grill, GUGS, Fainting Goat and Boundary Stone.
It all went down on an atypical July day (not 100 degrees) in D.C. that continued the streak of excellent weekend weather. The prime conditions definitely encouraged people to show up as the Bash sold out an hour into the affair. Last year’s Bash took place in a courtyard between buildings in Ballston, so moving to the site of the former District Flea provided ample space for cooking up beefy goodness. Also, last year attendees struggled to eat and drink simultaneously because the booze and beef were divided because of a roped off drinking section. This year there were two beer tents and plenty of room for mingling.
Enough about the scene though, onto the stuff we care about: burgers.
Burger Tap & Shake
BTS went with their classic Big Daddy featuring bacon, blue cheese and mushrooms. One of our go-tos a the Foggy Bottom joint, at the Bash it was a little light on the toppings –as can be expected when you’re making hundreds– but delivered on the beefy goodness. While some spots decided to get creative, BTS stuck with a tried and true beef and blue combo.
The burger from 1905 was a simple offering but one of our favorites. The uncomplicated creation topped with cheese was hot off the grill. In a setting like this one –with the boozy, grubbing horde– some places had consistently long lines throughout the day because of complex topping arrangements. Not so with 1905– the turnaround from grill to face was excellent.
Granville Moore’s served up a burger with fries and a sauce that reminded us of cheddar-flavored Sun Chips. The combo was creative and would have been tasty if it wasn’t for the thin, overcooked patty. A past BOTY winner, the H Street spot couldn’t translate their burger mastery to the streets.
Café Saint-Ex chose to throw down a combination pork, beef and lamb patty that was formed with an ice cream scooper and grilled. Unfortunately, the mixed patty ended up as a dense mass of seasoned meat that overpowered the tomato, pickle, bacon, cheddar and onion ranch. The topping combo is definitely one that I’d revisit if it made it to Saint Ex’s regular menu.
Big Buns burger was a twist on a Cuban, with pickles and a chorizo sausage. The extra meat was appreciated but proved to be unwieldy as it was an add-on to the top of the bun. As it wasn’t actually a part of the burger, I’m not sure if you could actually count it in the entry. Big Buns went for creativity but couldn’t top some of the other beef entries.
Old Ebbitt Grill
Old Ebbitt’s “Riot” burger featured fried oysters, bacon, pickled shallots and horseradish mayo. This burger definitely wins the creativity award and stayed true to Old Ebbitt’s raw-bar origins. Due to the long lines at Old Ebbitt, we consumed this one later in the day and it proved to be too much for a quickly filling gut.
As one of the few places around D.C. with a full-time bacon jam offering, Boundary Stone holds a special place in the hearts of the Burger Days Crew. Their regular bacon jam burger comes with just cheddar but for the Bash, they kicked it up a notch. They tried to sneak in a pickled beet along with the jam and threw in blue cheese along with some caramelized onions. It was a solid offering from the Bloomingdale joint but the beet disrupted our bacon nirvana. Sorry beets, you just ain’t our thing.
Fainting Goat was another joint that stayed true to its roots. The goat-on-goat-on-goat burger featured a curried goat patty with scotch bonnet goat cheese. I’m not sure where the third goat came from but while this burger wasn’t the most intricate, it was definitely one of the most unique and tastiest offerings of the day.
The Georgetown University Grilling Society went with a round burger that was doused with Lee & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce and adorned with bacon, cheddar, onions and barbecue sauce. This entry was a solid choice but was in the end topped by Willow.
Willow Restaurant went against the grain and brought out stove tops for both burger and bun. And THAT was the difference maker. Out of the 10 burgers we tossed back, theirs was by far the most flavorful and juicy. The burger had two smoked patties (the only double burger of the Bash), smoked cheddar and pickled onions. On a day jam packed with burgers, this one stood above the rest.
Just looking at it, Willow wasn’t the prettiest or complex burger of the bunch, with just some cheese and onions sprinkled on top, however, the taste was there and made our stomachs happy. The BRGR Bash crowd agreed, voting the Arlington joint best of show and sending them home with the Golden Burger for the second year in a row.
Here’s to more bashin’ in 2015.