This past week was little more burger-filled than usual as I ventured on a burger run through the City of Falls Church for a feature in the Falls Church News-Press' Food & Dining issue. The article in the News-Press was more of a spotlight on five of the city's different burgers and didn't include an opinion on the goods, but here on Burger Days, I'll hook up the beefy scoop and let you know what we thought of each one. The following is what appeared in the paper, but with our added, exclusive Burger Days commentary at the end of each burger entry. Giddyup. From the News-Press: Burgers. Vegans and vegetarians aside, everyone loves ‘em. There's just something about that juicy, greasy, ground-beef wrapped-in-a-bun goodness that gets your mouth watering. Be it a plain and simple cheeseburger or a double-pattied-bacon-egg-and-cheddar-with-onion-strings-on-top monster, there's a creation for just about everybody. And here in The Little City, burger lovers have a pretty spectacular array of them. The following burgers have been lauded as the City's best, and in addition, they've all got one thing in common: they're Falls Church through-and-through. Four of the five are City of F.C. exclusives, while the fifth was born-and-bred here before branching out across the globe (not to mention being annointed the City's best by our readers).

Clare & Don's Beach Shack

130 N. Washington St., Falls Church | Clare & Don’s has a menu full of their 1/2 pound Beachcomber Burgers –seven in all– ranging from the simple Cheeseburger In Paradise to popular choices like the Jackson Burger with a fried egg, Wisconsin cheddar and bacon and the Don’s Don Burger that hooks up creamy shrimp scampi on a blackened patty. Burger Bio Patty Size: 8 oz. • Beef Cut: chuck • Lean-to-Fat Ratio: 85/15 • Burger Buns: H&S Bakery •Cheeseburger Price: $8.75 (w/ fries) • Toppings: cheddar, chili, pepper jack, guacamole, bacon, pork, egg, fried onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles • Crowd Favorites: Jackson Burger (cheddar, bacon, egg) Don’s Don Burger (blackened with shrimp scampi), PK Burger (pepper jack, pulled pork, BBQ sauce) • Burger Bonus: Monday- $6 cheeseburgers Burger Days Take: The menu at Clare & Don's is huuuge. From your typical bar fare to just about any type of fried seafood imaginable, they've got it.  And after starting off with some of the best hush puppies we've ever had, we had high hopes for these burgers. Unfortunately, they failed to impress the Crew in the slightest. The burgers were way too flat. The 8 oz. patties looked like they were hammered down on the grill and the thinness resulted in some beef sorely lacking in juiciness. On top of that, the tiny buns looked comical on the flat saucer-like patties and made for a challenging burger-eating experience. The bacon on their Jackson Burger was much too curly, too tough and dry. On the Don's Don Burger, while the shrimp scampi was quite tasty, it couldn't redeem the beef underneath. The fries were unsuccessful too. The crinkle-cut potatoes were the definition of "blah." While the rest of the menu might have some good grub, we'd pass on the burgers.  

Dogwood Tavern

132 W. Broad St., Falls Church | You won’t find any pre-fabricated burgers at Dogwood– you’ve got to construct it yourself with their Big Chimeny Build-A-Burger. However, finding a good combo shouldn’t be hard as they’ve got a great assortment of toppings. Not feeling very creative? Try our burger creation (pictured) with shaved ham, cheddar and sauteed mushrooms. It’s a winner. Burger Bio: Patty Size: 8 oz. • Beef Cut: Angus Ground Chuck • Lean-to-Fat Ratio: 80/20 • Burger Buns: Gold Crust Bakery • Cheeseburger Price: $9 (w/ fries) • Toppings: cheddar, American, provolone, blue cheese, pepper jack, Monterey Jack, swiss, sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, crispy onions, jalepenos, avocado, guacamole, shaved ham • Crowd Favorites: Big Chimney Build-a-Burger • Burger Bonus: After 7 pm Sunday- Half-priced burgers Burger Days Take: We've been big fans of Dogwood Tavern for a while now. First and foremost, we come for the boozers, but after our latest round with their burgers, we've got another reason to frequent the joint. You've got to build-your-own burger here, and, you really can't go wrong with whatever you choose. The patties are big, beefy and juicy and on both our trips last week, they were cooked on point. They've got all the usual burger toppings, with some highlights including seven types of cheese, shaved ham and guacamole. (We hear you can get an egg too, just have to ask nicely...) Like was said above, you're not going to find any signature burgers on the menu and if we had any complaint about the Dogwood burger experience, this would be it. While we're more than happy to custom-build our burgs, sometimes it hurts our heads to think and we just want to pick one off a list. We feel they'd sell a lot more if they had three or four different types of burgers on the menu. We certainly wouldn't mind seeing their sister restaurant Ragtime's Big Bayou Burger make an appearance. It's a 10 oz. ground pork, beef and shrimp patty with bayou seasoning topped with Swiss, Creole gravy and grilled shrimp. Yeah, that exists. And it's amazing. While we love Dogwood's waffle fries, from time-to-time they have tater tots available and when they do, we're all over them. For the record, we strongly encourage all restaurants to permanently add tots to their menu. They're so choice.  

Elevation Burger

442 S. Washington St., Falls Church |  The reigning Best of Falls Church Best Burger winner, Elevation shouldn’t need any introduction. Made with organic, grass-fed, free-range beef, their burgers make both your belly and soul happy. The popular choice here is their namesake burger (pictured) with double the meat and cheese. Want more? Go for the Vertigo burger which you can custom build with up to 10 patties. Burger Bio Patty Size: 3.2 oz. • Beef Cut: Combo of chuck, sirloin & other specialty cuts • Lean-to-Fat Ratio: 85/15 • Burger Buns: local bakery • Cheeseburger Price: $4.19 • Toppings: ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, caramelized onions, mustard, mayo, raw onions, Elevation Sauce, balsamic mustard, jalapenos, hot pepper relish, Blue cheese dressing • Crowd Favorites: The Elevation Burger (double meat, double cheddar cheese) • Burger Bonus: 100% organic, grass-fed, free-range beef Burger Days Take: Elevation Burger just earned Best Burger honors in the News-Press's Best of F.C. reader vote last month. The joint has enjoyed enormous success since first opening in F.C. in 2005-- they now have 18 locations, with plans for 25-30 by the end of this year. I don't get it. I've had quite a few burgers from Elevation and every single time, I'm left underwhelmed. I really, really want to like it. I really do. But I just can't get over the mediocrity of the beef. Elevation's mantra is "Ingredients Matter" and I've got nothing against that. Free-range, grass-fed beef earn thumbs up from me. But, I feel the focus on the good-for-you-so-you-can-feel-good-about-eating-a-burger-ness overlooks the thing that really matters: taste. (Besides, if you're eating burgers for your health, you're doing it wrong.) I got the double meat, double cheese Elevation burger with just Elevation sauce and sauteed onions and it tasted like a big mouthful of nothing. The cheese was beautifully melted on both patties but there was little-to-no seasoning on the meat.  (I'm sure they're going for the while low-sodium thing here, but come on, unseasoned beef blows.) There was nothing bad or offensive about the burger, it was just so plain. The positives about Elevation is the burgers always come out piping hot, and, if you do get enough toppings on 'em, it masks the flavorless beef. But even after eating a double-pattied burger there, I was still left hungry. It might have something to do with the fact each patty is a paltry 3.2 ounces. And if you think that smaller patties mean less strain on the wallet, think again. Two Elevation Burgers, one order of fries and two drinks came to just over 20 bucks. That ain't exactly thrifty.    

Ireland’s Four Provinces

105 W. Broad St., Falls Church |  They’ve got a couple burgers on the menu here at Ireland’s Four Provinces, but the 4 P’s Burger is what you really want. Their homemade 1/2-pound ground sirloin patty gets topped with a fried egg (cooked how you please), Dubliner cheddar, Irish bacon and fried onion straws. All of the above comes on a lightly toasted Kaiser roll and makes us glad we aren’t vegetarians. Burger Bio: Patty Size: 8 oz. • Beef Cut: sirloin • Lean-to-Fat Ratio: 80/20 • Burger Buns: Ottenberg Bakery •Cheeseburger Price: $8.95 (w/fries & coleslaw) • Toppings: cheddar, provolone, pepper jack, Swiss, bleu cheese crumbles, American bacon, Irish bacon, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, raw onions, fried onion crisps, avocado, mayo, mustard, Irish mustard, BBQ sauce, fried egg • Crowd Favorites: 4 P’s Burger (fried egg, Dubliner cheddar, fried onion crisps, Irish bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle) • Burger Bonus: Monday night- 1/2-priced burgers Burger Days Take: Aww shit, we finally found another joint who knows how to hook up an egg on a burger. There are plenty of spots that put fried eggs on burgers, but a vast majority of them cook the hell out of it, totally defeating the purpose of having the egg in the first place: the runny yolk. We're strong believers of fried eggs being done one of two ways on a burger: sunny-side-up or over easy. So when the first thing they asked us was how we'd like our egg after placing our order, it was music to our ears. The 4 P's burger comes with Dubliner cheddar, Irish bacon and fried onion straws and as a whole, it was decent and solid offering. The cheddar was nicely melted and the onion straws added some needed saltiness to contrast the mellowness of the cheese and egg, though we'd prefer American bacon to the Irish bacon. All-in-all it's a tasty burger, though it's missing that special something that makes Stoney's our favorite of the D.C.-area's egg-bacon-and-cheese burger combos.  

Mad Fox Brewing Company

444 W. Broad St., Falls Church |  Burgers & beer– is there really any better combo? Go for one of the brewpub’s signature creations like the Mad Fox Burger (above) with oven-roasted tomatoes, carmaelized onions and Shepherd’s Blend cheese or the popular Black & Blue (top right): a cajun-seasoned patty topped with Applewood-smoked bacon, sauteed mushrooms and bleu cheese. If both of those don’t float your boat, there’s 50 (yes, fifty) other toppings to choose from. Burger Bio: Patty Size: 8 oz. • Beef Cut: Angus ground sirloin • Lean-to-Fat Ratio: 80/20 • Burger Buns: made in-house • Cheeseburger Price: $10 (w/ fries) • Toppings: buffalo-style chicken, ham, Italian sausage, salami, pepperoni, blended aged Mozzarella, cheddar, feta, Shepherd’s blend cheese, goat cheese, bleu cheese, artichoke hearts, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, red onions, sliced garlic, fresh jalapeño, fresh roasted garlic, roasted peppers, pineapple, spinach, tomato, sundried tomatoes, zucchini, white anchovy, black mission figs, fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and more • Crowd Favorites: Black & Blue Burger (spice blackened-patty topped with bacon, blue cheese & sauteed mushrooms) • Burger Bonus: All Mad Fox pizza toppings are available for burgers– over 50 in all Burger Days take: If you're a regular of Burger Days, you know we've been so frustrated with Mad Fox and their burgers in the past. We love their beer and their menu is great from top-to-bottom. All their ingredients are top-notch and just about everything is made in-house, from their ketchup and sauces to their burger buns. The only thing that left us disappointed was their burgers. It was actually remarkable how consistently inconsistent our experience was at the Fox. During each of visits –as a Crew or on solo burger missions– our burgers were either way overdone or underdone. That is until recently. The burgers served up during our tour were exceptional. The beef and its preparation was finally worthy of being matched up with the rest of the quality ingredients. The Black and Blue burger was the highlight with its spice-blackened patty hooking up just the right amount of heat alongside the tangy blue cheese with juicy, oven-roasted tomatoes, crisp Bibb lettuce, salty bacon and heap of sauteed mushrooms sitting atop it all. Side-note: one of the best things about the Fox is the ability to get just about any topping imaginable on your burger. With all pizza toppings fair game, there's over 50 to choose from. Yeah buddy.
Burger Days Conclusion: While we don't usually rank 'em, it was too hard not to stack all these burgers against each other. Our favorite came down to a two-burger race between Dogwood and Mad Fox, with us giving the slight edge to the Fox because of their great, in-house baked buns and excellent assortment of quality toppings. Third place went to the Four P's good egg, cheese and Irish bacon burger, while Elevation and Clare & Don's were a distant fourth and fifth.  

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