BURGER DAYS team returns from scouring DC for BEST BURGERS around with their special OFF SHOT column of SILF which we’re calling BILB (classy, we know)
TODAY: the $19 burger @ BOURBON STEAK gets a once over
The burger at Bourbon Steak had been on our to-do list for a hot minute.
The Georgetown joint’s fancy-ass beef sandwich has been praised by more than a few in the area as being one of the best around– in fact, the City Paper did just that, albeit in a rather wishy-washy manner, highlighting it in their “Best Of D.C.” issue earlier this year.
So we went, we ordered and we ate their burger not once, but twice this month to see what the fuss really was all about.
Bourbon Steak has a separate section on the menu for their burgers (score!) –five in all– but before you get too excited, there’s only one beef burger (booooo!) as lamb, veggie, turkey and salmon make up the rest of the list.
The burger sounds simple enough: their Oak-Fired Prime Steak Burger comes with house-made pickles, Cabot clothbound cheddar and their secret sauce. But since this is a fancy spot (shit, it’s in the Four Seasons), you know there’s more going on there.
When it come to the beef, Bourbon Steak uses an 80/20 mix of chuck and New York strip that’s been dry-aged for 30 days and wet-aged for 10.
The patties are eight ounces and one of the first things we noticed after biting in is how expertly formed they are. When using good quality and cuts of meat in burgers, it’s especially important the meat doesn’t get handled too much and packed too tightly when forming the patties. These burgers were done by pros– loosely packed and really spot on.
Our burgers were ordered both rare and medium rare, but we couldn’t tell the difference in the doneness. It didn’t affect our impression, however, as we wouldn’t have asked for them any differently. The patties had a light, but noticeable char on the outside before giving way to the juicy and tender beefy inside. That’s our kinda burger.
When served up, the beef sits on a toasted sesame-seeded bun (sourced from a local bakery) with the juices from the patty already beginning to soak into the bottom half. The bun is a light and airy number that could use a touch more firmness as the juice from the succulent patty infiltrates it with the gusto. Our bottom bun was barely hanging on with our last few bites.
The secret sauce, your typical ketchup-mayo mix with some spices thrown in, was tossed with some shredded lettuce and sat atop the patty. The sauce was less creamy than what we expected and found the burger’s other components overwhelmed it. It really wasn’t noticeable.
Also on the top of the beef were the house-pickles, but they aren’t your typical kind. You don’t get your dill-ish, pickle-y flavor here, the reddish mashup is much milder and works well –for the most part– giving a subtle tangy crunch to each bite. As for the cheese, we loved it (when we could taste it– more on that later). The completely melted cheddar encased the top of the patty and the distinct sharpness was a welcomed contrast to the salty beef and brininess of the pickles.
While we’d like to say the burger was excellent from start to finish, we did have some hangups. We found that the outside bites were the best of the bunch, as they were cheese-heavy and contained most of those flavorful char spots on the beef. As we worked our way to the middle of the burger where the cheese was thinner, the salt from the beef and pickles bordered on overpowering our palettes.
Also, we visited Bourbon Steak on two occasions and each trip gave us two different burgers. The first time, the cheddar, which is such a vital component of this burger, was scarcely present –we actually had to search for it– while during round two, we could spot its melted goodness from across the room. The consistency needs to be better.
And last but not least, the burger is $19.* Yeah, you’re dropping an Andrew Jackson for a cheeseburger. With no bacon. And no fries. Just a cheeseburger.
Fries will set you back an additional five spot, but they’re totally worth it.
The trio of duck fat fries, served up three ways with three dipping sauces, are triple the fried goodness. And for the record, we’re officially requesting all joints hook their fries up with duck fat from here on out. Opinions were mixed on the white cheddar fries, reminding one of the crew members of the powdered cheese from white cheddar popcorn while another thought they were the best of the bunch. The other two options, the steak seasoned and herbed fries, were both universally praised. A barbecue sauce, chimichurri ailoi and pickled ketchup accompanied the trio.
While your burger does come solo, Bourbon Steak serves up complimentary black-truffled bread that is absolutely delicious. The rolls are salty, buttery, crusty chunks of heaven.
We also got a taste of their onion rings (solid, but the fries are the better side) and the lobster corn dogs, because come on, who can turn down lobster corn dogs? They were good and we especially enjoyed the surprisingly mild whole-grain mustard dipping sauce though we would have liked a little more lobster and a little less batter. And at $14 we’d rather save some loot and just eat more fries.
So does Bourbon Steak serve up D.C.’s best burger?
No, we don’t think so.
The burger is really, really good, and when it’s on, we’d even go so far as to say it’s excellent. But we eat a lot burgers. A lot. of. burgers. And while we can’t argue with the praise they’ve received, we’ve had better elsewhere. Not to mention, when your charging almost 20 bucks for a burger, straight up, it’s gotta blow us away.
If the Burger Days crew is going cheffy with our burgs, we’d pick Palena’s excellent number every time– it’s better and at $12, it’s a downright bargain compared to Bourbon Steak.