BURGER DAYS team returns from scouring DC for BEST BURGERS around with their special OFF SHOOT column of SILF which we’re calling BILB (classy, we know)
While Poste is not the typical joint where we dine on the burgs –we actually have to look presentable when making an appearance here– the menu still packs solid beefy action. That’s due to the fact that new Chef Dennis Marron has quite the affinity for the burgers.
We first ran into Marron’s burger handiwork at Old Town’s Jackson 20 last March where his J20 burger scored high marks from the Crew and earned a spot on our D.C. Burgers that Deserve More Love list. So when we got the news he was taking his talents to Penn Quarter, we were looking forward to the potential burger goodness bound to ensue.
We were not disappointed.
Now Poste, just like Jackson 20, is connected to a pretty fancy hotel. And being a “moderne brasserie,” it’s got all sorts of fanciness nestled into the menu. Shit, we needed a translator for half of it. Fortunately, French for “hamburger” is “hamburger,” so we were able to spot that on the menu pretty damn quick. And bonus: there’s not one, but two on the menu.
Like we said, Marron knows a thing or two about burgers. When chatting with him during our visit, he was eager to share some of his burger-eating habits– here’s what we learned: 1) His favorite burger of all time is from Kuma’s in Chicago (one of the Crew’s bucket list burgers), 2) Being from Alexandria, the burger he eats the most is the J20 (with a side of shrimp fritters), 3) He’s a big Five Guys fan–his go-to order is a bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms and BBQ sauce. Dude definitely knows his burgering and it shows with what he spits out of the kitchen.
Both burgers at Poste fall into our “fancy-ass” category, and even though we were able to pick ‘em out from the menu, there were still a few components of these suckers that left us Googling their definitions. Also, typical of your fancy, non-burger-joint burgers, these things are massive. Coming to the plate is 8 ounces of a 75-25 lean-to-fat mix of 45-day-dry-aged Virginia grass-fed ground chuck. And we wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of extra ounces snuck their way into the mix. We repeat: massive.
The first burger we got a piece of was the Onion Soup burger. This one really doesn’t need much explaining– it’s pretty much French onion soup. On a burger. They hit the nail on the head when naming this one.
Served on a toasted, house-made onion bun with a little mayo, the burger is topped with melted comté cheese and drenched in the caramelized onion soup. The top bun is dipped into the soup and then it’s served up in all its burger-soup-hybrid glory. ”It’s a little like a French dip,” said Marron, whose inspiration for the burger came from a trip to a build-your-own-burger bar in Chicago. (Side note: we need to get to Chicago. Soon.)
The resulting combo tastes almost exactly like French onion soup– with a huge, honking chunk of beef in the middle. The saltiness of the onion roll packs quite a punch and is amplified by the soup, cheese and onions. And as you’d expect, when you’re dunking a burger in soup, your bread ain’t lasting long.
By the end of this burger, our bun was hanging on by a thread. A tiny, tiny, carb-y thread. Thank God for napkins.
The other burger on the menu is the Brasserie burger –very similar to the J20– and our favorite of the two.
Confit tomato, harrissa (a hot chili sauce) aioli, Mountaineer cheese (just like on the J20), red onion marmalade and mâche (fancy French lettuce) surround the beef. All of the above comes served on a foursome of their Parker House rolls. (A word about the rolls– they’re the bread that’s served before your meal and they’re straight up addicting. On a recent non-burger visit to Poste, I went through two basketfulls of the things, popping them like Tic Tacs.)
The rind-on Mountaineer cheese, like we’ve said before, is such a great burger cheese. The stuff melts incredibly well and the strong, earthy flavor pairs great with the beef and contrasts nicely with the other toppings. The harrissa aioli packs just the right amount of heat– it’s enough to feel but isn’t overpowering. The biggest and boldest taste of the mix, however, is the red onion marmalade. It packs a wallop of flavor and is very, very good. It’s the star of this burger show by far.
There’s no soup on this one but the rolls don’t stand a chance here either. Not long after diving into this sucker, the marmalade had already infiltrated the bottom bun, and while it put up a valiant effort, the lower half just about completely disintegrated by burger end. Again, the napkin is your friend.
Speaking of the buns, if you don’t have the stomach for the entire meat bomb that is the Brasserie burger, the Parker House rolls make it easy to split it up. If you’re into that sorta thing…
Despite the two distinctly different flavor profiles, both Poste burgers share several common descriptors: hearty, massive, dense, messy* and flavorful. The patties are like shot puts on buns and, if you finish the whole thing, an hour later you’ll either be napping or cursing yourself. Or both. I found myself engaging in each of these activities –I passed out muttering obscenities– after eating both of these burgers and two servings of fries in one sitting. Keep in mind, that is not a bad thing. We berate ourselves for eating too much on the regular; it has nothing to do with the quality of the food, just the size of our bellies– but don’t worry, we’re working on that.
A word of advice on ordering these: get them just a bit rarer than usual. Since the patties are made up of a fattier mix of meat, they cook quicker on the grill. Our medium rare orders were done a bit more than we liked. It didn’t affect the juiciness, but next time, we go rare.
On top of the burgers, we managed to cram even more stuff into our faces at Poste and give serious high marks to both versions of their “sliders.” The tête (Fried pig head. Yup. Fried. Pig. Head.) and tartare sliders, again, served on the Parker House rolls, are so ridiculously good, we could easily see ourselves eat double-digits of each and not bat an eye. (But we’d most definitely need to let our pants out.)
On the loot front, the burgs are in-line with fancy-ass pricing; the Brasserie burger is 18 bucks and the Onion Soup will set you back $17, but both include a side of
fries pomme frites, and, if you opt for a lunch burger, they’ll hook you up with a free boozer. Now that’s what we’re talking about.
* Chef Marron has a penchant for messy burgs. In addition to the two at Poste, Jackson 20′s J20 is one of the messiest burgers we’ve encountered on our quest.
Poste Moderne Brasserie and Bar | 555 8th Street NW | DC | postebrasserie.com