Words by Melissa Groth, Photos by Franz Mahr
“This is by far the best burger I’ve had in D.C.” That’s a real quote, from a real D.C. burger connoisseur. Let me paint a word-picture of Stanton & Greene’s “The Greene Burger” for you. First of all, it’s “Greene” as in the name of the restaurant, not “Green” as in lettuce-laden health burger let’s-all-have-a-granola-bar-after-spin-class. This burger is a wonderful, beautiful, monstrous work of meat art. Did you know that you can infuse meat with other meat? Two 6 oz bacon-infused patties of the melt-in-your-mouthiest, most delicious beef I’ve ever tasted. Those patties alone would make a fantastic burger, but there’s more. There’s so much more. Bacon does not just infuse the beef, it also sits in all its thick, crispy glory atop the beef, just below three golden onion rings. And now let me tell you, aioli is a beautiful thing, but bacon aioli? That’s something to make a pilgrimage for, my friends. All that placed lovingly and delicately between a pretzel roll (which holds up very well to the task of containing half a foot’s worth of meat and onion rings), and you’ve got a burger that’ll make a grown man cry.
But it’s not all about the food.
Stanton & Greene opened its doors for a soft opening the week of March 9 (as patrons quickly filled every available seat, Eli Hengst notes to me “There are no soft openings anymore”). The new addition to Pennsylvania Avenue in Capitol Hill is the collaborative effort of August Paro (Beuchert’s Saloon), Eli Hengst and Jared Rager (Sonoma). Over the better part of a year, they gutted the place (once Pour House), and transformed it into an open, beautiful, painstakingly detailed achievement in restaurant design. Paro, design lead, wanted the place to “feel like a pre-war cafeteria.” He’s been working on the opening for two weeks, finishing the silver leaf window design and laying mosaic floor tile with his 84-year-old step dad, but it’s still not finished. A few more final touches, including custom made liquor cabinets in the same blue as the hostess stand, and he’ll be able to breathe easier. The effort put into the design of the space shows. Nearly everything is custom made, including molding he journeyed to Catlett, Virginia for, and light fixtures fabricated by a buddy who does motorcycle repair work.
Downstairs is the main dining area. It’s cozy without being cramped, and the high ceiling and natural light pouring through the front windows give the space an open feeling. The bar occupies one side of the room, the tables — with their custom-made tops— occupy the other. Upstairs is a large event space with another bar, and a few tables situated to overlook Pennsylvania Avenue. In the middle of the room is a giant sky light that Paro tells me was covered up by the previous occupants. Pity. With the tired yet proud smile of someone who has spent the majority of his waking hours for months laboring to bring a vision to fruition, he admits “I’ve never done anything on this scale.”
Paro excuses himself to handle an emergency up at the front of the house. He returns almost immediately, saying “Whatever it was, it got figured out.” We start talking about the food as it’s brought out (Oh my god, look at that burger). “We wanted to focus attention on the cocktails, and for people to be pleasantly surprised about the food.” I’ve been enjoying a Park #5 cocktail, a fruity drink of lillet rosé, lychee, passion fruit, and cava. The entire cocktail lists reads with similarly unique ingredients. Creme de peche, belle de paire, gegeiken sake, aperol, yzaguirra. That’s just a fraction of the exotic things you’ll find in their cocktails, created by Eric Holzherr of Church & State. They’ve got great names, too. High Treason, Unfinished Business, After the Duel; yeah, you’re at a saloon. Classic cocktails and a small selection of beer and wine are also available.
I turn my attention to the Bent Nail, a bourbon take on the Rusty Nail, with Drambuie, maraschino, and creme de peche. One of the servers drops a glass and it shatters against the mosaic tile floor. There is just a slight lull in the din of the crowd before the glass is quickly swept up. It gets figured out.
With the food, the goal was to create American classics “with presence,” to take a dish people know, and push it to its full potential. Upon my first glance at the menu I immediately notice the pork belly appetizer. Thankfully, it’s one of the dishes brought for us to taste. This place gets me. It’s delicious, plated with cheddar grits and a poached egg. I am sad when it’s gone. The maple bourbon BBQ chicken wings are sweet with a little bit of spice (there’s bacon on these, too!). Dessert is an apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. Classic. Perfect.
And you already know how I feel about The Greene Burger.
Stanton & Greene’s hard opening was March 12. They are open from 5 to 11 p.m., seven nights a week, with happy hour from 3-6 Monday through Saturday starting March 16.