Burgers have always been the friend of the budget-conscious diner, but gourmet toppings come with gourmet prices, and it's no longer unusual to see one of the sandwiches top the $15 mark. If you love cheeseburgers but are watching your wallet, try one of these burger happy hours.
The Black Squirrel
The Black Squirrel's burger compels you to close your eyes and chew as though you were in a corny fast food commercial. The secret, according to the bar's Andy Bowman, is house-ground Hereford beef cooked in both duck and veal fat. No, it's not the healthiest burger, but it's utterly delectable. Don't get us started on the Squealer, a burger that mixes bacon and chopped ham into the patty, which is then covered in bacon.
The best night to go is Thursday, when the Adams Morgan bar becomes a fancier Five Guys: The basic burger with lettuce and tomato is $5 before customers go crazy with a list of gourmet toppings, including Chimay, manchego or aged Gouda cheeses ($1 each); jalapenos (25 cents); a fried egg (50 cents); house-made guacamole ($1); applewood smoked bacon ($1); or peppery chipotle sauce (25 cents). Pair your burger with one of the 56 beers on draft, and you have the perfect pub dinner. The Black Squirrel, 2427 18th St. NW. 202-232-1011.
Scion used to offer a burger-and-beer combo for $10 at happy hour, but bar manager Tim Liu explains that "people would come in and say, 'Well, what if I don't want the beer with the burger?' " Now the burger is half-price ($5.50) all day Tuesday, and if you swing by during happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m., all craft beers on tap are half-price. Grab a Dogfish Head, Southern Tier or Fullsteam ale - regularly $6.50 to $8 - and it turns out to be an even better deal than before. Scion, 2100 P St. NW. 202-833-8899; 1200 East-West Hwy. 301-585-8878.
Chef Geoff's burgers have sustained wave after wave of interns and low-paid professionals. All day Monday and Tuesday, and from 3 to 7 p.m. the rest of the week, a solid, flavorful burger is just $5.95. Add a 33-ounce "super-mug" of Devils Backbone
IPA, Shiner Bock or Bell's Oberon for $7.95 or $8.95 (prices vary by location) - or a 16-ounce can of PBR for $3.50 - and you have one of the most filling and wallet-friendly happy hours in town. Chef Geoff's, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-464-4461; 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW. 202-237-7800; 8045 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 571-282-6003; 12256 Rockville Pike, Rockville. 240-621-3090.
The Red Derby
The Derby Burger, topped with arugula, avocado and sprouts, is $6 on Monday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., when all of the bar's burgers are half-price. The Red Derby, 3718 14th St. NW. 202-291-5000.