Bolt Burgers: the most high-tech burger you’ll ever order, coming soon

November 8, 2013

No restaurant in D.C. has been better outfitted for the iPhone generation than the forthcoming Bolt Burgers. It is a restaurant full of screens -- touchscreen systems for ordering your food and making your drinks, tablets at every table, and a 16-foot-wide projected TV screen to watch while you wait for your order.

A touch-screen ordering system at Bolt Burgers (Maura Judkis)
A touchscreen ordering system at Bolt Burgers (Maura Judkis)

You can order food without having a single interaction with another human being, which, for millennials who prefer texting and online ordering through Seamless to picking up the phone, is a major plus.

Michael Davidson, Joe Spinelli and other partners at Bolt Burgers are banking on it. When the 3,200-square-foot restaurant opens by Thanksgiving at 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW, they'll have put more than 18 months into perfecting the computer systems behind Bolt, a concept they plan to franchise.

There are several ways to order a Bolt burger, and one of them can be done from your office. An online pre-ordering system will allow customers to order in advance for both take-out and dine-in: Give the server your order number when you arrive and, if all goes according to plan, your food will be at your seat within 10 minutes.

If you haven't pre-ordered, a server will present you with a table number if you plan to dine in. Use that to place your order at one of the touchscreen kiosks, or through the touchscreen tablet at your seat.


Bolt Burger touchscreen ordering system (Maura Judkis)

As for the burgers, Bolt offers beef, turkey, chicken and veggie options, but it's really throwing its muscle behind toppings. To create your own Bolt Burger ($6.99 and up) you're presented with 25 potential toppings, including truffle pecorino cheese, pancetta and fancy relishes. Before it's grilled, each burger can be dusted in one of four spice blends custom-mixed for the company.

There's also a menu of signature Bolt Burgers. Chef Troy Clayton's most excited about one called the "Mr. Truffleupagus," a burger with truffle pecorino, grilled field mushrooms and roasted shallots with sweet garlic relish. "Everybody in the burger business has a good burger," said Spinelli, "so this is what distinguishes us from everybody else."


Special spice rubs created just for Bolt Burgers (Maura Judkis)

One of the technological centerpieces of Bolt Burgers is a no-flip burger grill. The device can cook a six-ounce burger in exactly three minutes, to the exact same level of doneness every time. It can make 1,200 burgers an hour. "I think it's fantastic," said Clayton. "I have the confidence that the guy at the grill will hit a button and get a perfect burger every time."


Special double-sided burger grills at Bolt Burgers (Maura Judkis)

The restaurant's opening, in approximately three weeks, will depend on getting all of its systems up and running. "There's a lot of complicated electronics that have to work," Davidson said. When Bolt opens, it will seat about 80 people indoors and about 40 on the patio. It's located in an area near the D.C. convention center that doesn't yet have much competition -- until the restaurants in the new Marriott Marquis open, at least -- but is at the intersection of daytime workers, evening residents and out-of-town guests. And the 16-foot projection of their logo makes the restaurant impossible for drivers coming down Massachusetts Avenue to miss.

"Now we just need curbside service," joked Davidson, looking out the window at the cars stuck in traffic. They'd probably figure out a way to automate that, too.

Bolt Burgers, 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW.  Opening late November. 

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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