High-tech Bolt Burgers goes analog

November 25, 2013

When we stopped in at Bolt Burgers this afternoon, the restaurant's touchscreen ordering system -- a big part of its value proposition  -- was not functioning. So, our burgers were ordered the old fashioned way: by talking to a human being. A very nice human being who recommended the toasted peppercorn and herb "Bolt of Spice" blend, and guided us to some smoked gouda. In the human vs. robot battle, I guess this was a tie.

A properly-assembled Bolt Burger (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)
A properly assembled Bolt burger (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

But without functioning touchscreens to dazzle customers, there's not much more to discuss than the burger itself. And though Bolt Burger has only been open a few days, and has yet to get into its promised hyper-efficient groove, the touchscreen system isn't the only thing that needs some adjusting.

Bolt offers more than 25 topping choices, but when ordering to-go, many of them -- the sauces, the lettuce, tomato and onion -- come on the side. The intent is to keep everything crisp and neat, a nice gesture, but it's also sort of a letdown when you unwrap the under-dressed burger.

It also means having to consult the menu as if it were a user's manual to figure out which sauce goes on which burger, easier said than done when certain sauces, like the tomato-sweet basil sauce and the cilantro-lime mayo, were difficult to tell apart without a taste-test.

Burgers that didn't come with a sauce -- like the Good Earth, topped with Swiss, roasted shallot and grilled mushrooms -- could have used some with which to cut the dryness.

Bolt's Burger is better than a typical fast-food burger, but doesn't yet leave an impression. Shake Shack remains triumphant, for now. Though, one fun thing about Bolt Burgers is the abundance of choice: Ordering it gave us flashbacks to the construction of our People's Burger earlier this summer.

Bolt Burgers, 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-320-9200.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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Tom Sietsema · November 25, 2013