Bethesda's Burger Joint Is Jumping
By Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008
At first glance: Although the facade is fairly modest, Bethesda's new BGR: The Burger Joint is pure eye candy inside, with royal purple walls lined with album covers from Prince, Springsteen, U2, the Cars, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. There's even a Bon Jovi gold record. The tabletops are brightly colored mosaics that salute comfort-food favorites with the same nostalgic reverence: replicas of Nestle Quik, A.1. steak sauce, Pop Rocks and Bazooka bubble gum labels, along with the MTV logo and the Stones' lips logo. The old-fashioned grill and fry sinks are visible behind the counter. In addition to the booths and tables inside, there are outdoor tables near Veterans Park, where there is live music Thursday evenings in summer.
On the menu: The name seems self-explanatory, but the Burger Joint takes a broad approach to the term. In addition to the various beef versions (double patty, cheeseburger and a truly terrifying pizza-size Frankenstein with nine pounds of meat), there are turkey, lamb, tuna and veggie versions, a direly addictive take on a classic Cuban sandwich (a burger topped with roast pork, Serrano ham, Swiss cheese and pickles), a lobster roll and grilled cheese sandwiches in four varieties. The Burger Joint makes sweet potato fries and Yukon gold fries, which can be topped with rosemary, Parmesan or garlic; onion rings are also available. The bargain lunch combo on weekdays is a burger, fries and soda for $8.99. If you can finish the monster burger, which totals more than 15 pounds with bun and toppings (and comes with a bottle of Maalox!), the house will pick up the $79.99 tab -- a financial bargain if not a dietary one.
At your service: This is mostly self-serve, although when it's not crowded the staff tries to deliver the trays. A.1., ketchup, vinegar and other condiments are on side tables with the plasticware. The staff is friendly, although it is still getting the hang of semi-fast food; when workers are double-shifting at the register and the prep table, some items can be forgotten.
On the table: The Burger Joint uses hormone-free aged prime beef, and it tastes like a childhood memory of Dad at the grill; the owners have even figured out a way to shape the patties without flattening out the juices. (The old-fashioned potato buns are shipped in daily from a family bakery in Philadelphia.) The Cuban is over-the-top good, although the bun, which is supposed to be grill-pressed to make it crispy like Cuban rolls, came out less than extra-crispy. The "Greek" burger, ground lamb with tzatziki sauce, cucumber, red onions and feta cheese on pita, is flavorful (like the beef and tuna, it's best ordered rare or medium rare) although a bit drippy. The tuna is impressively thick and obviously fresh, topped with grilled pineapple and a gingery spread. The turkey was ground fine, not coarse, so that it tasted more like pressed turkey than a burger, but it's good and topped with portobello mushrooms (the "hint of gorgonzola" was too subtle, however). The fries are cut on the thick side, and the cooking varies; the sweet potato fries are thin and fine.
What to avoid: The monster burger, unless there's 15 of you, or even the double; the single burgers are six ounces as it is (that's 50 percent larger than a quarter-pounder).
Wet your whistle: The Burger Joint regularly has Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA on tap along with a rotating second brew (currently Stella Artois); milkshakes and floats; sodas (with free cherry or vanilla syrup), lemonade, tea and Shirley Temples. Talk about nostalgia!