Tom Sietsema wrote about Burger 7 for a March 2011 First Bite column
Ever since he arrived in the United States from Lebanon nearly 20 years ago, Ramzi Iskandar knew he would eventually open a restaurant devoted to ground-beef patties served between slices of bread. "In this country," says the former Four Seasons hotel employee, "it's all about burgers."
Iskandar understood the public's passion for the all-American staple as well as the guilt sometimes attached to eating it. When he opened the self-service Burger 7 in Falls Church last month, he gave the menu a healthful twist by offering beef from grass-fed cattle, whole-wheat buns as an alternative to white ones and french fries crisped in olive oil.
Like a number of freshly minted fast-food establishments on the scene, the cheerful Burger 7 has diners follow a formula at the counter: Choose your burger, pick your bun, tell the kid near the cash register which toppings you want: Tomatoes, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms and hot peppers are among the gratis enhancers. Unless you ask to leave it off, the joint's mayonnaise-based B7 sauce is added to the sandwiches.
The thin beef patties sport a nice char from the grill. French fries show up piping hot in a little pail; flavorwise, sweet potatoes beat out the regular ones. The milkshakes feature organic milk and fat straws, allowing, say, chopped strawberries to travel easily from container to lips.
The name Burger 7 represents a number of notions, says Iskandar, 35. The restaurant is on Route 7, and the hamburgers feature two patties that weigh a total of seven ounces. Also, "seven is my lucky number," says the entrepreneur, who co-owns Tarbouch Mediterranean Grill in Arlington.
Those who checked out the wares early on, take note: Iskandar says he tweaked a few details as recently as last week based on consumer feedback. His beef, which he cuts and mixes himself each day, now has a higher fat ratio, and unlike in the opening days, the patties aren't pressed hard against the grill. The result: juicier burgers with more flavor.
The restaurateur's biggest surprise bodes well for smarter eating. Iskandar says 60 percent of his customers are opting for the whole-wheat buns he gets from Ottenberg's Bakery in Washington.
Wednesday March 23, 2011