By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Owning a restaurant is not for the faint of heart, but perhaps the proprietors of the Big Board have an edge given their backgrounds. Mark Flannery, 41, who co-owns the six-month-old burger bar with his two brothers, Eric, 37, and Doyle, 36, and Dave Drane, 36 - a friend since they all grew up together in Alexandria - says they are proud of their collective experience in the military and inner-city teaching.
"We were all fighting front-line battles," says Mark Flannery.
Mark and Eric live near the restaurant and run the day-to-day operations, benefiting from Mark's time as sous-chef in Montpellier, France. Their father's secret salty-sweet steak marinade was an inspiration for the gourmet-burger menu. (Doyle is a Navy lieutenant commander who flies helicopters in Jacksonville, Fla., and Drane, who has been deployed five times as an Air Force Reservist in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an Alexandria firefighter.)
Mellow indie music plays in the sparsely decorated dining room, which has 72 seats on two levels, plus 18 at the bar. Exposed brick and floor-to-ceiling windows enclose the space. The granite bar, with three TVs, is a good place to spend the 10-minute wait for food, or to order a draft beer, the price of which fluctuates based on how many have been sold. The name Big Board is a nod to Wall Street, and the pricing gimmick is a variation of one used by Barcelona's Bar Dow Jones.
To-go burgers are thoughtfully packaged, the patty and its condiments placed in the container beside the bun to keep it from getting soggy. The beef burgers are grilled, except for the Le Burg-aire au Poivre ($8.50), which is pan-seared. Other options include a salmon burger, a black bean-chickpea burger and a mushroom burger.
More interesting burgers draw from international cuisines, such as the outstanding Straight Outta' Dublin burger ($9), which gets a Guinness-based marinade, Irish Cheddar, braised cabbage and a sweet, creamy Jameson whiskey pan gravy. The Big Apple burger ($10) is basic, a half-pound burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles. Extra toppings are $1 to $1.50 each.
Also worthy are the entree salad of grilled salmon over greens with shaved fennel and balsamic vinaigrette ($9) and the large portion of crisp sweet potato fries ($7 alone, $6 with a burger) that get a flavor boost from parsley, Parmesan and minced garlic.
"Everything is made in-house or made for us, except for our Dijon mustard and our sweet potato fries," says Mark. "The buns are made for us every day by Gold Crust Bakery. The beef is ground for us. It's not organic or grass-fed, but it's locally sourced and 100 percent all-natural."