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It’s clear that in Washington, we’re still having a lot of fun with the humble hamburger. By Jessica Voelker

The burger: way more American than apple pie. Photograph courtesy of iStockphoto.

When I was 12 years old, my family moved to a town in northwest France, where I was enrolled in an all-girls Catholic school. Lunch at this school was a two-hour event, and the commissary served pretty decent dishes on the whole, if memory serves. There was a creamy rabbit stew, and vinaigrette-dressed beets we would touch with our fingertips to stain them purple—I don’t remember why we did this; probably because we weren’t supposed to.

There was also a hamburger, though, a horrible pinkish patty of dubious origins. It wasn’t served on a bun; we were meant to eat this round of mystery meat with a knife and fork. I remember the first grisly bite of that burger and how its heavy saltiness made me drain my water glass. Food wasting was a big no-no at the school, which was run by strict Ursuline nuns who needed little prompting to remind us how lucky we were to have food at all. And I was old enough to know they were right. So I ate the burger, slowly, refilling my stout water glass before every bite from a shared pitcher, then taking a deep swig to help send the meat down. Eventually, a classmate asked me what the hell I was doing. I told her I found the burger repulsive. She shook her head.

“But you’re American,” she said. “You love hamburgers. That’s all you eat in America.”

“No,” I said, “it isn't.” Figuring that would be the end of the exchange.

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Posted at 11:50 AM/ET, 05/31/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Lunch is fleeting, but a cheeseburger phone is forever. By Anna Spiegel

A giant hamburger stool really ties the room together. Photograph courtesy of

Some people just like hamburgers. Others take that adoration to the next level. If you’re one of those who’d like to put burgers in your mouth and your home, check out the options for creating a last relationship with the sandwich you cherish most.

Cheeseburger Phone

Made legendary in the film Juno, a cheeseburger phone is a decoration that not only declares your love for burgers, it’s also a monument to the great twee-athon of the latter aughts.

“Realistic” Hamburger Soap

Welcome to the world where lettuce smells like bacon and your fingers smell like French bread.

Giant Hamburger Stool

Unfortunate name, nice accent piece.

Hamster Bed

Your hamster will probably never know the joys of biting into a juicy burger, an experience that would likely kill him. Give him the next best thing--which is obviously this meat cave.

Scatter Cushions

The decorative equivalent of a deconstructed burger.

White Castle Candle

Your neighbors will think you’re eating White Castle burgers, and they’ll be so jealous. Then you’ll tell them it’s just a candle you bought that smells like White Castle, and they’ll think you’re crazy.

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Posted at 01:18 PM/ET, 05/30/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Michael Landrum keeps it crazy--not to mention delicious--with his meat creations. By Anna Spiegel
The Mack—a Cheap Eats Hall of Famer. Photograph by Erik Uecke.

The meatwiches at Ray’s Hell-Burger arrive decked out in seared foie gras or bone marrow, but we love the simplest of the bunch: the Mack, dressed humbly with American cheese, creamy “heck sauce,” tomato, and the McDonald’s-esque trinity of lettuce, onion, and pickles. The classic combination landed the burger in our latest issue (on newsstands now), in the “Cheap Eats Hall of Fame,” a collection of all-time favorite dishes.

While Ray’s empire builder Michael Landrum says the name references the 1973 cult hit The Mack, starring Richard Pryor, the sandwich is clearly an homage to the other Mac. The salty-sweet-greasy-meaty combo hits all the right addictive flavor buttons, with a bonus side of nostalgia: If you ever loved McDonald’s--and most of us have at one point in our lives—it’s a must eat.

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Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 05/29/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Arguably not a burger at all, but then who gets in an argument about a walking taco? By Anna Spiegel
This taco was made for walking. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Welcome to Hangover Hamburger Friday: the Memorial Day weekend edition. Throughout May we’ve given you booze-soaking burgers in the form of triple-decker street meat, a poutine mashup, and a peanut butter bomb, but today we have something more portable for your Friday flight: the Frito Pie.

Customize your salty bits, after the jump.

Posted at 10:45 AM/ET, 05/25/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Want to wow your picnic guests this weekend? Steal ideas from Washington’s endlessly creative local chefs. By Jessica Voelker
You can make BLT Steak's 1% burger at home—just don't forget to pick up some gold leaf. Photograph by Erik Uecke.

Here on Best Bites Blog, we’ve been rounding up beefwiches throughout May in homage to National Burger Month. Since most of us will spend this weekend chowing down on burgers at backyard barbecues, we thought our posts might inspire you to move beyond the same old patties and condiments.

First things first: Start by heading to one of these premier sources for meat. Then look to our local chefs for outside-the-burger-box inspiration.

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Posted at 01:05 PM/ET, 05/24/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Three favorite lunch items inspired chef Dennis Marron’s broth-dipped sandwich. By Jessica Voelker
Poste's onion soup burger, a great brasserie mashup. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

When we talked to Dennis Marron, top toque at Poste, back in November, he had just debuted his inaugural menu, which included roast pork belly, five mussel preparations, and "tête sliders": mini patties of fried pig head dressed up with sauce gribiche and pickled red onion. But Marron was especially excited about one particular item: the onion soup burger.

In the months since, said burger has become one of the most-ordered items on the Poste menu. Like the restaurant’s Brasserie Burger, this sandwich’s patty is created with grass-fed Virginia beef. That’s topped with melted Comté cheese and placed on an onion bun dressed with mayo and caramelized onion from Poste’s French onion soup. The all-important final step? Marron dips the top of the sandwich’s onion bun in the soup broth. “It’s essentially a French dip meets French onion soup meets hamburger,” explains the chef.

Head to Poste if you’d like that meeting to take place in your mouth.

See the other entries in our monthlong A Burger a Day in May series.

Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 05/23/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
These local butchers offer fresh patties and cuts you can grind yourself.
By Anna Spiegel
Grilling . . . and grilling burgers to be more precise . . . is an activity no Memorial Day weekend should be without. Photograph by Flickr user m.mate.

If the thought of pink slime turns you off Memorial Day burgers, don't give up the tradition--just head to your local butcher. Several meat shops and markets around Washington grind top-quality hunks of meat daily, if not to order, ensuring pristine patties. More in the mood to grind your own? Check out tips from Ray's Hell-Burger owner Michael Landrum, and then ask the butcher to recommend whole cuts. Call ahead, as several shops are closed on Mondays or will observe holiday hours.

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Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 05/22/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
These little sandwiches make a strong argument for a much-maligned bar snack. By Jessica Voelker

The tuna sliders at PS7's are very tasty. Photograph by Allison Dinner.

"You know what I'm so sick of?" tweeted Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport earlier this month. "Sliders."

Ouch, I thought. Not a great PR moment for the miniburger. But thinking back, I can recall several occasions on which an influential food-world person expressed disdain for very small sandwiches--a once seemingly trendy snack item that has demonstrated surprising staying power over the past few years. (I like to compare them to cargo pants: Just when you think they're on the outs--bam!--some Fashion Week model saunters down the runway with pockets jutting out at her knees.)

Intrigued, I started asking some of the foodie types I know what the problem was. The words "bad value" came up a lot--sliders may seem inexpensive, but ounce for ounce, the argument went, you're paying through the nose for that hit of juicy beef. The sheer ubiquity seemed to bother a lot of people--from the catering world to bar menus in chains and neighborhood bistros alike, some foodies see baby burgs as a lazy fallback when something more creative was called for.

But the anti-slider argument I've heard the most is that sliders simply aren't tasty. Fresh buns are a rarity, meat tends to be dry . . . they're just not good. As when you see the word "gyoza" on a mid-priced, contemporary-American bar menu and know those dumplings likely came straight from the Sysco truck, the word "slider" can also indicate something slapdash and industrial, a throwaway item designed to distract you from the cost of your cocktail. But for every rule, an exception, and in this case five. Here, a list of sliders that show a small sandwich can be a thing of beauty. Even if it's not that cool anymore.

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Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 05/21/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chase away the hangover hurt as you relive your childhood with this sweet-and-savory sandwich. By Anna Spiegel
Drew's Peanut Butter Bacon Burger, rumored to cure hangovers. Photograph courtesy of Ted's Bulletin.

Welcome back to Hangover Hamburger Friday, where throughout May we help erase last night's mistakes with the hunkiest chunks of meaty goodness we can find.

It's a well-known (though scientifically unproven) fact that nostalgia cures hangovers. Not only do childhood dishes like pizza, mac and cheese, and fried chicken taste like morning-after manna, they also bring you back to a purer mindset when the height of debauchery involved drinking a whole Coca-Cola. Hence we bring you Drew's Peanut Butter Bacon Burger from Ted's Bulletin, a PB&J/hamburger hybrid that seems like the brainchild of your ten-year-old self and the boozer he/she grew into.

The "Drew" named on the menu is Drew Kim, one of the co-owners of Matchbox and Ted's. Before the PBBB became a staple, chef Eric Brannon says Kim would ask for his Matchbox sliders topped with peanut butter and bacon. This eccentric order inspired some skepticism, but the rich, nutty combination of Angus beef and smooth Skippy won converts. It's now a menu staple at Ted's, where Brannon dresses it up with a sweet-and-spicy tomato jam. Take it down with a glass of milk if you're feeling remorseful, or opt for Brannon's hair-of-the-dog approach and try it with a 16-ounce Schlitz pounder. "You'll want something to cleanse your palate," warns the chef. "And you'll need a lot of it."

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Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 05/18/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Despite a regime change in the kitchen, the downtown steakhouse has no plans to discontinue its foie-gras-and-gold-leaf-topped sandwich.
By Jessica Voelker
BLT's gold-leaf topped 1% burger. Photograph by Erik Uecke.

Back in November, BLT Steak debuted a menu of politically inspired burgers--the kitchen offers one of the sandwiches at lunch and rotates them about once a week. The most talked-about of these specialty burgers was the 1% burger--a $58 Kobe burger topped with a fat lobe of foie gras and gold leaf. On the side? Grey Poupon mustard, naturally.

The Political Burger Board was the brainchild of chef Victor Albisu, a self-described political junkie, so when he moved on from the steakhouse this spring, it made us wonder: "What will happen to the 1%?"

It seems new chef Jon Mathieson--whose résumé includes stints at restaurants like 2941 in Falls Church, Le Bernardin in New York City, and the ill-fated Michel by Michel Richard and Inox, both in Tysons Corner--has no plans to discontinue serving the 1%--the burger is "here to stay," a restaurant rep assured us this week. Call BLT Steak before you visit to learn which sandwich is on special that day.


See the other entries in our monthlong A Burger a Day in May series.

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Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 05/17/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()