Nationals Star Ryan Zimmerman Talks Burgers, Beer, and Barbecue

The Salt Line investor is part of Washingtonian's summer food issue, out today.

Ryan Zimmerman. Photograph by Melanie Dunea

Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman is a partner and investor in the Salt Line, which serves one of the best burgers in town and, conveniently for him, sits along the Anacostia River across the street from Nats Park. We chatted with  the food-loving first and third baseman (and Washingtonian‘s August cover model) about his favorite local spots for our summer guide to the best burgers, beer, and barbecue around DC—on newsstands now.

What are your favorite burger toppings?
I always go for a cheeseburger. I do ketchup, mustard, and mayo all mixed together. Pickles have to be on it, and shredded lettuce. The other stuff is optional.

What’s your go-to barbecue spot?
Mookie’s in Great Falls. They’ve been around four to five years and have really good stuff. I love ribs and brisket. We always order mac and cheese for the kids, but I’d rather do green beans with bacon or collards.

Favorite local beer?
I’m not much of a beer drinker. The Three Stars and DC Brau guys are great. I enjoy trying the one-off, seasonal beers they do. In the summer when you’re sitting outside, opening one of their summer beers and having a couple cold ones on a hot day is tough to beat.

I hear you’re more of a bourbon fan. What’s your favorite local spot? 
I got to know some of the guys at Jack Rose—that place is amazing. It’s so much fun, not only for the insane amount of bourbon, but the information and what you learn about the history of each one.

You probably eat pretty healthily in season. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream is my default. I live in Great Falls and Great Falls Creamery is really good. I take my kids there all the time. Well, I take my kids to get ice cream so I can eat ice cream.

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned about the hospitality industry since opening the Salt Line? Jeremey [Carman], Paul [Holder] and Gavin [Coleman], I’ve know them for years. I still don’t do much over there—they deserve all the credit. It’s amazing how much time they spend at their restaurants. It’s not abnormal for owners to do, but you hear about people who’ve invested or opened restaurants, and the guys who own it aren’t there. If you go to Salt Line or Dauphine’s, you’ll see one of those guys there. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how hard you have to work and show up, and they take pride in that.

What are some of your favorite DC dining experiences?
My wife and I we go to a couple nice dinners a year to get out of taking care of the kids. For our anniversary we usually go to the Inn at Little Washington. It’s only about an hour and a half away, and you feel like you’re in a different world. Minibar is always really cool. José [Andrés] is an awesome guy and so much fun, and the tasting menu there is just like him—it’s kinda crazy and you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Do you dine out with your teammates, and if so, where do you like to go?
We really like to go out on the road. Obviously the last year and half has put a damper on that stuff, but any chance we have to do team dinners— if we get in early or have a day off— we look up where to go in the city. We try to find interesting things by locals in that city, not just the normal steakhouse. Patrick Corbin is big into trying to go to Michelin-starred restaurants.

A version of this interview appears in the August issue of Washingtonian. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.