Normally, I would take a heavy editing hand to such prose, but my dear fellow native Washingtonian AJ is not only not wrong in her assessments, I think her admittedly ridiculous over-style is somehow appropriate for the inflated self-worth of ‘fancy’ fast food joints.
I’m an admitted burger fiend. I grew up eating the things by the truckload at home and out (visits to the old Hamburger Hamlet were ever a demand foisted upon my parents’ weekends). But mostly, we ate them at home. Our burger consumption transcended all the various food and diet fads of the 80’s and 90’s – my mother, and later I, tried every one – through low fat to mid-fat to inexplicably 99% fat free beef, through turkey, through lamb, through veal and through chicken, our patties endured white buns and wheat buns, no buns and potato rolls, were eaten plain and smothered in ketchup, mustard, organic ketchup, mayo, Tabasco, Cholula and Marie Sharp’s, dipped in Kraft BBQ and home-made barbeque sauces, and mixed with onion soup mix, blue cheese, and whatever else – one thing, however, remained constant: each patty was grilled over open fire, just shy of medium-rare, with a nice charred crust all around. We ate a lot of burgers, and I’ll even cop to loving McDonalds’ through about age 14, when I discovered that my anti-corporatist streak could be more reasonably supported by liking a proper hamburger containing neither carrageenan, soy byproduct, nor griddle grease. My love of meat did (thank heaven!) stop me short of any teenage-girl notions about dieting or vegetarianism.
This brings me to the relatively recent revival of burger joints in DC and elsewhere, and how much they piss me off. Five Guys was the first I noticed – bland, grey patties cooked on soggy white buns, served aside admittedly delicious fries and momentarily entertaining peanut shells to throw at people. The Shake Shack craze I understand even less. Blah on both counts, and I never understood why people get so excited about them, but at least they admit it’s fast food. But now we come to Black & Orange, formerly Rogue States. Intrigued by the concept (and gleefully in support of just about any attempt to push DC into a better late-night town), I decided to stop in the other day on my way home from work.
To be as fair as possible, I eschewed the fancily dressed-up versions – as you may guess, I do love me some toppings – and went for the “Square One,” dressed simply with sea salt and black pepper, and topped with the ever-traditional lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle. I excitedly dug in. And there, my excitement came to an abrupt and unsightly death.
Which isn’t to say the burger wasn’t pretty: it was really picturesque as a whole, with the right proportions, for me, of mean, topping, and bun. But, upon taking a bite, I found the bun was sweet but otherwise insipid, and the patty itself bland and mushy in texture. It was, at least, properly pink inside, and the toppings were fresh (and the lettuce not iceburg!), giving it a leg up on the above-mentioned fast-fad burgers.
I understand the limitations of indoor kitchens and the need for grill pans instead of grills, but seriously people: this is not a “gourmet” burger. This is a better-than-average fast-food burger. While again I do love the idea that the place is open till 5 AM, and I’ll probably stop in for some sweet potato fries and maybe even another burger after later shows at the Black Cat, by that point I’ll have had eleventeen vodka-cranberries and won’t care about much beyond “Foooooooood…nowwwwww.” For random I-need-dinner-on-the-way-home nights, however, I’ll stick to Fast Gourmet sandwiches, and just do burgers myself.
– A guest post by AJ
Black & Orange
1931 14th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20009