D.C.'s burger restaurant craze: Haven't we had enough?
D.C., more than anywhere in the U.S., creaks under the weight of American symbols. Our commutes are punctuated by glimpses of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, and Lincoln Memorial — white marble edifices built to demonstrate the endurance of our democratic experiment. And, recently, our culinary imaginations have been colonized by that most American of foodstuffs: the hamburger.
“There is an inevitability to the hamburger: it is the most concentrated way a person can cheaply eat everything that people like about beef,” Josh Ozersky writes in The Hamburger: A History.
But was our obsession with burgers inevitable? What compels us to queue for an hour for an early taste of what is, essentially, a fancy fast-food patty? Is the burger really interesting enough to warrant a week’s worth of devoted coverage? And are we really gluttonous — and gullible — enough to order 9 pounds of grilled ground beef?
Since the beginning of 2011, we’ve seen the arrival of Shake Shack, two Bobby’s Burger Palaces, two Black and Oranges, Canyons, and Burger Tap and Shake, as well as the expansion of Z-Burger and BGR. The trend has wheels, literally, with the revving up of the Dorothy Moon’s Gourmet Burgers food truck. And bars have been upping their game, too: Red Palace on H Street, to name just one example, recently launched a burger-centric menu — not unlike the one found at the nearby Big Board, which opened last year.
Trying to count them all is exhausting in itself. Haven’t we had enough?
Tom Sietsema, the Post’s restaurant critic, wondered as much in a nonetheless positive review of Shake Shack:
At this point, the opening of another burger spot is about as exciting for some of us as watching paint dry. Aren’t we full? Having experienced my first Shake Shack at the race track in Saratoga, N.Y., last summer, I found it difficult to muster enthusiasm for another crusty patty served in a slip of wax paper and crinkle-cut fries pulled from the freezer.
Bad news for Sietsema: The paint’s not close to drying. Five Napkin Burger, a New York City–based chain, and Flip Burger Boutique, from Top Chef: All-Stars winner Richard Blais, plan to open locations in D.C., according to local blog Burger Days (whose very existence is proof of our burger madness). Surely, others are on the way.
Considering that these many newcomers are competing with the likes of the soon-to-expand Good Stuff Eatery, the ever-expanding Elevation Burger, and hometown favorite Five Guys — which has made its way all the way to California — you might think there’s nowhere left on the map to conquer.
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