BGR The Burger Joint

Written by on June 5, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Lyon Village Shopping Center, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: When I first returned from Israel, Chris told me about this great burger joint that his new housemate, Bryan introduced him to. Since then, I see it everywhere! (Well, at least three locations.) For the past five weeks, we have been looking for a time to check it out, and this was our moment.

Type of cuisine: Gormet burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes, soda & iced tea, not to mention a selection of bottled vintage sodas, beer and wine.

It all goes back to the long days of summer, growing up just outside Philadelphia where each Sunday the entire neighborhood would gather for a block party of sorts. As a child, there was nothing better than Mr. Kaufman’s burgers. Philip Kaufman was a butcher and he owned the only prime beef butcher shop in the area. He definitely knew his food. You could smell his burgers cooking over the grill for blocks. All the kids lined up, waiting to get their hands on the first one. I never forgot the smell of the burgers cooking, nor that special one-of-a-kind taste that immediately brings me back to my childhood. As an adult, burgers were simple. Grab some ground beef at the local store and put it on the grill for backyard cookouts. They were always good, but I was in a constant battle to recreate that fond childhood memory for my family and friends. Then it became an obsession. We visited all of the burger chains, both big and small. Some were good, actually very good; but not spectacular, and not worthy of my lifelong memory of The Event. Today we stand here ready to present to you our passion and commitment to create enjoyment, pleasure and memories for you and your family. Our burgers are crafted with the finest beef on the planet. We only use grain-fed cattle; all natural, no hormones, fillers or antibiotics, and most importantly they run free in the fields. Our prime beef is dry aged (the amount of time is a closely guarded secret), blended and ground fresh. The beef is only one component, but it’s the canvas we use. The buns are made for us locally and delivered fresh every day. The tomatoes are the finest available. Lastly, the burgers are grilled to temperature over an open flame — not fried on a piece of stainless steel. We present to you not a fast food place, not a mass production burger operation, but a “joint” — one that you can make your own, stay awhile and enjoy the food.”

Ambiance: In a newer strip mall, one is never quite certain what to expect, but BGR delivers. Entering the establishment, with floor-to-ceiling windows and barstool seating on just one of the small ends of the long, rectangular space, patrons are immediately led into a pseudo-hallway where a line forms to place one’s order. The wall to your left hosts framed posters of bands and musicians from yesteryear, specifically the 1970s and 1980s, as does the wall, slightly farther away, to your right. Between the hallway and the seating area, is a thin barquette, home to white, plastic BGR water bottles standing up in a line, leading to the end, the order counter. The chalkboard ahead lists menu items, including seasonal specials such as lobster, underneath a colorfully drawn burger, creating a space separation between the cafe and the kitchen. The cafe boasts two, light-colored wooden benches with tables just ahead and chairs on the opposite side for seating. Each specially made mosaic table with 80s-themed insignia is topped with a large container for brown paper napkins and a basket of condiments. The table scenes range in pictures from the M-TV logo, to bugs bunny, a peace symbol, skull & cross-bones, as well as Bart and Homer Simpson. The blue wall at your right hosts enlargened record covers with pictures of Tom Petty, Kiss, John Lennon & Yoko Ono and others that create nostalgia for us children of the 80s. Small, metallic, double wall shelves display GI Joe, Superman and other character-inspired metal lunchboxes, as well as KISS member model kits, in their original boxes. Rainbow bulbs set in PVC fixtures create unique lighting in an artistic fashion, as does the sole, electric guitar perched on the wall. Loud, 80s music blasts through the speakers, making conversation difficult, but giving dining heads ear to ear grins and plenty of head bobbing opportunities. Burgers come served on 10-inch round pizza trays topped with BGR-stickered wax paper, thick toothpicks holding burgers together with recipts to show order numbers.

What I ordered: A lunchtime sojourn for four of us, after a mini-devotional gathering at Glebe Park and a ninety-minute walk throughout the neighborhood, I was in the mood for beef and perused them menu just for that. Working my way through turkey burkers, pork sliders, ham, lamb, ahi and lobster, I found two beef burgers that stole my attention. Of course, having been my first visit to BGR, I requested the guidance of our cashier, who, without hesitation, suggested The Wellington ($8.99), “by far” their “most popular burger of the month”. Served on a fresh toasted, buttery brioche bun with mojo sauce, the deep roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic and black truffles topped the beef patty with a touch of mustard seed and blue cheese. I requested the addition of Applewood smoked bacon ($0.99) and the thick cut, beer battered Vidalia onion rings ($4.49 for about six) on the side. Another of my dining companions ordered the same burger, with bacon, and a hand spun, extra thick strawberry shake ($4.99) featuring Gifford’s and Breyer’s ice cream. This third on our tab, and frequenter of BGR went with the traditional, The Burger ($6.99), touted “One of the greatest burgers in the world you must have before you die” (GQ Magazine) and “Burger Bling” (ABC News). This is the burger that put BGR on the map, served on a fresh, buttery, toasted brioche bun with the diners choice of lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mojo sauce. A side of The Orange Standard ($3.99), thin cut, Idaho Sweet Potatoes soaked overnight in BGRs secret process, double fried to order. The fourth in our party ordered the Veggie Burger ($7.99), a BGR fresh, house-made recipe including brown rice, black beans, oats and molasses, served on a fresh, buttery, toasted brioche bun and served with the diners choice of lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mojo sauce, and a bottle of Fuji water ($1.49 for 16-ounce bottle) with which to wash it all down.

What I loved: I love the freshness of the burger, created to order. The buttery brioche bun with sesame seeds was not just the vehicle for this burger, but truly added to the entire package. The sweet potato fries, lightly battered and fried, were served aplenty!

Why I loved it: I love the casual air and feel of the space, the presentation of the burgers and the whole feel of BGR. The fresh food, cooked slowly and to your taste, the 80s music blaring overhead and the bright colored decor. I also loved that diners could be found, sweat stains on their t-shirts, who had just popped in for a meal post-workout, as well as those fresh out of church, complete with suit and tie. It’s truly a great place for everyone!

Cost: Average to high ($6.99 – $14.99 per burger, sides additional)

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