– compiled by Wombat-socho
Inspired by Bryan Preston’s article on the Burger Wars in Austin, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of decent burger joints in the Washington, DC area, especially with CPAC less than a month away. I’ve rated the various burger restaurants on a scale of 1-5 (awful to excellent) for burger taste, fries, sodas, and ambience; price is on a similar but inverted scale with 1 being “it costs HOW MUCH?” and 5 being “Yay! Cheap burgers!”.
White Castle: 1/3/3/1/5 (13)
There’s a reason everybody who raves about this place turns out to be either drunk, stoned or both when they went there. Having eaten there sober, I can testify this may be the worst hamburger chain ever. Its only virtues are that it is dirt cheap and open 24 hours. For God’s sake, and the safety of your gastrointestinal tract, if you must eat burgers of this sort, go to Krystal instead. You’ll thank me when you sober up.
McDonald’s: 3/3/4/4/5 (19)
The expanded Dollar Menu is a good thing in my opinion, since it makes bacon a regular component of the McDonald’s menu. This is the bog-standard baseline cheeseburger chain, where you can also get adequate chicken sandwiches and salads; they’ve become more low-carb friendly in recent years as well. +1 to Ambience for almost always have wifi in their 24-hour locations, which makes them great backup locations for bloggers whose power and/or internets at home are on the fritz.
Burger King: 3/2/4/3/4 (16)
If BK would just concentrate on their Whoppers and other flame-broiled California burgers, they probably wouldn’t be getting their asses handed to them by McDonald’s and (increasingly) Wendy’s.
Wendy’s: 4/2/4/4/4 (18)
Better burgers than McD’s or BK, including the mighty Baconator. Also generally nicer than the former two, even if 24-hour service and wifi are lacking.
Checker’s: 3/4/5/2/3 (18)
Also known as Rally’s in some parts of the country. Offers a bewildering variety of cheeseburgers, which are okay, but their real selling point is their fries, which are peppery and can be ordered with cheese and/or chili. Also, gigantic sodas. Unfortunately, it’s drive-through only unless you want to park your butt on their picnic benches, which is not advised even in the relatively mild winters here in the Washington area.
Hardee’s: 5/3/5/4/3 (20)
Also known as Carl’s Jr. on the Left Coast. This is stretching things a bit since the nearest Hardee’s are in Stafford down by Quantico or out in Luray, but they deserve mention for their awesome use of supermodels in ads (Rule 5!) and their in-your-face “Eat Like You Mean It” slogan. Plus points for Monsterburgers, Thickburgers, and hand-scooped milkshakes & malts. Low-carb burger options available as well.
Roy Rogers: 5/3/5/4/3 (20)
The glorious Triggerburgers of yesterday are experiencing a revival, and the Double-R Burger (a cheeseburger with thin-sliced ham) is the top of the line. Plus points for the fresh fixins’ bar, which includes all the usual toppings plus mayo and horseradish on tap, and for hand-scooped milkshakes made with Hershey’s ice cream.
Siddown, Relax, And Chow Down
Red Robin: 4/3/4/5/3 (18)
More of a competitor to Chili’s and Friday’s, really, but the burgers here are very good and the fries are unlimited. Those of us watching the carbs have the option of trading in the fries for a salad or unlimited broccoli, and getting our burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of delicious but evil burger buns. Plus points in ambience for wifi and a quirky loyalty program which not only hands out a free burger on your birthday and has a Buy 10 Get One Free system, but periodically throws a random freebie at you for no reason.
Five Guys: 5/5/5/4/3 (21)
Arguably the best burgers and fries; the latter are fried in peanut oil and served in enormous quantities, while the former are cooked to order with your condiments conscientiously applied. The original Five Guys at King Street & Beauregard Avenue in Alexandria appears to be closed, but there’s plenty of others around now. Bonus points for having the newfangled Coke dispensers which offer a million zillion flavor options and have pretty much every kind of soda and bottled water made by the Coca-Cola Corporation.
Allahu akbar! Plus points to ambience for playing excellent 80s & 90s rock on their Bose speakers, partially offset by wooden chairs.
Pretentious Yupscale Burger Emporia
Smashburger: 3/3/1/3/2 (12)
People who think this place serves the best burgers need to get their heads examined. Nothing about this place is worth going out of your way for, unless you actually like your burgers raw in the middle and accompanied by mediocre julienne fries. No refills on the fountain sodas, either. Fargin’ iceholes.
Big Buns: 5/3/3/3/2 (16)
The burgers here are actually very good, and the buns are good quality fresh-baked ones, too. Aside from that, they don’t have a lot going for them aside from free parking in Arlington, which is not to be sneered at. Veggie, salmon and other non-beef patty options available
for those of weak liver. Small cups for soda are irritating, but at least you can refill them.
Burger 7: 3/2/5/2/2 (14)
If you are a crunchy con who insists on having all your beef organically grass-fed and your milkshakes made from organic milk, then this is your burger joint. I don’t care for grass-fed beef (too dry and stringy compared to corn-fed, imo) and I definitely don’t like the taste of fries cooked in olive oil. Price is about what you would expect an organic grass-fed cheeseburger to be, i.e. $5 and change for something that is definitely not as big as McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder with Cheese.
Ray’s Hell Burger: (unrated)
Haha, like I’d actually go somewhere where my dining is liable to be interrupted by the Moocher-In-Chief and his posse of T-men? Yeah, no.
BGR – The Burger Joint: 5/3/5/4/1 (18)
Sweet bleeding Ronald McDonald with headcrab, the burgers here are EXPENSIVE. A double bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soda can very easily set you back almost $20. That having been said, you’re paying for prime beef grilled on an open flame, and the rest of the ingredients are similarly hi-falutin’. So you’re getting a REALLY GOOD double bacon cheeseburger. Plus points for having one of the aforementioned newfangled Coke machines, decent music on the speakers, and some comfortable wall seats so you’re not forced to sit on wood benches to atone for your carnist mouthcrime. Also, loyalty program with instant reward of free burger for signing up and a Buy Eight Get One Free offer.
I’ll be going out to Vegas in early June to scope out potential apartment locations, and will probably check out In & Out Burger as well as the Heart Attack Grill. Why, journalism demands it!