Jody Fellows has spent the past four years eating his way through the city's burger joints, and chronicling it all on his blog, Burger Days.
The writer (whose day job is covering news for the Falls Church News-Press) naturally has some strong opinions on burgers. So Eater decided to get a little background on how this all got started, and find out his burger picks for non-beef burgers, fast food burgers, suburban burgers and more.
What made you decide to start Burger Days?
There was a specific point, probably five or six years ago now, where an article in GQ by Alan Richman ran, "XX Burgers to Eat Before You Die" or something along those lines. It was the same yar the Nationals started playing back in D.C. and the paper I work for [the Falls Church News-Press] sent me down to spring training in Fort Lauderdale, and I got to try one of the burgers on that list, at Le Tub. It was a very good burger, and that kicked it off. I came back here, and my buddies and I said, 'All right, we have to check out all the burgers in D.C.' We started hitting up places, saying what was good, and that's how it started. At the beginning I thought my friends would be doing the site with me, but they were more interested in the burger eating and beer drinking. But I still use their input and ask them what they think.
Were you a burger fan since childhood?
I've always liked burgers but have gotten more into it over the past seven, eight years. Of course I liked McDonald's as a kid, all that stuff. But the selection was a lot smaller then. Now it's just amazing; I can't believe all the places. It's crazy.
How many burgers do you typically eat in a week?
It's changed a little bit. We just had a baby, so I'm trying to juggle that. Right now, maybe two or three a week. Red Apron is definitely skewing that higher, as it's right on the way home from work for me. My wife probably isn't happy the number is that high. Some weeks my friends and I get on a kick and it'll be upwards of five burgers a week.
So do you have a post-burger coma eating ritual, like you have to have a salad or something?
It really is like that. After one of our Burger Days, I feel like a disgusting mess. It's just cottage cheese, skinless chicken breast and stuff like that afterwards. I gotta cleanse myself.
Is there anything you think the D.C. burger scene is missing?
I don't know that it's missing, but what I like to see from following burger places from Philly and L.A. on Twitter is that some of the places just get crazy creative. I don't think enough places do that. I like the Burger of the Month concept, too - you see it at places like BGR and a couple of other places, but I'd like to see more of it. There are some types of burgers you can't get full time here, like a Luther burger. In terms of places, I'm ecstatic Umami Burger is coming here.
Favorite overall burger?
That's incredibly tough. I'd say Shake Shack is my #1 if you're talking fast food style. Overall, it's hard. I really have five. Shake Shack, Palena, 2941, Ray's [Hellburger] and Dino.
What's your favorite suburban burger?
I'm skewed towards Falls Church, but 2941. I think it's by far the best; it's a really underrated and undiscovered burger. I'm also a big fan of Mad Fox.
Most eye roll-worthy burger topping?
The one that really sticks out is truffle oil. They have it at Ray's and at Joe's Burgers in McLean (and talk about expensive burgers; Joe's truffle oil burger with foie gras is $26!.) Truffle oil is a quick and dirty way to make it a "premium" burger and all it succeeds in doing is jacking up the price. And it's such an overpowering flavor that it takes over the whole burger. It's not worth it. I love truffles, but I feel they work better when incorporated in a topping (like Palena's truffled cheese) then used in the oil.
Most surprisingly delicious burger topping?
That's a good question. The first time I had bacon jam I was blown away. I didn't even know it existed. The first time I had it was at Mad Fox, under their previous chef, and since then I've had it at Boundary Stone and a couple other places.
Best chain burger?
Best schmantzy burger?
There are three that are above and beyond: 2941, Bourbon Steak and Palena. Bourbon Steak's is really good, but it's really expensive.
What's the most you have spent on a burger?
Probably Bourbon Steak, where I spent almost $20 without fries. I don't know if there's a limit to what I would spend. One time I was in Vegas for a buddy's wedding and we were at a place where they had one of those gimmicky $300 or $400 burgers that came with a bottle of champagne. I wanted us to chip in and get it for the groom but we never did it. I would never pay that solo for a burger. I guess Bourbon Steak's probably around my limit. I don't think I'd feel good telling my wife I just dropped $50 on a burger.
Best non-beef burger?
I'd say the duck burger at 2941.
Do you know of any secret burgers?
I know they will do one at Standard with pulled pork. BGR has one; it's the triple-D burger with an egg. There are probably other ones out there.
Cheese or no cheese? And if cheese, which one?
I always go for cheese. I used to always go for cheddar. But thanks to Shake Shack I now have an appreciation for those fast food-style, grilled and smashed patties — with American cheese. Goat cheese is also good on a burger.
Best out of town burger?
When I went to the big burger bash in South Beach, it was the burger from Lokal.
Can you cook a good burger?
I cook an okay burger. I'm not one to brag about my burger-cooking skills. My wife says I do, but I'm more of a very good eater.
Any other great burger that doesn't fall into any of these categories but is worth mentioning?
Stoney's makes a really good burger. I've always loved their burgers and their grilled cheese, so I shot an email off to them asking them [if they could combine them]. We were willing to make one ourselves by ordering both and putting them together, but they're doing it. I think they do a really good job and I'm looking forward to ordering the [Super Grilled Cheeseburger].
Another place is Thunder Burger Bar. They do Wild Wednesday, and have boar ones and bison.
Is it true a Hot Dog Days blog may be on the horizon?
People keep saying on Twitter, "You should do a Hot Dog Days, you should get that URL." But I'm only maybe a tenth of the way through D.C. burgers. But we'll probably do a day where my friends and I go out and eat hot dogs.
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