Partnering in a delivery-only cheeseburger business makes a lot of sense for Tom Wilson and Clyde’s Restaurant Group, the local chain with a six-decade history of providing respectable bar and grill fare.
The 27-year-old Washington Capitals forward is the face of 43 Burger, the latest of several virtual restaurant brands Clyde’s has rolled out in 2021 in a bid to boost sales in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilson says he burns enough calories on the ice to “crush” an occasional burger without remorse, but he couldn’t exactly spend much time in restaurants even before the COVID-19 pandemic, because he’d likely get mobbed. His parents, he says, have made a tradition of pre-game meals at bar in the Clyde’s by the arena in Gallery Place, but he doesn’t join them.
“I’m not going to go post up there after a game or before a game,” He says. “It gets pretty hectic.”
And during a pandemic season, Wilson says he and his teammates are “pretty much on complete lockdown,” avoiding restaurants and grocery stores and relying on delivery wherever possible.
Since Clyde’s opened 43 Burger for ordering through third-party apps in late March, Wilson, fans, and hecklers can order four different burgers and three sides with his number stamped on the packaging. Wilson says Clyde’s approached him about the partnership, which includes a charitable component with portions of the proceeds going to DC Central Kitchen. Wilson, who recently served a seven-game suspension for boarding, had the opportunity to provide input on burger development with Clyde’s corporate executive chef Stephen Lyons. For the most part, he says, he stayed out of Lyons’s way.
“Obviously he’s the expert and professional in that field,” Wilson says. “I just play hockey.”
For Wilson’s signature burger, the Willy’s Way, Lyons stacked a sesame seed bun with truffle aioli, a cremini mushroom spread, and truffle cheese. There’s also a bacon and blue cheese option and a kimchi burger with Sriracha mayo and Monterey Jack. The 43 Burger is a basic build-your-own option.
Clyde’s provided Eater with a taste of the burgers, which were constructed well for delivery and stack up very favorably against some of the patties I’ve tried recently. The cheeses and spreads smartly insulate the buns from thick, medium-rare patties of beef that Clyde’s grinds locally, preventing too much sogginess. Sides include fries, tots, and a mixed green salad, but not yet one of the Toronto native’s other favorites: poutine.
Wilson, a first-round pick in his eighth season with the Caps, says he’s been supporting as many D.C. restaurants as he can, and it’s hard to pick favorites because so many have treated him so well over the years. He mentioned the Dabney, in Shaw, and RPM Italian in Mt. Vernon Triangle as two regular haunts. He likes Green Pig Bistro for an option closer to the team’s practice facility in Arlington.
Entering Monday, April 5, the Capitals (25-9-4) held a slim lead over the New York Islanders for the top spot in the NHL’s East Division standings. As part of a 6-year, $31 million contract he signed in 2018, Wilson is due to make over $4 million in salary and bonuses this year. He says he plans on sharing some of that cash with local restaurants as soon as it feels safe.
“I’ll definitely be the first in line to run up a few bills here and there,” he says.
43 Burger is available from Clyde’s locations in downtown D.C., Georgetown, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Reston, Alexandria, and Loudoun County.