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Hill East Burger quietly started serving in Southeast last week.
Chris Svetlik

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Hill East Burger Swings Into Southeast With Perfected Patties and a Taxidermied Armadillo

Hill East Burger opens with half-smokes, mushroom-infused rum, and a Southwestern-chic look

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The local owners of barbecue standard-bearer Sloppy Mama’s and hip Tex-Mex joint Republic Cantina just unveiled a sizzling new bar on Capitol Hill.

Anticipated smoked burger saloon Hill East Burger is a joint effort between Joe Neuman (Sloppy Mama, Chris Svetlik (Republic Cantina), and D.C. bartending vet Ben Alt, an alum of Martha Dear, Tail Up Goat, and Reliable Tavern.

Hill East Burger evokes the American Southwest in gin bar Wisdom’s old brick-lined home (1432 Pennsylvania Avenue SE) with an assortment of repurposed collectables and wacky tchotchkes from its Houston native co-owner Svetlik.

The cheesy “OK Burger” comes with Texas’s beloved H-E-B Sauce, griddled onions, and pickles.
Chris Svetlik

Think: a taxidermied armadillo, a restored 1959 Seeburg 222 jukebox, and other “oddball items I’ve been stockpiling over the years,” says Svetlik.

The smoked burger — a periodic fascination among Texan pitmasters — is also a rare find in D.C. Patties, built with a blend of Sloppy Mama’s prime brisket trim and Roseda Farms dry-aged beef, get a cold-smoke in-house before getting smashed on the griddle. Three opening burgers come in single, double, or triple sizes ($12-$18), served on a local potato bun or a bed of dressed arugula.

“The Puebla” features smoked poblano relish, beefonaise (tallow confit garlic mayo), smoked cheddar, mustard, and arugula.
Chris Svetlik
The “Fifty-First” is a Sloppy Mama’s half-smoke topped with chili, mustard, onion, and cheddar.
Chris Svetlik

The menu also carves out room for poultry fans, with chicken or veggie (fried grits and black eyed peas) nuggets and a buttermilk-brined fried chicken sandwich doused with country gravy. Sides include Texas-style chili and seasoned curly potato wedges.

Hill East Burger is dressed with Americana memorabilia.
Chris Svetlik
Saddle up to a soft leather bar stool or booth at Hill East Burger.
Chris Svetlik

A no-frills selection of local beers and 250-ml. canned wines at the bar are joined by a list of sipping spirits that’ll grow to 40 bottles. Rare selections handpicked from Mexico include mushroom-infused charanda (Mexican rum).

Alt’s cocktail list loops in classics (Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni) and experimental creations like a “Smoking Cane” with smoked tea aged rum, bitters, and touch of smoked tea syrup.

A gin martini with dry vermouth and orange bitters.
Chris Svetlik
Homemade Orangina on draft comes with an herbal touch and can be spiked with tequila.
Chris Svetlik

Hill East Burger is open daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and starting at noon on weekends (with a kitchen closing at 10 p.m.).

Svetlik’s airy, cactus-covered cafe Republic Cantina brought a residential strip in Truxton Circle breakfast tacos, ranch water cocktails, and a dose of cool Texan culture in 2019. Neuman found a permanent home for his popular barbecue food truck in that same year in Arlington, where he sends out wood-fired turkey, pork, and ribs (and vegan jackfruit) by the pound. The two met while building their businesses out of the Mess Hall restaurant incubator in Edgewood.

Hill East Burger “should feel at home to both my ‘Texpat’ customer base as well as Sloppy Mama’s legion of barbecue aficionados,” says Svetlik.

Other quirks include plateware brought back from Mexico in suitcases and DIY wagon wheel chandeliers.
Chris Svetlik
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