Tag Archives: burgers

A.G. Kitchen Opens in Silver Spring

23 Jul

While several New York chefs have imported their restaurants into our nation’s capital, chef Alex Garcia decided to open the second location of his popular A.G. Kitchen in downtown Silver Spring.

Chef Alex Garcia

The original, which is located the Upper West Side, offers an array of Latin American fare in a casual, colorful setting. The Maryland location continues that theme of vibrancy in the heart of Silver Spring with a menu full of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.

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Rachel and I were invited to a preview event a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to sample some of Chef Garcia’s menu.

Seafood Ceviche

We started the evening off with a seafood ceviche that featured a medley of shrimp and lobster, blended with tomatoes mango and avocado.

Braised short ribs arepa

The braised short ribs arepa prominently showcased Garcia’s Cuban heritage with the traditional sweet yellow corn cake.

Seafood paella

The gorgeously arranged seafood paella was overflowing with crab laws, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, chorizo, rice, and last but not least, calamari salad.

Ultimate potato skin burger

Meanwhile, the “ultimate potato skin burger” fuses some American elements into the Cuban-inspired menu with a ribeye patty topped with crispy potato skin, cheddar, bacon, and crema.

Ultimate potato skin burger

The table even got to sample the full-size version of this behemoth as the smaller plate didn’t do it enough justice – there’s a reason why it’s listed under the menu as one of chef Garcia’s favorites amongst nearly a dozen burger offerings.

Chocolate empanadas and salted caramel milkshake

We concluded the evening with a trio of chocolate empanadas, complete with chocolate dipping sauce, as well as a miniature salted caramel milkshake. In fact, all of the milkshakes can be made boozy for an additional $5, because who doesn’t love boozy milkshakes?

ViewMaster

One of the most memorable if not creative moments of the night was reading the dessert menu off of a 3D View-Master. Certainly brought back memories of our childhood (P.S. we’re officially old now).

A.G. Kitchen not only offers another exciting option in the ever-expanding dining scene of downtown Silver Spring with its first NYC import, but also brings a lively atmosphere complemented by a colorful backdrop of Latin American fusion.

A.G. Kitchen is located on 931 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.

City Burger Unveils New Expanded Menu

31 Jul

Rachel and I have been to City Burger several times and have really enjoyed Chef Michael Harr’s burgers since opening back in May. The executive chef at nearby Food Wine and Co, Harr has now expanded his menu including a revamped version of their veggie burger as well as a variety of hot dogs and hand-spun shakes featuring house-made custard.

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The new version of the veggie burger (the previous incarnation was basically a fried cheese patty), cleverly dubbed the Herban Garden, is a blend of fried quinoa and black bean, and topped with lettuce, pickled red onion, and herby mayo. The result is a crunchy, satisfying alternative to its beefy counterpart. It’s comparable to the famous veggie burger at Woodmont Grill, just half the price. We both particularly enjoyed the pickled onions since it was not only a unique topping but really complemented the crispy veggie patty.

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And while turkey burgers aren’t certainly exciting on paper when beef reigns supreme, Harr’s version delivers. The Suburban features a seasoned turkey patty topped with a slice of Swiss, roasted peppers, alfalfa, avocado, lettuce, and herby mayo. For a white meat alternative, it’s one of the better turkey burgers we have come across. Oh, and it pairs up nicely with a side of fried green beans, which are sprinkled with Parmesan and sesame seeds. Of course you can’t go wrong with their crispy sea salt fries, but it’s nice to see a greener alternative.

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One of the most intriguing additions was the Brooklyn Deli burger. A succulent beef patty is topped with Swiss cheese, crispy pastrami, coleslaw, and deli mustard. It’s like pastrami on rye after taking my first bite. The ingredients work effortlessly well together, especially the pastrami and bright yellow mustard. And while it’s a little on the greasier side (I mean it’s fried pastrami after all), it’s a nice take on burger meets delicatessen.

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And then there’s the hand-spun shakes. Prepared with rich, thick custard made in-house, City Burger has not one but six different specialty shakes (in addition to the traditional vanilla, chocolate, and black & white preparations). Rachel tried the City Slicker, which was made with vanilla custard, Nutella, banana, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel. It was just as delicious as it sounded and was quite refreshing for a summer treat.

I opted for the D.C. Grasshopper – chocolate custard, mint Oreo cookie, and mint chocolate. The mixture was heavenly, so much so that a spoon is recommended as you’re going to run out of oxygen using a straw given how deliciously thick the custard is.

City Burger is a great addition to Bethesda, and as you can tell, isn’t just another burger joint.

City Burger on Urbanspoon

The Majestic Bar and Grille

3 May

7141 Wisconsin Avenue has hosted many restaurants throughout the years. Located next to the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market, this address has seen a handful of venues open and close, Vegas Bar & Grill and Gaffney’s being the latest causalities. The Majestic, which opened a few months ago, hopes to buck that trend.

Rachel and I met up with The Bethesda Foodie and her husband in what was to be our first blogger meal together. The Majestic bills itself as a “gastropub”, but when looking over the menu, it’s a mish-mosh of pub fare, small plates, and even ramen. With the Caps game broadcast on the restaurant’s two flat screen TVs above the bar, the guys kept things simple with burgers and beers while the wives both ordered crab cake sandwiches.

Chopped sirloin burger

Speaking of beers, The Majestic has a pretty good beer selection, with local breweries Heavy Seas and Flying Dog on-tap. I asked for the chopped sirloin burger to be cooked medium and topped with bacon (of course). When the plate arrived, it was nearly overflowing with the kitchen’s delicious hand cut fries. The burger itself wasn’t bad, although it was cooked more on the well side. Thankfully, the nicely-seasoned patty gave it enough flavor that it wasn’t much to make a fuss about. Oh, and the thick slabs of bacon helped, too.

Crab cake sandwich

Rachel liked the crab cake overall, but while the waitress said there was little filler, there was definitely some extra seasoning or binding that made it fall apart and took away from the crab itself. All she could taste was mustard, and after starting to eat it with the bun, Rachel wound up picking at the crabcake itself since the bun overpowered it.

Overall, The Majestic seems like a nice place to meet for happy hour or if you’re looking for some traditional pub fare. The oxtail wontons and ramen seem a bit out of place when you’re also serving up poutine and chicken wings, but we’ll have to come back and eventually try those dishes out. Either way, it seems like a nice, low-key spot in a very good location. Hopefully it sticks around.

Majestic Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Kraze Burgers: From Korea to Bethesda

16 Feb

Rachel and I finally ventured out to the recently-opened Kraze Burgers in downtown Bethesda last weekend. The Korean-based chain decided to open its very first United States location in the Washington suburb, but is also planning to open several more stores in DC as well as Virginia.

The addition of Kraze Burgers would make this Bethesda’s fourth burger-focused outpost, following in the footsteps of BGR, Fresh Grill, and Five Guys. And that doesn’t even include all of the full-service restaurants that offer burgers on their menu, but we’re way too lazy to list all of those (though Freddy’s deserves some props for their patties).

Kraze Burgers

So what differentiates Kraze from the rest of the pack? Well, they certainly offer one of the most extensive menus compared to their competitors. Their ordering is broken down into five components: 1) bread, 2) protein, 3) cheese, 4) free toppings, and 5) additional toppings. Kraze offers three different types of fresh-baked buns, even offering a “bowl of greens” option for those who decide to go bunless (for a nominal fee of 95 cents).

As for proteins, they offer all-natural hormone-free beef, turkey, grilled tofu, and vegetarian patties. Cheeses consist of the usual suspects (American, provolone, bleu, Swiss, mozzarella, and cheddar) while additional toppings range from grilled pineapple to a fried egg.

The Matiz

And while you can build your own burger, Kraze offers more than a dozen of its own concoctions. I happened to order their best-selling burger, The Matiz. It featured grilled onions marinated in their house BBQ sauce, American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and pickles, all stacked on a freshly-baked bun.

The burger was juicy and flavorful, but it was the grilled onions that really stood out thanks in part to the BBQ sauce. It gave the patty a hint of Asian flavor due to its tanginess. The bun was also noteworthy as it kept the burger intact without getting soggy, yet was soft and even had a little bit of sweetness to it.

Build Your Own with Multi-Grain Bun

Rachel did a build-your-own option since none of the combinations really appealed to her. She ordered a beef patty on a multigrain bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles, sweet onions, grilled mushrooms, and ketchup. She enjoyed her burger and thought that the multigrain bun added some texture but felt that the bun would have probably gone better with a veggie or turkey burger. The mushrooms were a nice added topping, and maybe she’ll be more a little more adventurous next time.

We also shared an order of fries as well as a side of grilled asparagus. Kraze certainly offers some of the most health-conscious items for a burger joint. Despite eating a burger, I didn’t feel bogged down the next few hours as the grease was kept to a minimum.

Hawaiian Burger with Turkey

The prices are also fair. Burgers are around $7 each, and while that’s not Five Guys pricing, you’re also paying for better quality. It was certainly evident in the ingredients. While Bethesda now has a plethora of burger options, Kraze is a nice change of pace from your typical cheeseburger.

Kraze Burger on Urbanspoon

Stardust Cafe Sparkles in West Virginia

14 Feb

A few months ago, my coworker told me about this great special at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia where, during the offseason, local residents can book a two-night stay for a fraction of the price of a regular visit. Brett and I hadn’t heard much about the resort, but we decided to go as a nice winter getaway for the weekend.

It was definitely a relaxing trip and we were glad we went, but we were a little disappointed in the dining options. Two of the restaurants at the Greenbrier were closed for winter cleaning, so that left us with a stuffy formal dining room, an extremely pricey steakhouse, or a mediocre comfort food restaurant (Draper’s). After a dinner at Draper’s, we decided that there had to be more options, so off we went to explore the nearest town of Lewisburg. We decided to try Stardust Café because of its universal praise on TripAdvisor as well as its eclectic menu. Needless to say, we made the right choice.

Sesame Ahi Tuna

I should mention that Lewisburg is this cute little town with one main street. You’ll know you are close when you see a sign that says: “Lewisburg, Voted America’s Coolest Small Town!” We had made reservations earlier in the day, although it clearly wasn’t necessary as there were very few people in the restaurant. Granted, this was also a Monday night in January. The place was small, romantic, and just what we were looking for. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, and everything on the menu sounded appealing. Their philosophy to only use local and sustainable ingredients was definitely apparent throughout the menu. They also had a great drink list as well, as I got their concoction of a “wine fizzy” while Brett ordered a Rogue Mocha Porter.

Trust Me Salad

After eating a heavy chicken pot pie the day before, my eyes lit up at the description of the “Trust Me Salad”: fresh greens with local spring mix, tomatoes, red onion, chevre goat cheese, sprinkled with crunchy grains, nuts, seeds, and topped with avocado. I added shrimp to top it off and it was the perfect dish. They were right, you really had to trust them on how the ingredients go together, but they really did. Between the creamy avocado, goat cheese, and the crunch of the grains, I was a happy camper.

Brett’s ordered the seared sesame ahi tuna to which he immediately fell in love with. There must have been at least two dozen pieces of center-cut filet on the plate, beautifully arranged and flawlessly cooked. When one thinks of excellent fish preparations, land-locked West Virginia typically doesn’t come to mind, but this was one of the best tuna dishes we have come across. The attention to detail was a nice touch as even the wasabi was formed into miniature leaves.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

We were full but couldn’t pass up dessert as they are all made by the Crazy Baker, aka the owner’s twin brother. We had to try the sticky toffee pudding as they claimed it was his signature item. In one word: wow. We were blown away by how simple the dish looked yet how wonderful it tasted. Essentially a date cake topped with hot caramel sauce, we were scraping every last bit off the plate.

Grass-fed beef burger

We loved the food and atmosphere so much that we actually decided to come back and have lunch before we made our way back to Maryland. Between the local grass-fed burger and the curry chicken tacos, Stardust once again did not disappoint.

Chicken Curry Tacos

Granted, this may not be a place you would drive four-plus hours out of your way to go to, but if you are ever in the Lewisburg area of West Virginia, we highly recommend the Stardust Cafe. It’s a great place to go for Valentine’s Day, or any day of the year!

Stardust Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bobby's Burger Palace - College Park

6 Jan

The redevelopment of College Park has long been overdue, but it’s finally coming to fruition with the addition of several mixed-use developments along Route 1. From University View to The Varsity, the landscape of downtown College Park has changed dramatically from when I first attended as an undergraduate back in 1999.

With so much retail space now available in a prime location along a major thoroughfare, restaurateurs are taking advantage of the opportunity as there are thousands of customers just footsteps away from their businesses. From ChiDogO’s to Austin Grill Express to a soon-to-be-opened Sweetgreen, College Park looks far different compared to a decade ago.

One of the major highlights of the redevelopment thus far is the newest location of celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s burger joint. Having just opened Bobby’s Burger Palace in K Street last summer, the College Park location followed suit just a couple of months later. My friend Scott and I headed over to Bobby’s last week for a pregame meal before the Maryland basketball game that evening.

Pacific Northwest Burger

Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea as the line was nearly out the door, although it did move at an efficient pace. The basic burger starts at $6.75, but varieties such as the Miami Burger or Buffalo Style Burger will only cost you a dollar more. You can also have your burger “crunchified”, meaning the kitchen throws some potato chips atop the patty.

They also offer a rotating Burger of the Month, which is what I decided to try. For December, that meant a Pacific Northwest Burger: white American cheese, cremini mushrooms, and a red wine BBQ sauce. I asked it for it to be cooked medium, and also got a side of sweet potato fries too.  The cashier gives you a number, and then they bring your meal to your table when the order is ready.

Sweet Potato Fries

When the burger arrived, Scott instantly remarked how the kitchen “torched” my burger. He was right – the patty was well-done. Meanwhile, his medium-rare burger was prepared the way he asked, so I’m not really sure what happened there. On top of that, we both received our orders of fries a minute or two after they had served the burgers instead of all at once. Rather odd.

I would have sent the burger back, but we were short on time and the kitchen appeared slightly overwhelmed due to so many customers at once, so I just tried to enjoy it. The beef was of good quality, but it was the combination of the mushrooms, cheese, and BBQ sauce that was able to detract from the well-doneness of the patty. The bun, however, was disappointing as it was limp as soon it got to the table. The bottom half was especially soggy, so between that and the overcooked beef, it was a fairly pedestrian burger.

Assortment of sauces

The sweet potato fries were fair, and while they were priced at $3 a serving, at least you receive a decent amount of them. The honey mustard horseradish sauce was a nice touch instead of reaching for the ketchup bottle. Speaking of which, Bobby’s offers nearly a half dozen sauces to top your burger with. The “burger sauce” might have been my favorite, with the chipotle ketchup as a close runner-up.

Our meal cost a little less than $24 for two burgers and two orders of fries. Not a bad value for two people, but honestly, I would take Ray’s Hell Burger any day of the week over Bobby’s. If Flay’s burger joint was the only game in town, then sure, but there are so many other places in the DC area that serve up a better burger for around the same price with much better quality and consistency. As for pregame meals, I’ll be sticking with Fishnet for the foreseeable future.

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

Burgers and Beers at Dino

22 Nov

I feel like I have been on a burger kick lately, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I might be catching up from all my years of burger deprivation, and have been trying to go to all of the great places in this city that offer burger specials. Last week I went somewhere that you typically wouldn’t associate with burgers, but then again, you would also be depriving yourself of an awesome burger and an even better deal. The place? None other than Dino in Cleveland Park.

Whenever I’ve thought of Dino, I think Italian food, great Restaurant Week deals, and Passover menus. Now I can add burgers and a great happy hour to the list too. I got there in time for their happy hour and had some complimentary snacks of olives, duck pate, roaster red pepper, and olive tapenade before my friend arrived. I ordered the Raven beer from Baltimore-Washington Beer Works for only $4, and then we got down to the real reason we were here.

Burger and a Brew

Every night, Dino offers their “Burger and a Brew” deal. That’s right, you can order a pint from their selection of craft beers and a 10-ounce farm-aged beef burger with an accompanying mixed greens salad, all for $12.

My burger came prepared medium, and was incredibly juicy and flavorful. It was topped with house pickle relish, anchovy and sriracha aioli, crucolo cheese, and piled on a ciabatta bun. Livya ordered hers with bacon and remarked that it brought the burger to another level. It was a very thick cut of meat, and Brett was greeted that night with both of our leftovers so he got to try his share as well.

Burger and a Brew

While we were eating our burgers, I was definitely eying some other dishes brought to customers at the bar. It’s been years since we’ve been back to Dino for a proper meal, and we’ll definitely have to go back for a nice dinner or brunch. I must say though, it will be hard to resist that burger. If you’re in the neighborhood and have a hankering for a burger and a beer, not only is it a steal, but it’s simply delicious.

Dino on Urbanspoon

A Return to Palena Cafe

3 Nov

While we have written about Palena Café in the past, I felt that it deserved another post since this was the first time the two of us have dined there in years.

Earlier that evening, we participated at a fantastic wine tasting at nearby Weygandt Wines in recognition of International Champagne Day (post forthcoming). After meeting fellow bloggers and sipping on several varieties of champagne, we decided Palena Café would be an optimal destination for dinner given the convenient location as well as the reasonable prices.

Knowing that it was Friday night and all, we were prepared for a bit of a wait. There were plenty of seats at the bar, and much to my delight, Founders Breakfast Stout was on tap! If there’s a beer that can help pass the time, especially on a cold and blustery evening, it’s a glass of this brew.

The Palena Cheese Burger

We were seated at our table 20 minutes later, but deciding what to order took less than 60 seconds. The two of us had already agreed that one would order the cheeseburger while the other would get the Palena chicken. These are essentially the requisite dishes when dining at Palena, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

While an order of bread is a nominal fee, we ordered it anyway since the chicken takes at least 30 minutes to prepare, plus we were starving. But let me tell you, the chicken is worth the wait, but more on that later.

I first have to discuss Palena’s magnificent burger: it is one of the very best you will find in DC, period.  Seven ounces of angus beef cooked medium-rare, a slice of Sottocenere al Tartufo cheese, and house mayonnaise all sandwiched by a housemade brioche bun. Simple yet effective. The burger-centric blog Burger Days does a better job of summarizing Palena’s burger than I ever will, but for $12, this patty is well worth it. All of the ingredients work so incredibly well with one another that it’s one of those burgers you just can’t put down. Highly recommended.

Palena Chicken

As for the chicken, I’m in total agreement with Rachel about it being flawlessly cooked. People tend to think that chicken dishes are typically boring, but Chef Ruta works wonders in the kitchen by delivering a chicken that is juicy and flavorful. Featuring a delightfully crispy skin and accompanied with a side of lemon-braised greens, it’s a great value for $17.

After polishing up both of our entrees, the waitress handed us the dessert menu, and after looking over the ingredients of the Autumn Sundae, it proved too difficult to resist. Featuring squash sorbet, apple ice cream, pumpkin seeds, and bourbon caramel sauce, the dessert encapsulated the fall season on one plate. All we needed was some fall foliage instead of the cars driving by on Connecticut Avenue, but regardless, it was a phenomenal dessert.

Autumn Sundae

Friday night’s dinner was perfect in every way. From the chicken to the burger to the seasonally-apt dessert to even the beer on-tap, everything was just excellent. How Rachel and I have not been to Palena more often is bewildering, but after tasting that burger, I think monthly visits are mandatory.

Palena on Urbanspoon

Burgers and Beers at Quarry House Tavern

5 Oct

Tucked away from the bustling activity of downtown Silver Spring, Quarry House Tavern offers an escape from suburbia. It’s hard to imagine that a bar filled with such charm and character is mere blocks from the commercialization of nearby City Place, yet Quarry House Tavern is the dive you’ve always been looking for.

It’s not the easiest place to find, but once you walk down the flight of stairs, it’s hard not to leave. Not only does the bar host over a hundred beers and whiskeys, but they also feature three varieties of tater tots. Need I say more?

Quarry House Tavern Burger

Restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum, who also operates nearby Sidebar and Jackie’s, has given her establishments an identity that is hard to replicate. Combine that with the fact that she is able to stock the bar with a variety of craft beer while dealing with Montgomery County’s arcane liquor laws is a success in its own right.

The bar features a selection of draft beers that change throughout the day in addition to an enormous bottle selection that consumes the majority of the menu. Rachel and I ordered a couple of beers before splitting an order of fried pickles, because let’s face it, how could you not order fried pickles?

The spears were surrounded by so much thick, crunchy batter that it was hard to decipher if there were pickles under there or not. Nonetheless, we wasted no time finishing them off, even though we had to scrape away some of the breading.

Tater Tots

The main event, however, was the burger. Quarry House Tavern is known for serving up some of the best patties in Silver Spring, and after we polished ours off, we can wholeheartedly agree. We ordered our burger medium, topped with American cheese, grilled mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and raw onion.

Served with a side of tots, it’s arguably one of the best meals to pair a beer with while listening to The Smiths blaring on the jukebox. The beef was juicy, well-seasoned, and cooked exactly the way we asked. The tots are great as well, though I would have needed a side of Coumadin if we got them topped with bacon and cheese.

Overall, Quarry House Tavern is a diamond in the rough in Montgomery County. Between the fantastic beer selection, great bar food, and divey atmosphere, it’s one of our favorite watering holes in the area.

Quarry House on Urbanspoon

Jake's American Grille

16 Jun

Van Ness used to be a barren wasteland for restaurants, but with places like Comet, Acacia Bistro, and Jake’s American Grille bucking the trend, perhaps there is hope for this neighborhood after all.

Rachel and I as well as a couple of our friends went out to Jake’s for dinner last week. We had been looking forward to dining there for quite some time given the expansive menu and diverse beer list, especially in a location where it is somewhat difficult to find both of these things in one setting.

There is a relatively large bar area on the left side of the room which looks like it would be a great happy hour spot. In fact Jake’s offers two happy hours: 4pm to 7pm, Monday through Friday, and a drinks-only “reverse” happy hour from 9pm to close, Monday through Thursday.

Red Curry Yellowfin Tuna

We were able to secure a table as soon as we arrived and were seated towards the front of the house. The interior gives off somewhat of a homey, neighborhood feel to it with its brick walls, wooden floors, and dim lighting. The menu primarily consists of tavern fare which featured an array of burgers, sandwiches, chicken, and fish.

I went with the red curry yellowfin tuna while Rachel ordered the southwestern tilapia. When I ordered my tuna, the waiter didn’t ask for a cooking temperature, but assuming that the kitchen would cook it on the rare side anyway, I didn’t think much of it at the time. When the dish arrived, the tuna was definitely rare, if not a little undercooked.

The parts of the fish that were cooked at the right temperature weren’t bad, but the quality of the tuna itself was just subpar. Considering that I have had similar dishes at other restaurants, I was slightly disappointed. I did, however, enjoy the side of buckwheat soba noodles that featured baby corn, broccolini and edamame which was covered in a red curry-coconut sauce.

Southwestern Tilapia

Rachel certainly liked her tilapia, but she felt that the dish was missing something as it only came with a side of black beans. It could have been accompanied with some sort of vegetable, rice, side salad, something! She put it best when she described it as “a plate of fish and beans”. I mean, this is supposed to be an “American grille”, not a taqueria.

All and all, outside of spending some quality conversation with our friends, our meal was pretty forgettable. Nothing really stood out in regards to the food, and while the prices were rather reasonable (our two entrees combined cost us $31), everything was just average.

We’re hoping that Jake’s will improve with age as it’s a great space in a location begging for business, but until the kitchen improves, we’ll probably just stick to happy hour visits in the interim.

Jake’s American Grille is located on 5018 Connecticut Ave in the Van Ness neighborhood of DC.

Jake's American Grille on Urbanspoon