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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.

AG 1940 Sparkling MojitoAG KitchenAG Kitchen

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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

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

Burgers and Shakes at Ray's Hell Burger

1 Jun

While you might find this rather surprising, this was in fact our very first visit to Ray’s Hell Burger. We know, we know.

That’s not to say we haven’t dined at some of Michael Landrum’s other fine establishments… because we have. Trust us. In fact, we had dinner years ago at the original Ray’s the Steaks location which is now, you guessed it, where Hell Burger is situated. That’s not to be confused with Ray’s Hell Burger Too, which is just down the street.

But in order to commemorate our inaugural visit to the place to get a burger in this town, we had to go on my 30th birthday. Yes, it was my real birthday this time around.

But enough with the side stories, let’s get to the beef. And let me tell you, there was a lot of it!

Ray's Hell Burger: Au Poivre-style

While Hell Burger keeps it simple by offering one entrée, there are so many permutations one can come up with given the smorgasbord of burger styles, cooking temperatures, toppings, and cheeses that it can almost be a little overwhelming. Sorry folks, there are no alternate burgers here for those who are vegetarians or don’t eat red meat. This is purely a burger place.

Yet what makes Ray’s even better is the price: $6.99 for 10 ounces of hand-trimmed, freshly grounded beef. And while cheeses, bacon, or even roasted bone marrow (yes, that is an option!) might cost you extra, there are a plethora of toppings offered free of charge which range from cognac & sherry-sautéed mushrooms to charred jalapenos.

As for my burger, I ordered it Au Poivre-style (seared with a black peppercorn crust), cooked medium, and topped with lettuce, tomato, grilled red onion, sautéed mushrooms, pickles, and piranha sauce (fiery, spicy green sauce).

Rachel kept it simple with their original burger, added their secret steak seasoning blend, and topped it with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, and mushrooms. She just recently started liking real burgers (normally she would opt for the veggie burger), and this one definitely took the cake in her mind. Sure it was messy and a little hard to eat, but it was worth every bite.

Ray's Hell Burger: Classic

We also split an order of sweet potato fries as well as a black cow milkshake. Hey, I mean if we’re doing Hell Burger for the first time we might as well do it right, right?

When the burgers arrived at our table, I nearly had to do a double take. To say they were monstrous would be an understatement. Let’s just say I don’t think the old Wendy’s lady would have any trouble finding the beef.

My burger was outstanding, although I kind of second-guessed ordering it Au Poivre-style after taking a bite of Rachel’s. Not that I didn’t like the peppercorn crust, but I was really able to enjoy the natural flavor of the beef moreso with Rachel’s patty than with my own.

The toppings were of high-caliber as the grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms were delicious but I felt the bun was rather ho-hum. It was able to keep the contents of the burger intact given all the juices and oils packed inside (which is important in its own right), but the bread was just average.

Black Cow Milkshake

Meanwhile the fries were nice and crispy but nothing memorable. The black cow milkshake, on the other hand, was excellent. The vanilla/chocolate concoction was absurdly thick, impressively rich, and ultimately complemented the early summer weather as a refreshing treat.

I don’t need to tell you more about Ray’s than what you’ve already heard, but if you haven’t been yet, skip the overhype (as well as the lines) of Shake Shack and head over to this great local institution instead.

Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon

Burgers and Beers at The Black Squirrel

24 Mar

During my weekend-long search of the scarcely distributed Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing, it had turned out (thanks to the power of Twitter), that Adams Morgan’s The Black Squirrel had carried the rare brew.

Thus we set plans in motion to: a) get dinner at the new Logan Circle barbecue stand Standard, and then b) head over to The Black Squirrel and get my hands on some delicious KBS.

Great Lakes Eliot NessLittle did we know that the world was against us that evening.

When we arrived at Standard at about 7pm, the place was already locked up for the night! A piece of paper Scotch-taped to the fence indicated that the kitchen had completely run out of food and that they were closing at 6pm. Needless to say, I was furious. I was really, really looking forward to devouring some barbecued brisket. Like, all weekend.

Rachel suggested that we should just eat at The Black Squirrel instead since we were going to head over there anyway. She had also heard that the burgers were really good, so off we went.

When we got to the main level bar, there weren’t too many options to sit down, but we were able to snag a table by a TV to watch some of the NCAA Tournament. The waitress came by and asked us for our drink orders. Before she could even take her pen out, I immediately asked if they had anymore KBS. She went to the bar and soon returned empty-handed. Turns out they had sold their last bottles just hours earlier. I was devastated.

Thankfully, The Black Squirrel has one of the better beer offerings in the city. I ordered a Williamsburg AleWerks Washington’s Porter on draft, and while it was no KBS, it was still a very nice beer. We also split a 22 ounce bottle of Lagunitas’ Wilco Tango Foxtrot. It proved to be another solid choice amongst the group.

The Classic Burger

Without hesitation, I ordered the burger and had it topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, barbecue sauce, and sautéed mushrooms. Starting at $10, some toppings (such as the aforementioned pickles and sauce) are 50 cents while others (such as cheese, bacon, etc.) cost an additional dollar. It quickly adds up, and while I agree that a slice of cheddar or scoop of chili should cost an extra buck or two, there’s really no reason to charge for something like pickles which is typically complimentary at most places.

When it arrived, I was not only impressed by the size of the entrée, but also the quality of the beef. The kitchen uses Hereford beef which is grounded in-house. When I bit into the burger, I couldn’t help but be enamored by the juiciness and flavor of the beef. While I asked for it to be cooked medium, it was clearly more on the medium rare side. Not that I had a problem with that.

What I did have a problem with, however, was the seasoning they used to prepare the beef. It was just too damn salty. I had to keep reaching for my water, in addition to my nicely-paired porter, since I was ingesting an overabundance of sodium. Had the kitchen laid off the salt, it would have ranked among the better burgers I’ve had in the District.

Tomato bisque soup, grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, and side side salad

Rachel ordered the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, and the waitress bought out a bottle of Eliot Ness instead. She didn’t mind or complain as she likes both beers, but it was just a slight oversight by the busy waitress. Rachel was originally looking at the veggie burger but decided in the end on the soup, salad, and sandwich deal of tomato bisque, grilled cheese, and a side salad. It was ideal for someone like her who can never decide what to get. The grilled cheese and tomato soup undoubtedly hit the spot on a late Sunday evening. She opted for tomato instead of bacon in the sandwich, and the thick white bread was perfect for soaking up the bisque.

Overall, The Black Squirrel is a nice little hangout if you’re looking for some choice brews as well as some good bar fare to pair it with. I’m already looking forward to coming back and checking out their recently opened basement bar. If they are going to be tapping Canadian Breakfast Stout in the near future, you can rest assured I’ll show up within the hour.

The Black Squirrel is located at 2427 18th Street NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC.

The Black Squirrel on Urbanspoon

Hank's Tavern and Eats: Conquering the Hank Burger

4 Feb

While there are a plethora of burger options in the District (perhaps too many), one restaurant that is overlooked and, in our opinion, has one of the better patties in the DMV is Hank’s Tavern & Eats, located in nearby Hyattsville.

Rachel and I were looking for a place to grab dinner before the Maryland/Duke game in College Park on Wednesday evening, but knowing that most of the eateries situated along Route 1 would be jam-packed with Terps fans, we felt Hank’s would be an optimal venue given its proximity to the Comcast Center.

You might not know it, but Hank’s is actually under the umbrella of Chef Geoff’s restaurants. Located in the University Town Center next to the Regal movie theater, Hank’s Tavern & Eats features American comfort food in a laid-back atmosphere.

Hank Burger

Photo courtesy of Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

They also have a great happy hour available in their spacious bar area. Running daily from 3pm to 7pm (and all night on Mondays and Tuesdays), customers can enjoy specials such as $3 drafts and $5 house wines.

Their best deal, however, is the $7 Hank Burger. Normally priced at $11, the Hank Burger is, at the very least, a half pounder stacked with lettuce, tomato, two thick strips of bacon, cheddar, and of course, a gigantic onion ring.

You’ll most likely be astonished at its towering size when it arrives, but for the price, you cannot beat it.

Oh, and it was pretty delicious, too. The Angus beef was juicy and flavorful, and while the bacon could have been a little crispier, Rachel and I had no problems finishing this behemoth of a burger.

We also decided to split a basil chicken salad since half a burger wasn’t going to cut it, at least for me. Just like the Hank Burger, the salad was a very generous portion, and given the reasonable price of $11.99, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Served with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, croutons, and large pieces of grilled chicken, this was definitely an entrée in its own right.

While the beer list isn’t too extensive, they do have Dale’s Pale Ale on tap and also featured Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA bottles for $3.95

All and all, it was satisfying meal before gametime. It certainly beets a dry, overcooked chicken sandwich at Comcast Center.

Hank's Tavern & Eats on Urbanspoon

Hank’s Tavern & Eats is located at 6507 America Blvd in Hyattsville, MD.

In-N-Out Burger: Best in the West

22 Dec

Rachel and I were in Los Angeles following Rachel’s annual meeting in Anaheim a few weeks ago. Of course, we had our fair share of California cuisine, but we closed out the weekend with dinner at one of the country’s greatest fast-food chains

You see, it’s not a West Coast trip without going to the legendary In-N-Out Burger.

In-N-Out Burger: Animal StyleThis was Rachel’s first experience with In-N-Out, so I took over ordering responsibilities to ensure she had a great meal as a first-timer.

I ordered two hamburgers, Animal Style of course, fries, and a soda. Total? $6.80. God Bless America.

For those not familiar with In-N-Out, they have a “secret menu” where you can customize what’s traditionally offered at the restaurant.

Animal Style burgers come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, grilled onions, and extra spread. The best part, however, are the patties that are cooked with mustard in them. Simply delicious.

As for Rachel’s reaction? Well, she immediately agreed how awesome everything tasted.

While the fries are not as good as McDonalds’ (let’s face it, they set the benchmark in french fries), In-N-Out’s burgers are tremendously superior to the patties served up at Five Guys (the closest thing we have seen to an In-N-Out on the east coast).

While DC has run rampant with burger chains, In-N-Out is still one of the country’s very best.

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon