Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 07:25PM
*Post by Mark.
Just when we were all set to crown BGR the best new burger in the Circle, Rogue States has to go and get all Kanye on their acceptance speech. As a statement of fact, I've had BGR twice. I've relatively enjoyed my experiences and plan to go back. I'd also like to note that all DC burger debates should start and end with Ray's Hell Burger across the river. It's the unrivaled champion in the DMV area (though as a disclaimer, former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery is still an unchecked box on my to-do list). Unfortunately, this doesn't tell the whole story... Places like BGR have been adding a little gourmet flair to the District's improving burger scene, but with just a few good-but-not-great options, DC is left a couple fries shy of a combo meal.
Rogue States sets out to be 'a rogue member of the fast food industry, serving great artisan food in an undeniably chic environment.' In addition to being chic, the environment also hosts a ton of space for seating. Beyond the counters is a large back room that makes finding seating a cinch anytime of the day.
The ordering process is streamlined. The menu gives you several styles of burger to choose from (like the "Curried Away" or the "Now and Zen" but only two temperature choices are offered: "Pink" or "No Pink". Free toppings include lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion (raw or grilled). For a dollar extra you can add an array of cheeses, applewood smoked bacon, wild mushrooms or grilled peppers.
Another appreciated touch is the four different types of mayo offered: regular, wasabi, Old Bay, and chipotle. Dip your fries in them or add them to your burgers... my favorite dipper was the chipotle.
Clockwise from top left: Wasabi, chipotle, Old Bay, and regular mayo
To accompany your burger, you have the option for regular or sweet potato fries. We found each to be a bold entry at opposite ends of the spectrum. While the sweet potato fries were spot-on perfect, the regular fries were overly thick and starchy. I'm aware that the two varieties are probably concocted with the same technique, but it is one that lends itself more favorably to the sweet potato fries.
Regular fries on the right, sweet potato fries on the left, plus wrapped burger
For my burger selection, I chose the "Square One" burger which is made with sea salt and fresh black pepper. To top it off, I added lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, cheddar cheese and applewood smoked bacon. My add-ons were all fresh and my burger was really juicy. I ordered it 'pink' which I'd guess was somewhere between Medium-Rare and Medium. The quality of the beef was evident in each bite and I could really taste the unique flavors the sea salt and black pepper added. All of the ingredients came sandwiched between a hefty brioche bun.
"Pardon My French" burger on the right, "Square One" burger on the left
Angela went for a French twist on the American classic, ordering the "Pardon My French" burger with black truffle oil and thyme. She added some lettuce, tomato, and brie. Like me, she was impressed with the specific flavors (truffle oil and thyme) that Rogue States brought to the burger. She wished she'd have ordered some sharper cheese, though, as the creamy brie disappeared into the hearty sandwich by the time it hit her mouth. Her main complaint, which I would gently second, was that the thick, plain bun was a little overpowering. I didn't think it was as big of a problem, because my burger came with a few extra elements like grilled onions and the applewood bacon that helped create a little balance in mine. But I did feel like the bun added more to the burger's aesthetics than it did its taste.
Cross-section of the "Pardon My French" burger
In spite of some over-breading flaws, I was mostly impressed by Rogue States. Does it help put DC on the map as a major burger destination? No. But it will give BGR a good run for its money in Dupont Circle. While they're pretty comparable, I'd have to split hairs to tell you which I prefer. Let's put it this way, if I had to eat a burger every day of the week from only these two places. I'd eat four burgers from Rogue States and three from BGR.