7 Riffs on the Un-Burger Around DC

By Olga Boikess  |  October 22, 2013

There’s hardly an American eatery that doesn’t have a burger on the menu. Beef patties in buns are diner and corner-bar staples, and high-end chefs have been enriching the formula (and upping the price) ever since Daniel Boulud's version at NYC's db Bistro Moderne came out sporting braised short ribs, fois gras and truffles. In DC, there are a number of delicious innovations on the meaty burger, notably 2941’s duck burger, capped with foie gras; ChurchKey’s succulent veal and pork bratburger; and most recently, Petworth Citizen’s chorizo burger. And, of course, veggie burgers are nearly as ubiquitous as the cow-sourced variety.

Now seafood is having its burger moment too, and much of the credit goes to chef-restaurateur Michel Richard for his trendsetting creation - the lobster burger. Devised as a way to use up some extra lobster at his now-shuttered Citronelle, he crafted a luxurious option for the casual lounge menu. It’s still a best seller at Central, as well as at his new venues in New York's Palace Hotel. Lobster burgers have since made way for shrimp, salmon, tuna and mussels as Michel and other chefs unleash their creativity to feed our passion for meals in a bun. Read on to get the juicy deets on some tempting burgers from the sea and land.

  • Bourbon Steak: Salmon Kimchi Burger

    This sleek Georgetown New American offers a lineup of burgers at its happening bar. There’s the traditional beef entry, as well as lamb, turkey and vegetarian versions. But one of the most intriguing is the salmon kimchi burger, in which Korean barbecued salmon is topped with kimchi and jalapeños for a spicy bite (202-944-2026).

  • BGR The Burger Joint: Ahi Tuna Burger

    This local burger chain offers tuna-in-a-bun as an alternative to beef. Basically it's a grilled slice of tuna (rather than a patty) that's topped with grilled pineapple and pickled ginger, and drizzled with teriyaki sauce. While not a burger in the strictest sense, it offers an alternative flavor profile in a fast-casual setting. And it's another indication that the "burger concept" seems to be constantly changing.

  • Central: Lobster Burger

    Michel Richard, who used to make shrimp burgers for himself, innovated this clever use of lobster. A scallop mousse binds chunks of slightly undercooked lobster meat, while ginger spikes the aïoli. Slow-baked tomatoes are also added, and paper-thin potato crisps give it that signature crunch. Tuna and lamb burgers are also on offer, and DIY types can find the lobster burger recipe in his cookbook, Happy in the Kitchen (202-626-0015).

  • ChurchKey: BratBurger

    Chef Kyle Bailey came up with this riff on German bratwurst to anchor the 500-strong beer list at this 14th St. NW hot spot. Grilled, traditionally spiced veal and pork patties are topped with beer-and-bacon-braised sauerkraut and Emmentaler cheese. This juicy sandwich comes with irresistible fries (202-567-2576).

  • Et Voila: Mussel Burger

    Chef-owner Claudio Pirollo says he was inspired by Michel Richard when he updated his French-Belgian menu with a bivalve burger. He incorporates mussels in a scallop mousse and layers the cooked patties with a lobster-bisque- and saffron-flavored aïoli sauce and crispy fried onions. Cooking the mussels the same day and getting the proper consistency to the mousse are some technical tricks he's mastered (202-237-2300).

  • Proof: Shrimp Burger

    This Penn Quarter New American’s popular lunchtime shrimp burger references two of chef Haidar Karoum’s favorite Vietnamese dishes - sugarcane shrimp (chao tom) and banh mi. A traditional chao tom is a shrimp mousse wrapped around a sugarcane stick. The chef purées the shrimp in the same way to make the patties. Once they’re sautéed, he tops them with traditional banh mi accompaniments, such as pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber and cilantro, as well as a spicy sambal mayonnaise (202-737-7663).

  • 2941: Daffy Burger

    Chef Bertrand Chemel was making duck sausage when he got the idea for this decadent burger that incorporates foie gras into the duck meat patty mix. The burger is topped with more foie gras (this time a cured slice) and is served with agrodolce, a marmalade of onions braised with vinegar, sugar and peppers that could make anything taste good. Talk about gilding the lily (703-270-1500).