Wednesday, September 4, 2013

TD Burger Food Review

The Thomas Jefferson with Sweet Potato Fries

Ain't she a beaut? I'm referring of course to Timothy Dean's newest TD Burger at 250 K Street, NE in NoMa (about a 5 minute walk from Union Station.) Building on the success of his first TD Burger at the Boulevard at Capital Centre, the Top Chef: DC alum has managed to bring style and substance to the DC burger wars... without charging his customers an arm and a leg.

Today was the first official day of lunch service after a two-week soft opening at the ground level of the beautiful Loree Grand Apartments. Outside of an ordering hiccup, I couldn't have been more impressed with the place. For starters, Dean was there, working the grill... something I can't say for most celebrity chefs nowadays. What's the difference? Read on: It's all in the details.

From the outside, TD Burger looks gorgeous... which is fitting, given today's weather to match. Even with seating for 60, the patio area is comfortably spacious: Best of all, you can walk right in without stepping on or over seated customers. Once you get inside, the restaurant takes on a more casual vibe (black and white tiles made me think of an upscale diner, but TD is much more than that.) Unfortunately, it also produces the lone chink in this eatery's armor... the ordering "station."

At first glance, I thought I was at a hostess stand. Turns out, this is where you order. Without a wall menu (at least one that I could see) you're forced to glance at a paper menu which can be daunting (especially if you have a dozen hungry folks behind you.) Lucky for me, I already knew what I wanted (OK, I cheated: I looked at the menu on the front door, a minute before.) I confidently placed an order for The Thomas Jefferson Burger, impossibly priced at only $8. Fried Egg, Munster Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Iceberg Lettuce, TD Dipping Sauce... What's not to like? Well, cheese for one. I'm that one odd guy who never takes cheese on my burger (I know, I'm working on it.) Odder still, this set off an "ordering alarm" of sorts. "The chef doesn't like to change his burgers." Oh really? Where am I? Bourbon Steak? Come to think of it, they had no problem taking cheese off their $19 burger.

The order taker was quick to offer an alternative, a Burger Your Way. Cool: I asked for the TJ without cheese. Crazy as it sounds, she asked me specifically what toppings I wanted. If she doesn't know what the toppings are, how would I? Amidst this confusion, I wound up missing out on the TD Dipping Sauce (Not important? Tell that to the French.) I matched my burger with an order of Sweet Potato Fries ($3) resisting the temptation to try TD's Beer Battered Onion Rings for a dollar more. A small fountain drink rounded out my meal. Grand total? Just $13.48. First day jitters, but something to work on.

I grabbed a Fanta Ginger Ale (sweet!) at the soda dispenser and selected a seat in the back, by the restrooms. Speaking of which, WOW. Even the fixtures are nice. Details. Details. After a short wait, I met Tyrone. He's the big guy with an even bigger smile, who brought my tray to my table. You know that feeling you get when your Mom brings dinner to the table? Tyrone has that down to an authentic science. Almost immediately, I was happy about eating there. Even happier, when I glanced at my food.

Let's get this straight: Timothy Dean knows how to dress a mean burger. It begins with a perfect fried egg. No, really... perfect. Several crispy slices of top-notch bacon atop a soft bun with (wait for it) a perfect interior char. I ordered MEDIUM, but it was delivered MEDIUM-WELL, and the meat was a bit under-seasoned (this is where the TD Dipping Sauce would have come in extra handy.) Add a hint of salt, and we're talking about a Top 5 burger.

Speaking of salt, keep some handy for the Sweet Potato Fries, which are tasty nonetheless. Given the incredibly low price, I can't see how anyone could complain (even me.) The atmosphere is terrific: Spotlessly clean with lots of employees running around, keeping busy. Great music at a nice volume... Anna Kendrick's "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone." One step outside TD Burger, and I couldn't agree with her more.

Sweet Chili, Cilantro wings? Sausage & Grilled Peppers Pizza? I'm already counting the days to my next visit. Once word gets out (Twitter, website) this place is going to be packed. I'm counting on Tyrone & co. to save me a seat.

Atmosphere: B+ (Hard to ask for more. Very spacious!)
Burger: B+ (Bacon to die for... and the best fried egg I've ever had at a restaurant.)
Fries: B (Nicely cooked, but needs more seasoning.)
Service: B (Runner gets an A, but I had trouble ordering.)
Value: A (Are you kidding me? This burger is a steal at twice the price.)
Overall: B+ (Imagine how good they'll be after day one.)