Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Habit Burger Grill Food Review

The Habit Burger Grill's Double Charburger combo

If Looks Could Kill

I had high hopes for The Habit Burger Grill. The California burger giant has a lofty reputation (on par with the mighty In-N-Out Burger) and recently expanded to the DMV, opening locations in Ashburn, Virginia (December '15) and Rockville, Maryland (June '16) within the last 18 months. Time was, I'd be one of the first people in line; but media previews are becoming rarer, and time... well, there's never enough. It took me 10 months, but I finally had my first Habit Charburger. Did it crash and burn; or have I developed yet another sinful habit? Despite (great) appearances, I left unimpressed.

First the good news. The Rockville location looks terrific. It's modern, spotless and über-comfortable. I realize it's been open for just under a year; but the interior (occupancy = 78) closer resembles opening day. Service was professional and really fast; although I didn't like being called "Boss" three times within two minutes. Sir is fine; but boss makes me feel like I'm in a prison camp. I heard it again, when I went to collect my food, and a second employee (who was also very friendly) used it to identify me. Boy, I hope I'm not giving off a felon vibe.

Double Charburger

Prices are better than fair. A #2 Double Charburger combo (with French Fries and a soda) runs $8.55; and the cashier was super thorough... asking if I wanted cheese, then confirming what toppings I would get. Nice touch. They give out pagers (sigh) that rumble when your order is ready; and they even have a free peppers bar with three choices (including jalapeños!) Like the rest of the space, it's very, very clean.

French Fries

Habit Burger deserves praise for its burger presentation. You'd have to be crazy (or full) to keep from salivating over their smartly wrapped burgers. Their fries show visible salt too, and their tray inserts provided valuable information on their CharClub, which happens to be giving away free burgers through the end of the month. So far, so good great.

Strawberry Sundae

Looks are important, but taste is paramount. This is where today's lunch started to fall apart. Let's start with the fries, which were (mostly) hot and sufficiently salty. Trouble is, they tasted blah; and there were several cold fries dispersed throughout, which is a concern (mixing hot & cold = bad idea.) Add ketchup, and they're passable; but I'll be sure to try Onion Rings and/or Tempura Green Beans next time.

On to the burger, which also fell short of expectations. It comes standard with caramelized onions, lettuce, mayo, pickles and a tomato. The onions are scrumptious (although I prefer red and raw) but there's an awful lot of lettuce. The sesame seed bun is soft and lightly toasted, and stays intact, despite a "full house." My biggest complaint was the meat. The patties were small (definitely order two) and way overdone. It looked sorta juicy on the outside, but inside... dry as a bone. It was also burned on top (they definitely char them over an open flame.) I struggled to finish half of it. Not good.

Spotless interior

That said, I was still hungry. Hungry enough to go back for dessert, a downright affordable $2.60 Strawberry Sundae with vanilla soft serve, whipped cream and nuts. It's plenty big (seriously, you could easily split it with a friend) and it wound up being my favorite part of lunch. Unfortunately, it's not a good sign when a burger and fries plays second fiddle to an ice cream treat.

Needless to say, I'm willing to give Habit Burger a second try. I can't wait to try their Golden Chicken Sandwich and the aforementioned fried green beans and onion rings. Who knows? I may even find room for another dessert (Mocha Shake, here I come.) Until then...

Atmosphere: B+ (Clean and beautiful, even the bathrooms)
Burger: D (No excuse for overcooking a burger. None.)
Fries: C- (Average taste, cold (old?) fries mixed in with fresh/hot)
Service: B (Very good, minus the "boss" references.)
Value: B- (The price is right. Unfortunately, the food... not so much.)
Overall: C (The potential is there. I'm betting on a much better second visit.)