Sunday, July 26, 2020

Elevation Burger at Mane Grill Food Review

Elevation Burger with Classic Olive Oil Fries

Restaurants are closing at an alarming rate, due to COVID-19; so the opening of a new one (and a burger joint, to boot) a mere two blocks from home was cause for celebration. Elevation Burger at Mane Grill opened two days ago, on the same day the Smithsonian's National Zoo reopened. Needless to say, I immediately secured a reserve entry pass (available here) and showed up today at 2:30 sharp, to try them out. It requires a bit of a walk (it's closer to the less traveled Harvard Street Bridge entrance) but as I've proven time and time again, I'll go to the ends of the Earth for a delicious burger and fries. Let's see if this first visit was worth the trip...

Atmosphere: Incomplete. It's only been open for three days, and they're already grappling with a worldwide pandemic and a thousand and one safety precautions. This includes no indoor dining, which makes a huge difference, especially when it's over 90* outside. It was clean and (most importantly) safe inside, but I had to venture outside to sit at one of many umbrella-covered tables in front of, and to the side of the Mane Grill front entrance. Luckily, there weren't many people around, but it was still plenty hot. I can't wait to go back, when the dining room is open.

Food: The fries are really good, crispy, gluten-free and cooked in olive oil (yes, you can taste the difference.) You also get a good amount of 'em (five bucks, if you buy them separately.) Unlike previous visits to other locations, these fries weren't the least bit greasy, but warning... no salt, so make sure you ask for a packet or two, if you want extra/any seasoning.

Sadly, the burger was a big huge letdown. It looks great, stuffed inside a smart looking package of bright green leafy lettuce, a thick slice of tomato and two pickles (sandwich slices), but no cheddar cheese (per my request) and a downright stingy splash of Elevation sauce. The latter results in a dry burger, that features two patties, beige in color and woefully underdone. To make matters worse, the bun was soggy to a fault, with zero grill marks. Once the burger came out of its wax paper sleeve, it immediately fell apart.

As for taste, there was none. Certainly not salt or pepper, yet alone any semblance of beef. If I wanted an Impossible or veggie burger, I'd have ordered one. Organic or not, a hamburger has to be juicy and taste like a hamburger. This one didn't (at all.)

Front entrance

Service: In a word, terrific. The order taker was patient and polite, and a second employee was walking the floor, engaging those of us who were waiting (almost 10 minutes) for our orders. Granted, it wasn't busy (almost 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon) but it's nice to see people being nice. The expediter wished me well too, offering condiments (and a smile) before I left.

Inside Mane Grill

Shazam Test: Didn't hear any music; but then again, they were thinking safety first. Maybe next time.

Value: $14.03 (including tax) for a burger & fries is a bit steep, but you have to expect some kind of markup at a Smithsonian institution. P.S. You get two patties, not one.

Bottom Line: The Zoo is embracing "name brands" such as Auntie Anne's and Sbarro; and I'm excited about the addition of Elevation Burger, but they simply have to improve their signature burger, if they want to win this critic over. The fries and service are good, so I'm optimistic. It would be great to have another top shelf burger establishment, so close to home.