Written by Anita
August 7, 2016
Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be room for another DC burger joint, in comes Tasty Burger—a Boston-based mini-chain started by three chefs in 2010. We recently were invited to check out its first DC-area location (in the booming North End Shaw area, of course) and chat with co-founder, David DuBois.
DuBois knows a thing or two about burgers. In addition to being an accomplished chef (he started in the biz at age 16), he also is something of a burger historian and aficionado. He has traveled the world trying different outlet’s offerings and has studied the fortunes and failures of his competitors. His verdict?: “Burgers are personal.” He doesn’t get caught up in the burger-war hype (He notes that people will “vote with their feet” if they don’t like your product) and he strives to offer “a great burger for not too much money.”
DuBois has learned some valuable lessons along the way. According to him, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc originally only could afford to buy ads on daytime’s Howdy Doody show and learned quickly that kids could bring the family in. As such, Tasty Burger offers a kid’s meal for $5.95, complete with a junior hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, all-beef hot dog, or grilled cheese accompanied by French fries and choice of apple juice, fruit punch, 1% milk, or chocolate milk. College students often need a late-night nosh, so Tasty Burger offers a “Starvin’ Student” special and stays open until 2 am on weekends. Keeping burgers warm, making them easy to eat on the go, and ensuring customization while still allowing for ease in preparation is of the utmost importance. To meet these needs, DuBois partnered with a French inventor to customize a compact eco-friendly burger wrapper that keeps the burger warm with a steam pocket, can be easily applied during preparation and folded down during eating, and includes a marking system that ensures that your burger arrives exactly as ordered.
So, you ask, how’s the food? We sampled several of Tasty Burger’s burgers, sides, and drinks. Our favorite? Tasty Burger’s signature item, The Big Tasty: a thick and juicy 1/3-pound certified all natural beef patty layered with cheese, lettuce, pickles, red onions, tomatoes and Thousand-Island-like “Tasty sauce.” DuBois, who has personally worked with Dr. Temple Grandin (a noted advocate for animal welfare in meat processing), downplays the fact that Tasty Burger’s meat is free of growth hormones or antibiotics and is certified humane by third-party inspectors from the Human Farm Animal Care organization. He just wants you to know it tastes good. The bun, which is made locally following Tasty Burger’s custom recipe, is soft and flavorful. Other “tasty” burgers include the Rise N’ Shine (with bacon and a fried egg) and the BBQ Onion (crowned with sautéed and crispy fried onions and slathered in smoky BBQ sauce). Beef not your thing? We also enjoyed the Chicky Chicky Parm Parm—crispy chicken pieces with fried and melted mozzarella and a hearty tomato sauce. The 50/50 fries and red-onion rings (which are more like crispy onion strings) offers a good side option for those who can’t decide between the two. Wash it all down with an adult milkshake (our fave was the White Russian with Reyka Vodka and Kahlua), a drink from the full bar, or a bottle of Cheerwine, a cherry soda from North Carolina with a cult-like following.
With big garage-style doors, a foosball table and digital jukebox, locally-themed art, and TVs, the Shaw outpost’s atmosphere encourages groups, families, and friends to “meat up” for a drink, meal, or snack. Happy hour (from 5-7pm weekdays) offers $5 cocktails and $3 beers. Yappy Hour from 12-2pm on Saturdays and Sundays gives dogs a free bone with purchase and owners access to happy hour specials.