What to Eat in Washington, D.C.: Burgers

It doesn't get more American than eating a burger in the nation’s capital

Five Guys

In Washington, D.C., the heart of politics in the United States, there are few things anyone can agree on, including the top place to get a good, all-American burger. The great burger debate has been taken up by Serious Eats' A Hamburger Today which pitted bi-coastal burger joints In-and-Out, Five Guys, and Shake Shack against each other; The Washington Post has compiled a list of 11 of the best burger spots that aren't on every corner — yet; and Zagat, the burgundy food guide, has released its first-ever burger survey in which respondents placed Ray's Hell Burger at the top of the list for D.C. burgers (it also made The Washington Post's list). The Daily Meal is jumping into the debate too with a list of seven burger joints to try — one for every day of the week.

Where: Five Guys was originally founded in Arlington, Va., in 1986. The store sold inexpensive, made-to-order burgers and french fries cooked in pure peanut oil. Its business model took off, President Barack Obama is a fan, and the chain now has more than 1,000 locations throughout the U.S.

You can dress up the burgers at Ray’s Hell Burger with your choice of smoked bacon, guacamole, or foie gras. Yep, President Obama has been there too — twice.

We're not sure if President Obama has discovered Big Buns, but it's a popular spot for Washingtonians. Pick from a beef burger, marinated chicken, grilled fish, or a mushroom patty. Next, decide if you want it on a bun or in a bowl. Then, season the burger with toppings including fried onion rings and grilled pineapple or sauces ranging from buttermilk ranch to sweet chile vinaigrette.

Founded in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl tops their burgers with its legendary chili, and is the ideal spot for a late-night snack, serving well past midnight on most nights.

For those who like a variety of toppings, Founding Farmers, a staple of D.C.’s restaurant scene, also serves burgers topped with items ranging from white Cheddar and avocado to fried green tomatoes and bacon.

Further afield in Maryland, choose an Angus beef, turkey, or vegetarian patty plus your pick of 13 different types of burger styles ranging from the Caliente Burger (topped with pepper jack cheese and serrano chile pesto) to the Parmesan Burger (served medium-rare with shitake mushrooms, Parmesan crisp, and tomato) at Hamburger Hamlet.


Finally, you can build your own burger with meat choices ranging from bison to kangaroo or pick from one of The Abbey Burger Bistro’s classic burger combinations, including the peanut butter burger, a patty served with smoked bacon and peanut butter.