When it comes to burgers in Washington, B should be everyone’s Plan A – B Burger Bar, that is.
Formerly known as Plan B Burger Bar, this is one of DC’s newer spots (opening in November 2014) for good beer, great booze and the greatest burger. Don’t take my word for the last one though – take the word of every city and state these award-winning patty aficionados find themselves in. So how did this local Connecticut joint become a premiere burger spot, wonderful whiskey watering hole and highly successful chain that’s expanding down the East Coast?
It all began with two guys (Connecticut natives Al Gamble and Shawn Skehan) and one idea. A simple idea; but in that simplicity, they found beauty in the letter B – burgers, beer and bourbon.
When I learned about B’s origins, I was a bit surprised. How did this laid-back whiskey culture come to being in the Northeast? According to Lena DeGenti, Chief Strategy Officer for B, the restaurant wasn’t even planning to start with bourbon.
“When we started planning in 2004, there was no bourbon market to speak of. We were excited by the American craft beer revolution which was just beginning to take shape and the simplicity of a hand crafted burger in a warm and energetic atmosphere. Though…it was a huge educational process for our guests, we also loved the idea of America’s Native Spirit and how perfectly it paired with our burgers and beer.”
Eventually, bourbon became an integral component of B’s mix and Lena’s words ring true with every sip and bite – it all melts beautifully together, including the warm red décor. The atmosphere is inviting, making it clear why the small chain has seen such great success.
I chatted with general manager Brian Beauregard while sipping my bourbon flight and awaiting my burger tower. When it finally arrived, what a beautiful sight to B-hold.
My bourbon flight, brought to me by Tocci the very cool bartender, consisted of Widow Jane, Hudson Baby and Benchmark bourbon.
Known to diners as mini burgers, the staff just refer to it as the competition burger. One juicy chuck patty, ground in-house, seasoned with a secret blend, topped with white American cheese and served on a brioche bun.
“We hate to brag but since you asked we have literally won Best Burger in every market we are in. We were listed on Yahoo as one of the top 15 Burgers in America. We’ve won the Greenwich Food and Wine Fest which is judged by a panel of celebrity chefs, this past year including Geoffrey Zakarian, Adam Richman, Aaron Sanchez and many more. Our most proud winning to date was the Washingtonian Burger Battle in which we took first place for best burger up against Shake Shack, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Smash Burger, BGR and many others. In CT we have won best bourbon list and best beer list in local competitions as well as state wide including CT Magazine and Hartford Magazine.”
These little burger beauties were served alongside “disco” style fries soaked in gravy and cheese sauce. If you’re not celebrating Fry-day (like I was!), I highly recommend the Wisconsin cheese curds, served warm and melty in a light panko crust and alongside a roasted tomato sauce.
While I waited on my final course, I learned a little more about why B came to D.C. Like the motivation behind the restaurant itself, their reasoning was simple and not unlike most the reasoning of most of us – “in our travels, we just fell in love with D.C. It’s got such a cool vibe, such a great restaurant scene and people who really love food. We were impressed with the beer and bourbon scene and what a strong community it is.
There’s a lot of greatness in DC, we felt we could add to that greatness with an accessible restaurant that combines quality with a relaxed yet upbeat vibe. [Ultimately], we bring the best burger [Washington] will ever have with an awesome craft beer and bourbon selection in a cool environment.”
Winning the Washingtonian Burger Battle before even being in the district for an entire year proves this group isn’t bluffing – their dishes are the real deal. In addition to the award-winning mini-burgers, I also had the blue cheese burger topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese and bourbon BBQ sauce. That’s the best part about B – classic, no-fuss burger combinations that are delicious and cooked to perfection.
If you’re further out in Virginia, keep an eye out for B’s new location in One Loudon, or be sure to attend the D.C. Brewer’s Ball on March 5, 2016 for a taste. As for keeping the same delicious, down-to-Earth feel while expanding down the East Coast? “The best assurance we have is that the people who work here are really amazing people and they are so dedicated and passionate about building this vision. When you bring in authentic people it’s pretty easy to maintain authenticity.”
The best people, burgers, beer and booze – it’s pretty easy to see why B deserves an A+.
Plan B is located in the heart of Penn Quarter at 801 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.