Thursday, November 24, 2005

Post-Thanksgiving Burger Craving

It's a cross between 1950s jukebox-playing burger-and-shake joint and crunchy non-profit group campaigning for animal rights on U Street.

They're not trying to rip you off with their fancy 100% Kobe beef patties or Horizon organic milk in the fridge. They just want to cook you a quality burger and give you colorful options to refine the experience. Options like carmelized onions, non-meat burgers and three ice creams with choice of mix-in flavors like black cherry or orange-mango for the shake.

Owner Hans is willing to splurge to serve the best product. He uses olive oil instead of peanut or flaxseed, unlike most other burger joints who try to penny-pinch and figure customers won'’t notice. In-N-Out promises the best quality--but the retro burger flippers use vegetable oil. (Cough, not the best quality, cough) One point for Elevation.

Buns are an important deciding factor for many (I'm more of a personality kinda girl) but this bread deserves some mentioning. After tasting twelve different buns from various bakeries, Hans kept going back to this one in particular.

It was moist, fresh and something about the way it stuck to the burger just turned me on. (Maybe I'll start noticing the back sides out there a little more.)

Elevation gives you options and each one has flair. You have your traditional hamburger and cheeseburger, but even the vegetarians, often lucky to get noticed, have room to be indecisive. "Tastes like meat" or "Tastes like veggies." Both the Boca and Gardenburgers are represented.

Raw onions or carmelized? The Elevation "special" sauce or Balsamic Mustard? For once, someone finally thought to combine the two superlative condiments! I splatter balsamic on everything from fresh strawberries to scrambled eggs. I'd probably even drink it by the gallon if offered the appropriate dare. Same (for the most part) goes for spicy brown mustard.

The brilliant Hans finally capped this idea, and cites the spices in each as especially complimentary. Another unique yet simple twist is the hand-sliced pickle spears. Finally, no more generic, annoyingly sweet chip-shaped ones! Once again, Han proves it's all about the little things.

Originally from Carmel, California, Hans grew up in the notoriously beautiful "city in a forest," where the mountains meet the sea. Among other things, like U2 songs, the word "elevation" reminds him of the high altitudes of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Speaking of naming things, his brand-new daughter/son should have been born this week. Talk about a year of creation (from burgers to babies). If it's a girl, Hans and his wife, who also works the register on a regular basis, want to name her Elizabeth.

"Why not call her Ellie?" I thought, "To play off the whole elevation thing." His eyes lit up and although glib and chatty before, he paused momentarily. "Hey, we never even thought of that!"After giving it some more thought, here are some other possibilities in case Elizabeth becomes a boy on us. Elliot, Elijah or Elroy. Perhaps the Kitchenette just named the burger prince or princess?

The Carmel-by-the-sea upbringing is also represented in the silver Iced Tea dispenser near the fountain drinks. A thin, white label says, "Cinnamon Orange Tea." Although subtle and easy to miss, the brew is a famous one from the award-winning Norcal restaurant chain, "Hobees." Hans always loved their spiced blend and thought the naturally sweet part (no Splenda here) would perfectly match his health-conscious theme.

Speaking of tea, this brings me to the Honest Tea in the refrigerated section near the cash register. Inside, four or five rows of the "classic" glass bottles sit next to other wholesome neighbors-- Silk Soy Milk, the Nantucket Nectars organic juice line, our favorite flying cows of Horizon, IBC Root beer and slabs of Kobe steak at the very bottom.

After a short pause, Hans decides Moroccan Mint is his favorite, as do the rest of Americans (it's their best-seller), but the Black Forest Berry is just the right amount of sweet to stop him from grabbing "one of those sugary Stewart's drinks." Or the oatmeal chocolate chip pecan cookies near the register. Which, by the way, use organic milk and eggs. Check out Tarting It Up's review for a more in-depth cookie analysis.

Back to the Kobe steaks in the fridge-- pretty cheap at eighteen bucks a slab, and Kobe meat has been the sexy topic with Chowhound and Tom Sietsema as of late. To set the record straight, Elevation's beef is 100% organic Kobe, but the cows are from Virgina, like any other Kobe meat you'll find in the states, not Japan.

My only complaint was the size-- too small. But maybe the sopping-with-grease, half pounders at Five Guys or Fudd's don't follow the quality-not-quantity rule. This burger was quality-- so on second thought, maybe I wouldn't compromise the Kobe beef, carmelized onions and tasty buns for my size-matters eating habits.

Another minor grumbling-- unless you've got wheels, the trek can be slightly inconvenient for the city slickers. Hans reminded me of the 2B Metro bus that leaves from the East Falls Church station and passes Elevation every 27-ish minutes. A plus, but still not a lazy man's trip to Chipotle in Dupont or Foggy Bottom.

Some "govtlawyer" on Chowhound expressed his beef on Elevation, lamely asserting he just ate it "because it was there." Whatever.

I'm still waiting to hear on the status of Ellie (that's her mommy in the pink hoodie and hat).

To read the Dcist's thoughts on Elevation, click here. They're right about many things, especially in regards to the shake-- don't you dare forget it on the way out! Some have called it the best they've ever tasted. My recommendation is the Vanilla with Black Cherry.

Elevation Burger is located at 442 S. Washington Street, in Falls Church, Virgin-i-a.


At 1:23 PM, Blogger Luke said...

Found this through the One advantage of using peanut oil and other vegetable oils is that they have a higher smoke point. You can get peanut oil really hot before it gets smokey makes for really crisp fries, Ala the Fallafel Shop in AM. Pure olive oil instead of extra virigin gives you a higher smoke point because it doesn't have much of the flavorful olive solids... but it doesn't have much flavor...

At 9:13 AM, Blogger the kitchenette said...

I had no idea..Thanks so much, Luke.


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