Sometimes, I just really need an adventure. That is not to say that I spend all day coming up with imaginary excursions or that I constantly need an adventure fix in order to make it to the weekend, but I love getting outside of my comfort zone and stumbling upon new ideas and experiences, and I don’t mind a good surprise every once in a while. It often seems the greatest pleasure that food can give is surprising you, whether you are the cook, the eater or both. This bolder side of food does not always result in the creation of masterpieces — I have plenty of experiences in the kitchen to attest to that — but it makes the successes even more surprising and delightful.
This past weekend, I was both surprised and delighted by the food at Black & Orange, a burger joint located on Connecticut Avenue. The menu is simple and consists essentially of eight burger variations that can be ordered “pink” (medium) or “no pink” (well-done), “welterweight” or “heavyweight,” at a quarter pound or half pound respectively. This simplicity, which is echoed in the restaurant’s pared-down decor, belies the richness of the food that is offered.
Black & Orange abandons the typical American cheeseburger for more innovative twists; the Curried Away features a house curry blend, onion, cilantro and hot chilies on a hand-crafted burger while the Pardon My French boasts black truffle oil and thyme. Looking for something simpler? Square One consists of just sea salt and fresh black pepper.
Black & Orange’s chefs hand-craft each of the meat patties daily, ensuring that the beef in their burgers is fresh and of the highest quality. They then cook these patties to perfection on a large steel grill.
For those who aren’t in the mood for a burger, Mr. Pollo is a grilled marinated chicken breast with pico de gallo, hot cherry peppers and chipotle mayo, while Old MacDonald offers a vegetarian option that includes portabella mushrooms, hazelnut sauce and goat cheese.
While I was looking over the menu in the restaurant, eight choices suddenly seemed overwhelming. After a few mumbled words and false starts, I tentatively ordered The Rogue State with a side of fries. After only five minutes, a server brought me my very welcome meal. First came the fries, which were — and I don’t say this lightly— perfect. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these fries were incredibly satisfying. My burger, consisting of a delectable, hand-formed blend of premium beef, house spices, chipotle and cilantro, was unlike any in my recent memory.
Unlike other burger specialty restaurants like Thunder Burger, Black & Orange invests great care and focus into what goes on between their buns by creating innovative recipes that consist of everything from Asian-inspired soy-sauce-and-ginger-laden burgers to patties blazing with habanero peppers. This creates a delicious and unique experience of an American classic. I recently read an article about the proliferation of burger joints in Paris despite the lack of any real new improvements or changes to the burgers. On this side of the Atlantic, however, we have not encountered this problem. And with so many of these inventive burger places in D.C., I’m happy to say that Black & Orange is one of the best.