City Desk

Hot Plate


The Dish: Marvin Burger

The Location: Marvin, 2007 14th St., (202) 797-7171

The Price: $15

The Skinny: The manager at Marvin introduces himself and promptly takes a seat with my wife, Carrie, and I. He wants to know how we heard about the restaurant and lounge, which was recently opened by the same folks—including Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton—responsible for the 18th Street Lounge, Dragonfly, and Local 16. I tell him that I had seen the small shitstorm that his $15 hamburger created on the Prince of Petworth blog, which immediately causes him to start justifying the price of the sandwich. It’s all organic Angus beef, he says. It has Chimay cheese on it. It’s served on an onion brioche bun. It comes with chanterelles. It massages your hands while you hold it. Okay, I made the last one up, but you get his point. Much of the burger’s costs are sandwiched between those brioche buns. I tell him that the main reason I’m here is to sample his controversial burger, prepared in chef Jimmy Claudio’s kitchen. The manager says he looks forward to my reaction. Things start off poorly when the burger arrives: It’s overcooked. I asked for medium rare; I got something bordering on well-done. The grill flavor is decent enough, but the large, bready brioche bun overwhelms everything, as if you’re trying to chew through cotton to reach the main ingredients. Between the dry, extremely salty burger and the dry bun, I’m dying for something moist and juicy. Good thing I have a beer handy and three different dipping sauces, including a fantastic curry aioli, for the hand-cut fries that accompany the burger. When the manager returns for the verdict, I give him the short version: The burger’s overcooked and the bun’s a poor partner. He seems less disappointed than determined to fix the problem. He tells me he’ll investigate the bun issue, and he walks immediately to the kitchen to talk with a cook. I like his style, even if I don’t like his overpriced burger.

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  • Inaudible Nonsense

    Maybe there's no money in running a restaurant in DC. But I've had the same burger with almost identical ingredients (actually even more earth friendly and organicy) for about $6 less. He's but a big mark up on that. Or the price of raw ingredients has tripled. Why do DC restaurants think that in order to serve quality food, you have to have to pay high prices? Good food made well with low prices is the ideal and a whole host of foodies in the rest of the country -- who actually want to spread the love of good food -- have been on the tip for 10 years or more. Perhaps its money+power = status equation that permeates everything that DC holds dear.

  • BooBoo

    Dragonfly is no longer around right? Or did they move to a new location?

  • julie

    @BooBoo, yep, dragonfly's closed. They're supposed to be opening a new still-Asian themed bar there soon.

  • Jamie

    This whole fancy bun thing boggles my mind. I've seen so many a good burger in this town ruined by a massive, overly-organic-homemade-wholefoodsian (read: hard, dense, and too big) bun around this town. I don't want to choke down a giant piece of bread, and probably have all the toppings squeeze out the backside because it's so hard. I just want something to keep my hands clean when I pick up a 1/2 pound of juicy meat and cheese!

    And it's amazing that even given the warning up front, they still produced such a lame looking (and overcooked) burger. Your criticism doesn't even mention that pathetic-looking dollop of cheese that's barely larger than a half dollar!! Ah well, you can bring a horse to water...

    So a message to would-be burger creators everywhere: Don't mess with the damn bun! A lowly Nissen backyard barbecue style bun is better than any 7-grain, stone-ground, preservative-free (and likely very dry and stale tasting) bun when it comes to wrapping a hunk of meat.

  • grace

    It ceases to amaze me that people are so cruel, so quick to judge and be judgmental. Clearly the critic was out for " blood". It's almost unethical to critique a new kitchen only opened for a couple of weeks. I hate mean people. If you want a cheap hamburger without too much bun, I hear McDonald's is pretty consistant!! Don't know how much grocery shopping anyone does, but Angus beef isn't free; neither are chantrelle mushrooms, butter, etc. Criticism is important and necessary; it's just the way people choose to give it that seems so nasty. Perhaps one thinks that a person responds better to cruelty than kindness. Everyone should spend a day in a kitchen; you would change your toon pretty quickly.

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