Young and Hungry

One Bloody Mary Burger Coming Up: The New Black & Orange Is Almost Ready On 14th Street

Chef Raynold Mendizabal

Dupont Circle burger joint Black & Orange (formerly known as Rogue States) aims to open its second location near the corner of 14th and U Streets NW later this month. "We're shooting for before Christmas," chef-owner Raynold Mendizabal tells Y&H.

If you've been waiting seemingly forever for Mendizabal to finally bring his whimsically titled beef patties ("Ciao Down," "Pardo My French") to non-Shake Shack-occupied territory east of Connecticut Avenue NW, there's a reason.

You'll recall that his original location was shut down last October after a neighboring law firm sued the burger joint over its cooking fumes. Mendizabal reportedly spent some $300,000 to correct the problem, involving some 12 floors worth of duct work. "I had to change everything," he says. "I have the ventilation now of a nuclear submarine."

The restaurant reopened over the summer with a new name: Black & Orange. But the litigation and ventilation work in Dupont delayed its expansion plans.

Mendizabal had initially hoped to open the second spot in late August or early September. His Logan location is finally about ready to fire up its grill. Just as soon as Pepco allows him to flip the switch. "As soon as I have that, I open in a week," he says.

The new place will offer much of the same stuff as the existing one: same burgers (with one notable exception), same hours (open until 5 a.m.), even the same number of seats (68).

One lingering question: how's the ventilation?

"The ventilation is exactly as good as it was over there," a resolute Mendizabal tells me during a tour of the yet unopened 14th Street space on Monday.

Despite the court ruling, it seems, the chef-owner isn't convinced he had a problem in the first place. "It's just that some lawyers decided I had to [redo the ducts]," he says.

Clearly, some forms of fuming are harder to resolve than others.

Regardless, the issue is far less substantial at the Logan location, which requires ventilation for only a single floor. "We're up to code," he proudly reports.

Beyond the expense and delay, the hiatus in Dupont did cause Mendizabel additional headaches, arriving in the form of Pat LaFrieda-ground beef on potato buns. Danny Meyer's heralded Shake Shack opened just down the block.

The timing of the New York transplant's arrival—while Mendizabal was busy with the duct work—clearly irks the local guy. "We created a market and when we had to close, they opened,"  he says. "And now they're feeding off the market we created."

The competition is primarily during lunchtime. Shake Shack isn't open nearly as late as Black & Orange. And the wee hours are often Mendizabal's heaviest business times. He expects late nights in Logan to be just as busy—if not busier. And Danny Meyer has yet to encroach on that stretch of turf.

The one major difference in terms of the menu will be a new signature burger that's exclusive to the new location. Mendizabal already has a quirky name in mind for the thing. He just isn't ready to dish it up quite yet. But, he's dropping hints.

"It's a play on a bloody mary," he says. "It may have a little bit of vodka in it."

Photo by Chris Shott

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