Washington, D.C. and its surrounding communities are lucky to have a lot of good burgers to pick from. But what makes D.C.’s burger scene standout is how many different kinds of good burgers are on offer here. There’s everything from a classic at Clyde’s to an Ethiopian interpretation at Caffé Utopia to a high-end tuna option at Central Michel Richard.
Here are 10 restaurants around town that are doing burgers right.
Emmy Squared (Shaw)
A lot of people know Emmy Squared as a pizza shop — and its pies are indeed excellent — but its double-stack “Le Big Matt” burger is one of the restaurant’s greatest assets. With two dry-aged patties on a pretzel bun with American cheese, special sauce, pickles, and greens, it’s a multiple napkin affair. It comes in limited supply and often sells out, but you can also get it in a shipped kit if you aren’t able to grab one from the restaurant where U Street meets Florida Avenue.
Dining at the restaurant: Seating is limited, but Emmy Squared has both an indoor dining area and tables to eat outside along the street.
Takeout: Consistent with its identity as a pizzeria, takeout is easy and features the whole menu.
Le Diplomate (14th Street)
There are people who would tell you not to go to an iconic French brasserie and then order a burger with “America” in the name. Those people have not had Le Dip’s burger Américain, which incorporates a special burger sauce comprised of mayonnaise, finely chopped dill pickles, chile sauce, and onion powder, and pairs it with immaculately cooked beef on brioche. You can try to replicate a Le Dip burger at home, but it’s first worth getting the real thing.
Dining at the restaurant: The brasserie has a spacious, well-appointed indoor dining area that’s long been a hit for people looking for a nice night out. A covered outdoor area abutting 14th Street offers additional tables.
Takeout: Le Dip offers a specific takeout menu, in addition to standard dinner, midday, beverage, dessert, lunch, and brunch menus. Call to inquire about a specific menu item’s availability.
Central Michel Richard (Federal Triangle)
Michel Richard, the legendary French chef who owned restaurants as far away as Tokyo and all over the United States, died in 2016. Central, his Pennsylvania Avenue hub that opened in 2007, carries on his legacy through, among other things, burgers. You might try the tuna burger, which has gained some fame since Richard featured it in a 2006 cookbook. Central’s lobster burger and shrimp burger stick with that aquatic theme, while its prime beef burger is a hulking, tasty challenge for someone in the mood for a whole lot of protein with a rich taste.
Dining at the restaurant: Central has a bustling indoor dining room with an immaculately stocked bar and stone countertop. The restaurant has also established a huge outdoor dining space on its sidewalk, complete with canopy-style coverings and plants.
Takeout: Central’s offerings are available for takeout.
The Salt Line (Waterfront)
Head to The Salt Line for one of the most pleasant dining backdrops in the District, with a perfect view of the Potomac River that’s steps away from your table. Stay for the food, which includes one of the best burgers in the whole town. The New England smash burger — two ground chuck patties with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayo on a sesame bun — is a good example of the Massachusettsian character the restaurant brings to a lot of its food. Crispy fries provide an important complement to the patties.
Dining at the restaurant: The Salt Line has plenty of space both inside and out, including a covered, pavilion-like dining area outside, with that five-star look at the Potomac.
Takeout: The Salt Line has a specific TSL To-Go menu featuring a range of sandwiches, appetizers, and classics. The smash burger is, of course, included.
Mélange (Mount Vernon Triangle)
Mélange is notable for how many different types of burgers it does brilliantly. The K Street spot, which opened in the fall of 2020, is the brainchild of Ethiopian-born, French-trained chef Elias Taddesse, whose burgers and chicken sandwiches incorporate notes from all over the world. (Taddesse is extremely deliberate about even the finest details of those dishes.) The establishment’s many burger options include “The Italian” (smoked mozzarella, tomato confit, arugula, spicy basil aioli), “The Beyaynetu” (lentil beet patty, swiss chard confit, timatim salata, spicy misir spread), and numerous more classic beef-based burgers.
Dining at the restaurant: Mélange has a large indoor dining room, and it also has a handful of tables with umbrellas on the wide sidewalk along K Street NW.
Takeout: The menu is available for carryout.
Proper 21 (Metro Center)
This downtown sports bar puts a 7-ounce Angus patty with applewood smoked bacon, white cheddar, American cheese, bistro onions, and “dijonnaise” on a potato bun to make its appropriately named Proper burger. For something lighter, you might try the spiced salmon burger with sriracha mayo and Asian slaw. Whatever you do, consider mixing it with Proper 21’s truffle fries (or tots, if that’s your thing), where the fried potato is smothered with malt vinegar aioli, parmesan, scallions, and white truffles.
Dining at the restaurant: The elegant, high-ceiling dining room features a long bar that wraps around much of the room, plus high-top tables that are great for groups. Proper’s sidewalk also has a long, cafeteria-like table and several tables for small groups in a cordoned-off outdoor area.
Takeout: Save for the late-night and weekends-only “Classics Menu,” Proper 21’s menu is available for takeout at standard hours.
Caffé Utopia (Alexandria)
The greater D.C. area is blessed with a long list of delicious Ethiopian restaurants, scattered in neighborhoods all over the District, Maryland, and Virginia. All have their own standout traits. Caffé Utopia is one of the few that bills itself as a spot for gourmet burgers as well as staples such as tibs and sambusas. Those are musts, but venture out to try something new with the burger, which includes meat, tomatoes, mushrooms, grilled onions, special spices, and the diner’s choice of cheese.
Dining at the restaurant: In addition to an inviting dining room with a bar and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in natural light, Caffé Utopia has a handful of outdoor tables.
Takeout: Order takeout by calling the restaurant.
Clyde’s (Chevy Chase, Georgetown, Gallery Place, more)
A list of good D.C. burgers is not complete without something from this venerable institution. Clyde’s has several kinds of burgers on its menu, including a meatless Beyond Burger. Every item on the menu comes with Clyde’s quality, meaning no matter what you choose, you’re guaranteed to be happy. There’s nothing more essential in burgerdom, though, than an old-fashioned, classic restaurant cheeseburger, dripping with juices and eaten in a dimly lit dining room that radiates with the feeling of intimacy a good restaurant produces. This is where Clyde’s has always shined. A Clyde’s cheeseburger is a true cheeseburger’s cheeseburger.
Dining at the restaurant: Every Clyde’s location has a similarly set-up indoor dining area, with lots of wooden touches and dim lighting that has come to characterize its dine-in experience. Outdoor options vary by location. Clyde’s restaurants have taken significant pandemic precautions, including in some cases installing glass dividers between barstools.
Takeout: You can order Clyde’s to go, either online or by calling the restaurant.
City Sliders (Georgetown)
A recent addition to the D.C. burger landscape, having opened up shop late 2020, City Sliders is unique in that it offers up pretty much every kind of slider you could imagine –– making for some lovely mix-and-match opportunities if you like different kinds of burgers and sandwiches. From the classics (cheeseburger, BLT, lamb burger) to its banh mi burger, Korean pork belly, and Cuban sliders, there are few taste profiles that can’t be accommodated here. City Sliders also offers five different meatless slider options, including a cauliflower steak and a quinoa and black bean burger.
Dining at the restaurant: City Sliders has an indoor dining room as well as a backyard setup, with wooden tables, wooden chairs, hanging lights, umbrellas, and a garden with a waterfall. It’s among the homiest places to eat great burgers in the city.
Takeout: The menu can be carried out.
Thunder Burger & Bar (Georgetown)
Sitting squarely on a bustling stretch of M Street in Georgetown, Thunder Burger & Bar has become a destination for people in the District looking for a good burger. It’s also become a layover spot for international flight attendants, who have shown up in increasing numbers lately to try Thunder’s Buffalo Stomp burger, which comes wrapped in bacon with grilled onion, gorgonzola cheese, tomato, and house remoulade. The restaurant’s Love Me Tender burger, with Kobe beef, Tillamook aged white cheddar, and the same house remoulade, is another hit.
Dining at the restaurant: Thunder has an outdoor seating area where diners can enjoy the full array of the restaurant’s offerings, and indoor dining is also available.
Takeout: The menu is available for takeout.