Every now and then I like to sink my teeth into a good burger. It’s not something I necessarily go out of my way for, but I can appreciate a serving of high quality chopped meat and some select toppings on an occasional basis. In the DC area, there is a hierarchy in terms of burger-centric places with Ray’s Hell-Burger and BGR: The Burger Joint at the top of my pyramid. In the middle there is Shake Shack and Good Stuff Eatery on down to Five Guys. (I am not counting McDonald’s or the like in the equation.)
The proliferation of burger places continues, particularly in the downtown area. Burger Tap & Shake, from the Passion Food Group, is on the top of my list to try. They have boozy milkshakes, so this place has to be worth a shot. But it’s not always about DC. Bethesda now has Kraze Burgers.
Kraze Burgers hails from Korea, which is not the first place you think about when burgers come to mind. After a successful run overseas Kraze Burgers is now being brought to America with its very first location in Bethesda. I’m hoping for some Korean flavors to accent the burgers, which come from “all-natural, never frozen, hormone-free beef.” This is a good thing, but not particularly unique these days.
I meet my husband and BFF at Kraze Burgers one evening before a play at Roundhouse Theater. I like the atmosphere, which is modern meets environmental, with touches of that electric green color that is so popular in yogurt places. It makes me feel like I am about to eat something healthier I actually am.
I scan the menu, encouraged that a Korean bulgogi sauce is offered as a topping. I am looking for a hook here, something to distinguish it from the other burger joints in town. There’s not much of a nod to Korea beyond the bulgogi. There is a Hawaiian burger with pineapple, a French burger with braised mushrooms and leeks, and a whole bunch of burgers featuring bacon. You can also build your own burger.
I order the Hawaiian burger with a side of bulgogi sauce. The Hawaiian features grilled pineapple, mango sauce, Swiss cheese, mixed greens, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and Kraze’s cream cheese sauce. The bun (baked fresh daily) is a standout- lightly toasted and surprisingly resistant to being overcome by soggy sauces. My favorite part is the lightly grilled sweet pineapple. Fruit and burgers make such a nice pair. The cream cheese and mango sauces along with the Swiss cheese all meld together into one. It’s not as flavorful as it sounds. I also don’t find the meat particularly distinguishable. A bit more seasoning would help.
My husband and BFF both order the Classic Veggie burger. They agree it’s a cut above the standard. It’s topped with the Bulgogi sauce, which is slightly sweet and mildly spicy. It comes on a multi-grain bun, which looks even better than the plain bun. My husband tops his burger with a fried egg, which adds a layer of interest. He still thinks it needs something extra to give it more crunch and heat. Jalapenos are available as an option, which he decides later would have been a welcome addition. I say, where’s the kimchi? This extra-spicy Korean dish would certainly have kicked things up a notch.
Kraze Burgers also offers a “vege and bean burger “with grilled tofu. Vegetarians are so often ignored in burger restaurants, so it is a welcome change to see options. Sides include herb fries, chili cheese fries, and sweet potato fries, as well as grilled asparagus, fruit, or a side salad. We opt for sweet potato fries. They are crisp and not at all greasy, but not as hot I would like. They are the perfect vehicle, however, for the bulgogi sauce.
The name begs the question. Am I crazy about Kraze Burgers? I’m not feeling it as destination dining. But it’s not a bad choice if you’re craving a quick burger in Bethesda. Call me crazy, but if they would just add some kimchi to the topping choices, it would make a world of difference.
Kraze Burgers, 4733 Elm Street, Bethesda, MD
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.2