A new burger restaurant in DC attracts my attention as any new restaurant does. Well that’s not exactly true. TD Burger is owned by Timothy Dean, a Season 7 “Top Chef” contestant, so my radar is on high alert. I can’t help myself. Once I have invested my time in getting acquainted with a chef’s television persona, I want to taste their food. And isn’t that the point of a chef taking time out of the kitchen to appear on a reality show? Timothy Dean is no stranger to the DC area. He worked with the famed Jean-Louis Palladin at Jean-Louis in the Watergate Hotel, and has owned restaurants in Baltimore. He also has another location of TD Burger in nearby Largo, Maryland. This is his first DC venture, post “Top Chef.” Before my arranged visit to TD Burger, I’m wondering how much “Top Chef” will actually play into the new restaurant. From what I’ve seen, not every former “cheftestant” capitalizes on their television appearance. I plan to ask Chef Dean in a follow-up telephone interview, but there’s no need. The first thing I notice is a Timothy Dean poster plastered on the side of the building. Dean tells me the poster is provided by the Bravo network. He plans to remove it once TD burger meets a specific revenue goal he has set for the restaurant. I don’t see the harm in leaving it up for fans of the show, and Dean admits its attracting attention. The DC burger market is already crowded, and I ask Dean how he plans to compete. “It’s a few things,” he says. “My 22 herbs and spices, a 1/2 pound burger that’s char-broiled, and a fresh brioche bun. But it’s also about keeping prices down.” This is important to Dean, as the slumping economy is what brought him from white tablecloth restaurants to burgers in the first place. So how do the burgers stack up? Very nicely indeed! I have a chance to try the Loree Blue Burger and The Abe Lincoln, and they both impress me with the quality of ingredients and layered flavors. The Loree Blue Burger (named for Loree Murray, a neighborhood activist who founded the Near Northeast Citizens Against Crime and Drugs) is distinguished by organic bleu cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a slice of crispy maple bacon that may have benefited from some slicing to better fit under the bun. It’s my only complaint, as this burger is thick, juicy, and damn good.
The Abe Lincoln is one of several burgers on the menu named for a U.S. president. This one features Gouda cheese, coleslaw, Asian barbeque sauce, and a pickle. I can’t decide which burger I like best, as they are both competitors for my very favorite burgers. Lincoln may have an edge because of the combination of sweet barbecue sauce paired with the smoky Gouda cheese.
I have my eye on the decadent Jean-Louis burger with foie gras, rhubarb, mache, and black truffle aioli for a future visit. TD Burger offers a variety of sides including fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries, and macaroni and cheese. If you must pick just one, I recommend sweet potato fries. If burgers aren’t your thing there are also salads, fish sandwiches, and a variety of pizzas. There’s also a full bar, making TD Burger a popular after-work option in the NoMa neighborhood. As a “Top Chef” fan, I can’t help but ask Dean about any ongoing connections to the show. He tells me that he is in touch with DC’s other cheftestants Carla Hall, Mike Isabella, and Spike Mendolsohn, as they regularly appear together at events. He also chats frequently with other chefs from his season including Angelo Sosa, Kenny Gilbert, and winner Kevin Sbraga. They support each others endeavors, most often through social media. I enjoy hearing that the show has fostered these ongoing connections. Does he currently follow the show? “I usually try to have at least one of the TVs in the restaurant tuned to “Top Chef” when its on. But I’m usually too busy in the kitchen to watch.” It sounds like he’ll be too busy for the foreseeable future, as Dean has plans for further expansion of TD Burger. Timothy Dean finished in the middle of the pack in the “Top Chef” competition. But when it comes to burgers, he is a winner. TD Burger, 250 K Street, NE, Washington, DC