Fairfax, VA: Red Apron's Original Does Classic Right
Red Apron Butcher
8298 Glass Alley, Fairfax VA 22031(map); 703-676-3550; redapronbutchery.com
Cooking Method: Griddle
Short Order: An expertly executed take on the classic fast food cheeseburger
Want Fries with That? Not available
Price: The Original, $8
In March, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group continued the expansion of its Red Apron butchers and sandwich shop with a second location in the rapidly expanding Mosaic District in Fairfax, Virginia. This newly launched shop has one notable advantage over its Union Market predecessor, and that's the burger. Crafted by the same duo behind the sandwiches, NRG's meat maven Nate Anda and pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, Red Apron's The Original ($8) is an expertly executed take on the classic fast food burger.
The Original is a five-ounce blend of brisket, short rib, sirloin, and round with a 80/20 lean to fat ratio. The toppings are the requisite lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheddar, and housemade Island Sauce. The tomato is a substantial slice and, with the pickles and lettuce, provides the necessary crunch, but the toppings don't overwhelm the expertly seasoned patty of high quality meat. Anda's Island Sauce (a housemade Thousand Island variant) contributes a sharp tangy sweetness that, again, complements without overwhelming.
The patty's ability to hold its own in the flavor profile is testament to the quality of the meat. The result is a burger that achieves a balance of a number of strong flavors, including that of the rich melted cheddar. Admittedly, I was wary that the substantial mound of toppings would overshadow the patty, but the rich beef flavor soaks through every bite. One thing to note, however, is that the patty is griddled to medium unless otherwise requested. Even at medium, the patty is still juicy and retains a bright pink hue. Those opposed to ever going beyond medium-rare need not be concerned.
Bringing it all together is MacIsaac's housemade brioche bun. Toasted and buttery, the bun is soft, pliable, and immensely flavorful—another note in the burger's strong but simple medley of flavors. The bottom bun can be susceptible to sogginess if one lingers too long while eating, but it can hardly be blamed for the torpidity of unenthusiastic burger eaters.
Red Apron offers little in the way of accompaniment for its burgers or sandwiches beyond a small selection of chips and miscellaneous snacks. It does, however, offer an extensive selection of beer and wine curated by NRG's resident wine and beer gurus, Brent Kroll and Greg Engert. Over 60 wines and 100 craft beers, in fact.
Like all good burgers, Red Apron's Original doesn't waste effort or stomach space with superfluous flourishes. The burger is simple, familiar, and the better for it. Execution is key for basic burgers like the Original, and Anda and co. nail it at Red Apron. While it's currently only available at the Mosaic District location, here's hoping the third Red Apron set to open in Penn Quarter in the coming months will bring more burger goodness with it.
About the author: Brian is a Washington, DC-based international development professional, food lover, and photographer. In his free time, you can usually find him chasing down a good burger or slice. Follow him on Twitter @brianoh11.