3056 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007 (map); 202-333-2888, thunderburger.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A gothic rock dungeon that offers an eclectic burger selection, but serves an excellent no frills option
Want Fries with That? Twice cooked garlic Thunder Fries come with the burger and are quite tasty
Price: Thunder Burger, $12
Thunder Burger bills itself as an "edgy, rock & roll dining experience" and in some respects, that's exactly what it is. From neon pink highlights to a gothic rock dungeon aesthetic (think metal-studded leather and mythical creatures) and an assortment of non-standard burgers (like elk and bison), Thunder Burger puts in a lot of effort to deliver on edge. But none of that really matters if the eponymous burger isn't any good. Thankfully, Thunder Burger delivers a solid burger that's not all flash.
The signature Thunder Burger ($12) is an eight-ounce free-range patty made with a coarsely ground, 80/20 beef mix. The patty is thick, loosely packed, and has light, but distinctive charring. Ordered medium rare, it develops a great crust that nicely accents the juicy, pink center. The meat is well seasoned with an efficiently distributed fat content that boosts the flavor without becoming overly rich. It's served on a toasted sesame seed, challah bun that develops a satisfyingly crisp exterior, but with a soft and chewy interior. It's a fairly substantial bun, and the interesting choice of challah adds a bit of sweetness that complements the overall flavor.
The Thunder Burger comes with a large, single leaf of lettuce and remoulade sauce. Placing the lettuce under the patty is a nice touch that helps divert some of the juice away from the bun, keeping it from becoming a soggy mess, and the remoulade offers a subtle sweetness that balances the well salted meat. The tomato, which is one of the extra toppings that range from a selection of freebies (like grilled onions or roast peppers) to the more elaborate (like seared foie gras for an extra $5), was a little too thick and threatened to overwhelm the flavor profile near the center bites, but is normally of reasonable proportions. Chalk this one up to an off slice.
The finished product is an excellent burger that's presented with a deft simplicity that belies the somewhat overwrought presentation of the rest of Thunder Burger. You could easily opt for a bacon-wrapped boar burger, throw on a fried egg, and enjoy yourself thoroughly (even if your arteries object), but the inclusion of an eminently viable no frills option on the menu as the standard bearer nicely grounds Thunder Burger.
With each burger comes a small steel bucket of Thunder Fries. Twice cooked and seasoned with garlic sea salt, they're hot, crisp, and packed with flavor. The fries can be substituted with cranberry vinaigrette cole slaw or potato salad, but don't bother. The Thunder Fries' presentation is equally tasteful as its burger brethren and serves as a tasty companion. And as the proverbial cherry on top, Thunder Burger offers a great selection of a couple dozen, largely American, craft beers on tap and more in bottles to wash it all down.
If you're in the mood for a burger, any kind of burger, Thunder Burger's got you covered. The signature is as good as you're likely to get for $12 and there's plenty for you to experiment with if you've got the stomach and wallet for it (there's a Kobe burger for $23!).