Well, it's come down to this. After going through 68 of the best burger joints in DC, Maryland and Virginia, we're down to the last two: tourney favorite Thunder Burger & Bar versus 7th-seeded Black & Orange.
Both burgers faced some tough competition on the way to the finals. It could easily have been a handful of others in the finals, but as they say: "Any given day."
Maybe it's coincidental that they've gotten this far, but both Thunder Burger and B&O (both locations) are situated in great locations for going out and enjoying a few libations and are perfect for that end-of-the-night, get-something-in-the-stomach, greasy satisfaction.
Black & Orange's environs are that of a low-key, stripped down straight-up burger joint with just a few ornamental touches to class the place up. Walls covered in dollar bills. An open kitchen where you can watch the cooks give your bun those beautiful grill marks on the top. A handful of atypical beers on tap to satisfy your thirst.
Thunder Burger's a little farther east on M Street than a lot of bars, but the biker-ish look is way comfortable and always accommodating no matter where you are in your night out, if you know what I'm saying. The beer list is plentiful with some lesser-known brews. Along with their super-great beef burger that we're talking about here, Thunder's known for bringing in some of the exotic tastes too: from ostrich to gator and they even tried to get some lion between buns, but, well, ran into some issues there.
Both throw a good first punch with the visuals. Thunder comes splayed out on a long plate like an assemble-it-yourself masterwork and hidden inside the Black & Orange foil wrapper is a beautifully stacked mass of greasy goodness.
These two burgers prove their mettle from start to finish with well-seasoned patties, amply moist buns (hehe) and the right amount of cheesiness to carry throughout the burger. Both are in the top echelon of their class here in the DC area, but we've got to find what it is that puts one over the other.
The differences with these two lie primarily with consistency. We love the great burgers in the area and have probably found ourselves at Thunder and B&O more than any other in the area. With that experience, we've also found ourselves a bit disappointed at times.
We've ordered at least 15 burgers from both locations and, without failing, Thunder has brought the beef -- the perfectly cooked and seasoned beef -- every time. We wish would could say the same about Black & Orange, but for as good as their burgers are when they're on (which is really, really damn good), we have had a couple that haven't quite measured up -- a little dry, a little under-seasoned. Still tasty -- and they've got great original flavors with their Pardon My French and Now & Zen varieties -- but just didn't measure up to the meat euphoria we've experienced other times.
WINNER: (1) Thunder Burger
So, Thunder Burger wins. Is it the best burger in DC? Maybe-- It's up to you, really. It's definitely in the top tier though. We've tried to rank them all quantitatively to make it easier to separate the contenders from the pretenders and we even have a Burger Finder so you can find what's good in your specific area, but hopefully between our rankings and this bracket (that's been a lot of fun to go through), we can help point you toward what's good around the town. And despite what any half-ass survey says, DC is one of the best cities in these good ol' United States to find some high-quality burgers.