Busboys & Poets, a venue that describes itself as a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place, has four venues all around the greater DMV. Their flagship location at the crossing of 14th and V Streets NW, in the U Street area of DC, is located within the Langston Lofts residential building, where they're proud to honor the history and traditions of the historic neighborhood.
Their vision was to be a place where literary and artistic folks, from the District or anywhere else on the planet, could come to gather and share thoughts with locals and community activists. All of this, while perhaps partaking in some 100% fair-trade-certified and organic coffee or tea, if not their organic wine, beer and liquor.
When the crew and I walked in, the best way to describe the atmosphere here was “jammin’.” It's a megablend of a hip restaurant, coffee house, bookstore and organic/local-sourced café. Even though we arrived at that weird, mid-afternoon, "it's too late for lunch and too early for dinner" time just before 4:00pm, there was nary an empty seat or chair to be found anywhere. There were people drinking booze, there were people enjoying cups of coffee, there were people working on their laptops and there were people dining there like it was any other restaurant.
Yet, even with that hubbub in the venue, our party of six was quickly seated at one of their tables by the friendly host staff -- so it seemed like we were off to a good start.
After an unreasonably and unjustifiably long wait for our cheeseburgers -- I watched several patrons get their food before us, despite being seated and placing their orders after us -- I was even more excited to tear into this burger when it was presented before me. It was quite picturesque with a nice, thick patty and vibrantly-colored produce neatly adorned on top of the burger
I got a couple of somewhat juicy bites early in, but the further I worked into the burger, the drier it got.
Because we ordered the Angus Beef Burger -- made with organic free range grass-fed beef from Grayson Farm in Virginia -- with bacon and cheese, we begrudgingly removed the bacon from our burgers to honor its true judgment. As we've noted before: the DMV Burger Wars criteria strictly judges the true textbook cheeseburger for a venue -- and everyone knows that bacon is among the greatest of culinary secret weapons one can use.
Almost immediately after I took my first bite into the burger, I realized that the wait for my burger probably resulted in it sitting somewhere that it shouldn't have, for longer than it should have. Sadly to say, I could distinctly taste how overcooked the burger was. It's a damn shame, too, because had the burger been cooked to medium, it could've been a lot juicier than it actually was. Sure, I got a couple of somewhat juicy bites early in, but the further I worked into the burger, the drier it got. It's just a crying shame that a burger made from such high quality beef didn’t end up as a high quality hamburger.
The seasoning on the burger was good, but not great enough to be its savior. With each bite, I kept lamenting how much better this burger could have been. If only one burger had been overcooked, I'd have been apt to easily overlook it, as everyone makes mistakes from time to time. But we ordered several burgers at the table, all prepared the exact same way, and they all arrived badly overcooked? That level of negligence is inexcusable.
Again, it's such a shame because every other aspect of this burger was solid, if not better than most. In staying with the organic and locally sourced products, the lettuce, tomatoes and onions on the burger were excellent: great flavor and great texture. The kaiser bun was above-average, fluffy and toasted just right. The cheese played the part of reclusive poet -- you knew it was there, and that it was probably pretty good on its own, but it was drowned out by the louder voices surrounding it. We did swap out the regular fries for sweet potato on one of our plates though -- and those were pretty good.
This burger really could have been outstanding, if someone working here actually took the time to prepare the burger as we, the paying patrons of the venue, actually ordered it. Even though there’s a toothpick flag in my burger telling me that it's cooked "medium," I'm not going to overlook the fact that the meat has nary a speck of pink anywhere within it.
It was more disappointing because the venue itself was bright, lively, and certainly a place we’d want to visit again. Each one of us independently stated that this burger had so much upside that just was never realized. All we can say is: we're looking forward to coming back to this place, and we’re hopeful that next time we'll get a burger that truly inspires us.
The Angus Beef Burger (with cheese) at Busboys & Poets