City Paper is not for tourists
The menu at Rogue States has a sort of terse, Twitter-like quality to it, simultaneously laconic and clever. You have a choice of seven specialty burgers at the Dupont Circle eatery but only two ways of getting them grilled: “pink” or “no pink.”
Cute but potentially frustrating.
The “pink,” I’d venture, is closer to medium than medium rare, which may annoy hardcore burger eaters who insist on less heat. I tried ordering my half-pound patty medium rare, for example, but its interior was tinted rosy pink, not the colorful spectrum of reds and pinks that I prefer. No matter. I could live with it.
Besides, the menu features such an exotic marketplace of flavors that cooking temperature almost seems secondary (almost). There’s the “No Burger, No Cry” patty with a “house jerk blend,” red onion, and habanero peppers. Then there’s the “Now & Zen” patty with soy sauce, green onion, ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. All are $7 each.
My dining companion and I opted for the “Curried Away” burger (house curry blend, onion, cilantro, and hot chiles) and the straight-up Square One burger (sea salt and fresh black pepper) to get a cleaner taste of Rogue’s whole chuck patties, which the joint grinds daily and grills over wood. The Web site claims to grill over mesquite, but the grill man on site said he uses apple. On our visit, it didn’t make any difference. Rogue States was out of wood fuel. We had to live with gas.
Despite the lack of smoky wood, our burgers boasted some good grill flavor and excellent charring. The patty’s internal temperature may have been higher than I typically prefer, but both burgers oozed copious juices. In fact, the Curried Away oozed yellow juice, which required a brief shift in burger consciousness to deal with startling color.
The brioche buns were strangely stale, flaking away like dry skin. I say strange because Rogue States claims to get buns fresh daily from Lyon Bakery. The ingredients between the buns, however, were as fresh and flavorful as you could want, save for the wan tomato, but no one expects good tomatoes in April.
In some ways, the toppings on my Square One (lettuce, caramelized onions, sweet-sour pickles, and an optional slice of American cheese) were piled so high and were so crisp and flavorful, they distracted from the featured attraction. Which was a shame (but only a minor one). The Square One patty was seasoned well and tasted so damn fine when separated from its bun-mates that I think the burger may fare better with fewer complementary ingredients. A burger this rich and juicy doesn’t need much adornment.
Which brings me to the Curried Away patty, a novelty item if there ever was one. Several bites in, once you got past the Indian aromatics and delicate spicing, you were left with this hollow sensation that you’d really just like a regular burger.
I call this sensation, “the expectations of the patty.” Put those same spices in kebab meat, and I bet I’d gobble it down without compliant.
More pictures from Rogue States:
The Curried Away burger
Urban chic interior, attractive if slightly forced
The wood-burning grill
Lots of packaging for burgers being consumed on premise