The Washington Wash Up

From a young age I always aspired to holiday and ultimately live in the States. To me, it was a country of 50 countries, each as varied and unique as the last - the concrete jungle, huge canyons, Elvis weddings, Disney World, stunning beaches, Hollywood and so on. Having already hit the usual tourist spots (and thus most of the aforementioned list) on prior vacations, it was time to venture to 'the District' on a quest for the "Jar of Proof" (niche American Dad joke).

Being in the capital during its state of transition from Obama to Trump was an interesting experience. There was a lingering uncertainty and hesitation reverberating around the city. Trump is as about as Marmite as it gets, with locals either screaming lavish praise about how 'great America will be again' or fearful at the very thought that the lunatic who hosted 'The Apprentice' somehow now runs the country. Who next? The Rock? Kanye? Bugs Bunny? Iron Man?

Luckily, America has its priorities in order and all political tension dissipated when Black Friday hit. Good deals - what else trumps that? To make the most of it I dragged my fiancee out to a Walmart in a, let's just say, 'slightly less touristy area', at the start of the sales in hopes of finding some bargains.

One word: anarchy. If black Friday was a zoo, in England it would be a petting farm, whereas in America it would be a lion enclosure. Remember Supermarket Sweep? Imagine if they had every guest on at the same time in one supermarket... that's Black Friday in America. Unfortunately it lacks Dale Winton. You can't have it all.

I can see why people do it. The deals are one thing, but the adrenaline rush of it all is almost as rewarding. In this instance the sale began at 6pm the night before 'Black Friday'; 'Dark Grey Thursday' if you will. We arrived around 5pm to an already manic store as customers queued for their desired aisles behind cordoned off tape ready to face-plant in to the shelves.

It pans out like new year. That's not a joke either. The final 10 seconds to 6pm were counted down like we were about to celebrate the millennium, but instead of fireworks going off at the end, a worried employee blew a whistle. Judging by the reaction, this whistle had the power to start a Walmart equivalent of Helm's Deep as customers darted in to the aisles like savages.

I did get some good deals too; not just at Walmart but also whilst shopping at the Pentagon City Mall on Black Friday the following day. I recommend the experience if you're a bargain hunter, but it's certainly not for the faint-hearted or short-tempered.

Aside from my shopping experiences, D.C. has some stunning sights to see, a brilliant selection of museums, surprisingly impressive food and a place called Foggy Bottom, which I found amusing because I have the intellectual capability of a five year old.

If you are a history buff, Washington D.C. is a must as it is home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a copy of the Magna Carta; all within the National Archives. What's better is that a lot of the museums are free too, allowing you to wander in and out of them at your leisure without the pressure of having to 'make a day of it'.

They aren't all free though and if you are going to pay for one, make sure it's the 'Newseum'. This interactive museum includes a Berlin Wall gallery, an FBI exhibit and a 9/11 tribute to name a few, but the highlight for me was the huge collection of newspapers past and present from all around the world.

The usual sightseeing is perhaps more breathtaking than I first imagined too. The 'National Mall' (to my dismay not a giant shopping centre) is much larger than I anticipated - as are all of its accompanying monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. And then by contrast, the White House is tiny. I had always pictured it a similar size to the Capitol Building, but that certainly is not the case.

It is surprising how much there is to do in this city. We did five nights, but I could have done with a few more days to make the most of everything. In addition to the above, make sure you check out the National Air and Space Museum, the Library of Congress, Georgetown, Arlington National Cemetery, JFK Memorial, the Pentagon, Martin Luther King Memorial and FOGGY BOTTOM.

As for food - hot diddly damn, there was some tastebud tingling magic in this city. My rankings table for all the food I ate can be found below:

&Pizza Franklin Square 10/10
Burger Tap & Shake Foggy Bottom (hooray!) 9/10
Ray's Hell Burger Rosslyn 8/10
Penn Quarter Sport's Tavern Penn Quarter 8/10
Lincoln's Waffle House Downtown 8/10
Hard Rock Cafe Downtown 8/10
Good Stuff Eatery Georgetown 8/10
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken Downtown 8/10
Shake Shack Chinatown 7/10
Potbelly Dulles Airport 7/10
California Tortilla Chinatown 5/10
I ate a lot of burgers, yet the winner of the holiday was a pizza. That's rare for me as I do not typically favour pizzas, but &Pizza is something special. To put it simply, it's a Subway for pizzas, except it doesn't suck. You can specify the base, the meat, the toppings and the sauces to create the perfect meal -- and it really is. With fresh, high quality ingredients, this small chain is a must for anybody. Make sure you try the soft drinks too; the cherry bomb soda is divine.

On burgers, my top pick is 'Burger Tap & Shake'. With that said, all of the burger joints I tried were great and none of them scored below a 7. If you want a good night, make sure you hit the Hard Rock. If you want good vibes, make sure you hit Good Stuff Eatery. If you want to watch sports, make sure you hit Penn Quarter Sports Tavern. If you want to walk for miles and miles, get lost several times, have to stock up on supplies in a Target and then find out the original restaurant does not actually exist, make sure you hit Ray's Hell Burger. Oh and Shake Shack, because... Shake Shack.

In terms of disappointments, there weren't many. I do a lot of research on places to eat before I vacation to avoid crappy meals. The one restaurant we didn't plan and just wandered in to was 'California Tortilla'. This was purely on the basis that it was Thanksgiving and nothing else was open! As a result, we enjoyed a fairly average tortilla whilst wishing we were gorging on some holiday turkey.

To wrap up the wash up, Washington D.C. is a destination for the history buffs. It's a sightseeing showcase home to some of the best museums and monuments the States has to offer. Make sure you pack some good trainers as you will be walking a lot and refuel at your local &Pizza. And if you want a good burger, you gotta hit the Foggy Bottom!

ShackBurger, Shake Shack - Washington D.C, USA

I have had one previous experience at Shake Shack, back in Vegas. I do not recall enjoying it as much as I had anticipated. However, my Vegas escapades was a non-stop gluttonous riot of food consumption, including some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at.

I had not intended on eating at Shake Shack in Washington D.C. either. It was one of those nights when you find yourself wandering aimlessly in the hope of culinary revelation. Funnily enough, my fiancee had already assumed this would mean we would end up in a burger joint and of course she was right.

Shake Shack is an interesting place, under that category of 'finer fast food', similar to Five Guys. It is pleasantly affordable, but also prides itself on good ingredients whilst also being environmentally friendly. Strangely this chain has not yet broken the UK, like its aforementioned counterpart, only operating in a few locations down south.

The interior felt like a classier but darker McDonalds, with lots of... wood. The ordering process echoed that of Five Guys, though you are issued a buzzer to notify you when your meal is ready. There is something quite reassuring about casual dining with burgers -- it just feels right over table-service.

I ordered the 'ShackBurger' hoping this captured the essence of ShakeShack. This was a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce served on a 'non-GMO potato bun'.

My initial thoughts when collecting the burger was 'shoulda doubled up!' as this is a small meal. I imagine every Shake Shack veteran has just face-palmed reading that, though this likely explains the reasoning behind my prior disappointment in Vegas. Unfortunately, my poor memory of that holiday (no need to explain why I imagine) was unable to guide me here, therefore the single ShackBurger lay before me.

The first bite was interesting. This is how I imagine McDonalds would taste if it was not so highly manufactured. There was a freshness to every bite and a reasonable combination of flavours throughout. With that in mind, it still felt like fast food -- but the kind that perhaps does not have you regretting your life decisions afterwards.

The bun, whilst fresh, was a little bland, but did its job in uniting the components inside, without becoming soggy. Both lettuce and tomato felt balanced on the burger too, whilst the cheese drove that traditional American cheeseburger flavour (funny that). Aside from the meat, the 'ShackSauce' was the strongest element of the meal; a typical but tasty burger sauce with a slight kick (I feel like I've said that before -- and will likely say it again).

On to the meat: 100% all-natural freshly ground Angus beef. This was a tasty patty, despite being on the thin side. The blend of meat vs. fat is perfection and with additional seasoning to enhance flavour, this was a wonderfully tender and succulent patty.

Shake Shack is affordable, whilst retaining good quality in its meals. I enjoyed every element on the burger, though aside from the meat, nothing greatly excelled. The patty, whilst clearly a fantastic blend, was a little too thin, which unfortunately keeps this burger at a level of 'good, but not great'. Still, this is a fast food meal that feels a cut above many other chains and I will be returning -- and most definitely doubling up.

Patty Master Musings:

  • The staff were as a wooden as the interior when dealing with customers, but were clearly having fun between themselves.
  • Cheesy chips were awesome -- fiancee destroyed them. She also had a hot-dog, which looked good. Didn't manage to sample it because she is as relentless as me with food on occasion.
  • I can see why the Shake Shack vs. Five Guys war is often waged. At this point, I would still lean towards Five Guys, but I can see why Shake Shack could take the crown. Perhaps my next visit will change my mind.
  • Did I Dip It? The meat and sauce did enough to prevent dipping, though this was a small burger anyway.

Category Score


Six Buck Chuck, Burger Tap & Shake - Washington D.C, USA

Located in the wonderfully named 'Foggy Bottom' in Washington D.C, Burger Tap & Shake is very much a classic counter-service American burger joint. I had heard great things about this restaurant and saved the visit to my last day in Washington with hope that this would be the icing on the... patty.

The simplistic interior helped build the feel of authenticity at this burger joint, with the menu chalked up on a board above the counter and a diner-esque feel to the furnishings. The menu looked busier than it actually was on the chalkboard, with only five beef burgers to choose from, with an additional pork, salmon, veggie and turkey choice too.

The signature burgers sounded interesting, but I opted for the house burger, 'Six Buck Chuck', with American cheese (so actually Seven Buck Chuck given it's a $1 topping): a custom blend patty of 30-day aged naturally raised Local Harvest beef chuck and brisket surrounded by lettuce, pickles, onions, tomatoes, American cheese and AP sauce served on a buttered, toasted house-made bun.

I was under the impression from my brief research in to this place that a dirty burger would land before me, but I was pleasantly surprised when collecting my 'Six Buck Chuck' to stumble upon a fine-crafted well-layered burger. This was an impressive site -- just hoped it tasted as good as it looked.

And it did. This was an extraordinarily fresh-tasting burger from bun to salad to meat. The bun was lightly toasted and perfectly sized from a proportion perspective. I find toasted buns can occasionally throw off the overall taste too due to the contrasting textures, but it worked well with this burger as the freshness still shone through.

The American cheese was a necessity for the burger as the AP sauce, whilst deliciously flavoursome, was frankly lacking in volume. In-fact, for the extra $1, I would have also expected a little more cheese; a little thin-layered as evident by the dissection. This was a huge shame as the dissection was otherwise perfect between the bun, salad and patty.

Let's talk about that patty - oh, man! This custom blend 30-day aged chuck and brisket combo was a wonder with juice oozing out of every bite. I would not say this was the most premium of tasting meats I have ever encountered, but the fat to meat ratio was truly wonderful. I would be intrigued to encounter this patty in a dirty burger as I imagine the flavour explosion would be masterful.

Burger Tap & Shake was definitely one of my favourite burger joints in Washington. The ingredients were incredibly fresh and the patty erupted with flavour. My only drawback came with the lack of sauce and cheese, evident by the dissection shot. Turn up the volume of sauce and cheese and this would have been burger heaven.

Patty Master Musings:

  • This was such a great looking burger - made better by not knowing what to expect. I'm glad looks weren't deceiving too.
  • Value for money is the one in this restaurant too. Cheapest I had in DC, with the exception of Shake Shack.
  • The fries were okay, but the onion rings were unreal. Big, fresh and so tasty.
  • Did I Dip It? Nope. Despite the lack of AP sauce and cheese, the juices from the patty drove enough flavour to keep me satisfied.

Category Score


The Mack, Ray's Hell Burger - Arlington, Virginia, USA

I went out of my way a little to visit Ray's Hell Burger. Granted, I was in Arlington anyway to make the usual touristy visits, but having read about the background with this restaurant in that , I thought it would be pretty cool to swing by.

Going in, I was not sure what to expect. The first thing you encounter is a world map covered in pins from customer's home countries -- a nice touch. However, moving further in to the restaurant was underwhelming. The atmosphere was drab and generally the interior looked uninspired. Still, burgers speak louder than interiors...

The menu looked strong with varied and exciting burger choices. Top of the list was 'The Mack': American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion and 'Awesome Sauce' - more of an American burger classic ingredient line-up.

This burger was interesting. I'll start with the good -- the patty. Over a third pound of aged 'premium steak', hand-trimmed and custom-ground in-house. This really was a thick, juicy patty delightfully flavoured and driving incredible taste. The quality of the meat was evident with each bite, especially as it was cooked a perfect medium rare.

The rest of the burger reminded me of a Five Guys, but with a soggier bun. This was to be expected given how thin the bun was in relation to the patty, which frankly dominated the burger. Although this imbalance somewhat everything off, I know I would much rather be eating more cow than more salad.

The sauce was awesome - as its title suggested: a typical burger sauce, perhaps with a slight kick to it. I think the burger would have benefitted from a touch more of it to add to its dirty nature, but the taste still pulled through. The cheese and pickles were also a nice touch.

This was a great burger, with the highlight coming through the meat in particular. The patty was one of the finest I have had for a long time and cooked to perfection. However, the drawback was the bun which was too thin and quickly became soggy as a result. The sauce, cheese and pickles drove extra flavour building on that dirty burger feel too, reminiscent of Five Guys. A top burger indeed -- shame about the decor.

Patty Master Musings:

  • For those unaware, this was the burger joint famously visited by Barack Obama.
  • Medium rare meats cooked well in burgers really are special. To emphasise again, if I was just scoring the patty, this would likely be a 10/10.
  • To add to the disappointment of the decor, the drinks machine was also out of order. What is up with that?
  • Did I Dip It? Not necessary -- oozing with juices from the patty and the tasty 'Awesome Sauce'.

Category Score


Southwest, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, Washington D.C, USA

Keen to experience a proper sports bar whilst in the States, I ventured in to the 'Penn Quarter Sports Tavern' and pretended to understand American Football for an hour or so. I had just come from the nearby Newseum (perhaps my favourite museum in Washington D.C), so a decent lunch was required before heading back on to National Mall for a continuation of historical exploration.

The interior was as expected: TV's, high stools and a bar. With a different game playing on each TV, I pledged allegiance to the Jacksonville Jaguars because of my love for Florida, and not wanting to support the Man Utd-esque Patriots.

I had initially intended on shying away from a burger choice in order to sample other cuisine, but only the pizzas were luring me in. Having already experienced the genius of an '&Pizza' restaurant (a true 10/10), I was lured right back to the burgers; perhaps not expecting as much as a result.

Glancing at the burgers, however, revealed the familiar 'Certified Angus Beef'; the same meat I had enjoyed a few days prior at the Hard Rock Cafe. Still, there's more to a burger than just the patty, so I opted for the 'Southwest'; lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper-jack cheese, fresh jalapenos, crisp bacon, avocado salsa and chipotle mayo.

So the Jaguars lost, which apparently is normal nowadays -- a solid team choice there. Perhaps my burger was to be a winner instead (Do you see what I did there?) Presented with the lid off (why is this a thing?), this was an impressive looking and well-sized burger.

I tucked right in and was immediately impressed with my decision to go burger over pizza. The heat from the jalapenos was delightfully offset by the cooling avocado salsa, which perhaps was amidst the most dominant of flavours within the burger. The cheese was a a touch thin, but still came through, whilst perhaps the burger would have benefitted more from a stronger layer of chipotle mayo -- the only real imbalance.

On to the meats and starting with the bacon: surprisingly good, for crisp bacon, adding an extra touch to enhance flavour and certainly not stingy in quantity with two good thick long strips. The meat was cooked medium well (under request of 'medium') and, similar to Hard Rock, was an impressive piece of meat, slightly hindered once again by its lack of tenderness.

Still, this burger was a pleasant surprise, delivering a great fusion of flavours particularly with the avocado salsa and jalapenos. The cheese and bacon helped enhance the overall taste, whilst the drawbacks came with the lack of tenderness to the patty as well as the insufficient chipotle mayo, which would have pushed it to the next level of taste-bud sensation if delivered correctly. Plus the Jaguars lost - what is that all about...

Patty Master Musings:

  • A very dear friend of mine highly recommended this establishment. A very dear friend indeed. If I could rate this friend... He would be a 10/10.
  • I wish I understood even 10% of what was going on in the match.
  • Check out '&Pizza' if you haven't already. That is a 10/10 review for the future 'Pizza Master' blog.
  • Did I Dip It? There was no need with this one, as the avocado salsa, jalapenos and cheese did enough.

Category Score