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BGR: Burgers in Bethesda

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mattm May 31, 2009 08:12 PM

I went to BGR on a Saturday night, primarily because of its appearance on the Washingtonian Cheap Eats list. I was really disappointed. The short version is that the food was okay, but the service and management was terrible. They ask you to be patient because everything is cooked to order, but the food does not justify the incompetence on display.

The restaurant wasn't all that crowded when I arrived. The line reached to about the door, but there were tables open inside and outside. I wasn't keeping track of time while in line, but would estimate the 15 people in front of me took >20 minutes to order. This seemed slow, but I could be patient waiting in line. I was not prepared for the wait after ordering though.

The time of your order is printed on your receipt even when you pay by cash. It took 42 minutes from the time I ordered until the time my food was ready. This is absolutely ridiculous for a hamburger. And it wasn't only my hamburger, but everyone else's as well. During this time there was ample opportunity to converse with the other patrons to hear about the other problems.

BGR ran out of hamburger buns. This is a hamburger joint. How do you run out of hamburger buns on a Saturday night? And why isn't it possible to send someone to get hamburger buns? They also ran out of what another patron termed, "the good beer". At least they were nice enough to give them the other beer for free.

There were about 6 staff on hand. There appeared to be one manning the grill, one at the cash register, and one at the fryer. I have no idea what the others were doing. One of the them came out to clean the outside tables when another patron complained. He stated that it wasn't his job to do so, but would clean anyway to make people happy.

I had the southwestern burger and the shake of the month, a blueberry milkshake. The milkshake was soso. It appeared to have quite a bit of ice filler. The burger was better, with a nice blend of chipotle pepper. I didn't get the lettuce or tomato I would have liked, apparently because I wasn't specific enough when ordering. The cashier also didn't say anything about this when I ordered. Perhaps the southwestern isn't served with other fixings.

Skip BGR. The milkshakes at Good Stuff are far superior, and the burgers at Ray's are better, and there at least your wait will be justified by the number of people in line.

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    chicken kabob RE: mattm Jun 1, 2009 04:00 AM

    mattm- Sorry about your experience at BGR Joint in Bethesda. I have been there over 50 times and have NEVER had a bad experience food or service wise. I was there last night and it was good. maybe you went on a bad night or we just have different standards (?)
    IF you go again (which I highy doubt you will from your post) get the sweet potato fries-they are awesome.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chicken kabob
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      rcooperman RE: chicken kabob Jun 1, 2009 06:48 PM

      mattm - we must have been there at the same time on Saturday! I too was truely appalled by the long, loong time it took to get my food. Clearly there should have been some indication there would be a 40 minute wait after ordering. Something is very wrong with their management. The burger was good but not at all worth the wait.

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      DCNatFan RE: mattm Jun 2, 2009 08:15 AM

      Did you ask for a manager to voice your complaint or was there no manager to be seen?

      1 Reply
      1. re: DCNatFan
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        mattm RE: DCNatFan Jun 4, 2009 09:57 PM

        I did not personally voice a complaint to the manager. Several of the other customers did, to varying degrees of success (free beer for one, but no speedup for anyone).

        @chicken kabob:
        The food wasn't bad. The burger was above average, but it just wasn't worth the incompetence.

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        AndrewF RE: mattm Jun 2, 2009 10:49 AM

        I've never had an experience this bad, but they do have a Keyston Cops thing going on there more times than not, it seems. They just don't seem to know how to "do things" there. The last burger I got there was missing a couple toppings, including cheese. When I asked them to put cheese on it, they put a cold slice of cheese on it and handed it back...I mean, they did what I asked them to do, but tossing it back on the grill for 30 seconds or so wouldn't have been the worst idea in the world. On this same trip, another customer was particularly steamed about something...I couldn't make out what the issue was, but the manager seemed a bit standoff-ish in response.

        Until recently, they had the soda machine behind the counter, which made for all kinds of problems getting refills. That's not a crime in and of itself, but it just seems to me the people in charge aren't "restaurant people" who know how things should run. It's somewhat intangible. You either have "it" or you don't. I don't think they have it. For upwards of $25-30 for two people, though, they gotta do better.

        It's a shame because their burgers are really good.

        1. d
          Doh RE: mattm Jun 2, 2009 11:44 AM

          I've actually never been that impressed in the couple times I've been. I think the burgers are ok. I don't think their sweet potato fries are all that good (I'd probably choose Elephant and Castle's over theirs, and it's not like I would ever recommend Elephant and Castle for its food). Last time I went they were advertising homemade lemonade on the chalk board and when I bought it for the kid they gave me a cup and told me that now they just have minutemaid from the fountain (which I wouldn't have purchased, but the people behind the counter just shrugged their shoulders at me).

          I'd say the best thing about BGR is the Dogfish Head on tap.

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            Sean D RE: mattm Jun 6, 2009 10:15 AM

            I share your pain. I've been to BGR three times, over the past several months, at different times of day/week. The result has always been the same. Slow...unremarkable food...over-priced.

            I don't plan on returning.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Sean D
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              chicken kabob RE: Sean D Jun 6, 2009 01:19 PM

              It is very odd (after listening to the numerous complaints) that in my 50 plus times I have been there (I live across the street) I have never waited more than 15 minutes for a burger or had anything less than excellent. Everyone I know loves it, too. Sorry you all have had such bad experiences.

              1. re: chicken kabob
                beauxgoris RE: chicken kabob Jun 6, 2009 10:28 PM

                I do think their burgers are excellent (better than zburger), but the wait is a major pain. We've been a few times and each time it was a looooong wait for our food. There has to be a way to speed up their service?

                1. re: beauxgoris
                  beauxgoris RE: beauxgoris Aug 15, 2009 01:25 PM

                  So went back to BGR twice since my last post and both times the wait wasn't bad, maybe 10 minutes tops - which I don't mind. I prefer a fresh cooked burger than something that is hanging around for a while. Between Good Stuff Eatery, Zburger and BGR - BRG is my now favorite place. I don't like the meat or way the burgers are cooked at zburger and GSE was good but much greasier than BRG. I also like that BRG burgers are flame grilled - they remind me of burger king - but with better meat and no awful saltiness. I also like the soft potato roll and minced onions, pickles and special sauce that comes on their sliders. They're perfect the way they are.

                  1. re: beauxgoris
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                    chicken kabob RE: beauxgoris Aug 15, 2009 07:36 PM

                    Glad the wait was fine at BGR, beauxgoris. Like I said before I have NEVER had a long wait and I have been countless times. Maybe I will see you there next time! I am about due for a visit...YUM***

                    1. re: chicken kabob
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                      jeb RE: chicken kabob Aug 18, 2009 10:55 AM

                      Does BGR serve wine? Thanks.

                      1. re: jeb
                        beauxgoris RE: jeb Oct 9, 2009 03:53 PM

                        We may go again tonight - so I'll check for you.

                        1. re: beauxgoris
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                          jac0077 RE: beauxgoris Oct 10, 2009 06:13 AM

                          I know a lot about food, a lot about prices and more about service. This place does none of the above very well. The prices are way out of whack. There's a reason 5 Guys has 50 stores in multiple states and this place has one or two stores tops. Nothing stands out that makes you want to come bak time and again. You know who has pretty tasty burgers and even better shakes, Tastee Diner right across the street. I was hoping that it would be a nice, local spot nearby, but it misses the mark. There's a reason why people travel to Ray's in Arlington. This is by no accident. Do people travel from NOVA to Bethesda for BGR? No, they don't.

                          1. re: jac0077
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                            deangold RE: jac0077 Oct 10, 2009 07:50 AM

                            Actually he has 2 open right now and a third opening soon.

                            5 Guys is using franchising to expand, and frankly I have been appalled by their product in my visits. Also 5 guys is well over 10 years old and BGR is a very young company.

                            1. re: deangold
                              DanielK RE: deangold Oct 10, 2009 12:25 PM

                              And, using that argument, McDonald's must have the best hamburger on the planet, since nobody has more locations.

                              1. re: DanielK
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                                deangold RE: DanielK Oct 10, 2009 12:35 PM

                                Well the French seem to think so with the opening of a McCafe at the Louvre. Maybe they will play the collected ouevre of Jerry Lewis on looping video.

                                On "Wait Wait Dont Tell Me" today, they described the plans for Mc Donald's Modern Art Value Menu at the Louvre. The "Deconstructed Quarter Pounder" is a vat of special sauce next to a pictureof a worried looking cow!

                                1. re: DanielK
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                                  jac0077 RE: DanielK Oct 10, 2009 02:16 PM

                                  My thought exactly.

                                  1. re: jac0077
                                    DanielK RE: jac0077 Oct 10, 2009 09:47 PM

                                    Uh, I was disagreeing with you. I think BGR puts out a fine, if occasionally inconsistent product, but uses a far higher caliber of beef than 5 Guys. There's no comparison between the two; 5 Guys is a fast food burger, and should be compared to McDs and the like, not an independent operator like BGR or Ray's.

              2. Mister Big RE: mattm Oct 10, 2009 12:35 PM

                Black's has a sign up for half-price burgers from noon-3 on Saturdays. They claim to have the best burger in town.

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                  oneautumnday RE: mattm Nov 5, 2009 06:57 PM

                  Has anyone been to BGR and seen a hamburger bun WITHOUT sesame seeds? I want to take a friend but he can't eat seeds. It's such a good burger I'm hoping they'll have a seedless bun or that two bottoms will be sufficiently untainted by seeds that he can eat there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: oneautumnday
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                    MikeR RE: oneautumnday Nov 6, 2009 02:45 AM

                    I have a friend who also can't eat seeds. When she can remember, she explains her problem (usually in too graphic terms that the server can't understand) and asks if the burger can be put between two bun bottoms. She's been pretty successful, but one waiter in a sit-down restaurant who really should have known better told her that they'd have to charge her for a second bun. When she asked how much, he went off to inquire and came back saying that they wouldn't charger extra.

                    And when she forgets to ask, she just picks the seeds off the top of the bun.

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                    Ericandblueboy RE: mattm Nov 5, 2009 08:11 PM

                    I've only had the sliders at BGR and it was at the Taste of Bethesda....do they season the hell out of the burger?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ericandblueboy
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                      chicken kabob RE: Ericandblueboy Nov 8, 2009 04:32 AM

                      I don't think they over-season at all-and I have had countless burgers from there.
                      Maybe you got an off-burger...

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