Long awaited date night at Thunder Burger and Bar in Georgetown
Date night. I hear it is something the kids (not mine) are still doing. Couples are happily eating out, going to the movies and even experiencing the theater, and yet my husband and I can’t seem to figure it out now that we are living just outside of Washington, D.C. While living in Seattle we had our system pretty much down. We had our sitters. We had our favorite places. Date night was easy… as long as we remembered to do them. With two kids both under age 6, date nights have not always been our top priority.
After returning from a 5-week trip to Europe with the boys, only one week of which my husband was with us, I knew we needed a date night and soon. When Fortessa Tableware solutions, a leading provider of dishware for restaurants and high-end hotels that is also available to consumers, asked me to chat with Chef Ryan Fichter, the meat genius in the kitchen at Thunder Burger and Bar, I knew this was something my husband and I could not miss. It was the perfect excuse for a date night in Georgetown, a trendy neighborhood in Washington, D.C. and home to Georgetown University. We booked the sitter and were giddy with anticipation, as we looked towards our first night out alone together in months. Yes, months. Too many months.
At 36 years old, Chef Ryan has gotten around the restaurant industry. Not only is he the chef at Thunder Burger, but he has also headed up Bodega and Rialto in D.C. He went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and has sharpened his knives at restaurants around the country including Clyde’s in Reston, VA, the Ritz Carlton and the Royal Kona Resort in Hawaii. At Thunder Burger he likes to look at the meat his is preparing and where it comes from as he works up the flavors to add to the patty and bun. Alligator might be paired with creole flavors, while the humble beef burger takes on a whole new twist as it is topped with pulled pork and crispy onions, foie gras or gorgonzola.
The thing that sets this burger joint above the rest is their Wild Wednesdays. The standard menu is impressive enough, with an eclectic array of protein to choose from, but Wednesday is when they crank it up a notch (or twenty). Anything and everything goes as Chef Ryan serves up the exotic, whether it is ostrich, caribou, black bear or wild boar. As soon as my husband found out about Wild Wednesday he declared we would be back. Keep in mind that we hadn’t even eaten the food yet!
I think my husband developed a little man crush on Chef Ryan as the conversation turned to preparing python for consumption. It takes hours to make this meat tender enough to put on a plate. Who knew? My husband is always up for trying something new and finding a chef who can prepare it for him just makes him giddy. Once we finished chatting, the really fun part began—the tasting.
The menu is extensive enough for you to wonder which would be your best bet as you eat here for the first time. Let me help you- skip the build your own burger option. Taste what the chef has already come up with and go from there. The Pig in a Cow Suit (beef burger, with cheddar, BBQ pulled pork, tobacco onions & remoulade) is easily one of the favorites on the menu and for good reason. I mean come on, pulled pork on top of a cheese burger! Why didn’t I think of this first? I went back and forth between the Pig in a Cow Suit, the Love Me Tender ( Kobe beef burger, with Tillamook aged white cheddar, tomato & remoulade) and the Ventura Highway (beef burger, with brie, caramelized red onion relish & watercress, tomato & remoulade). Let’s get real though. Pulled pork on a burger will win every time my stomach has a say in the matter. I never say no to a good pig. My husband quickly grabbed the Buffalo Stomp (bison burger, wrapped in bacon. grilled onion, gorgonzola blue cheese,tomato & remoulade). I thought he would have gone for the elk or veal burger, but no, he loves a good bison burger and hadn’t had one in a many years. Not that many restaurants out here serve them as you might have guessed.
Meat dominates the menu (it is a burger joint after all), but have no fear vegetarians. You can get the falafel or Portobello burgers. Pescetarians (those who only eat fish, not red meat) can indulge in a jumbo lump crab cake or ahi tuna fillet as well. There is something for everyone on the menu, as long as you like to eat well and aren’t afraid of unexpected flavor combinations.
As my husband and I kicked back and saw plate after plate come out of the kitchen, we were amazed that burgers, truly a simple dish when made in their most basic form, could be so beautifully created and presented. This is no accident. Chef Ryan is on the Chef Round Table for Fortessa, which means he gets to give feedback on the new ideas coming out of the Fortessa design department. He tries out what works and doesn’t work in the kitchen, so every dish he presents looks beautiful and shows off his creations to the best of its ability. After all, chefs aren’t your standard home cooks they are artists. They want their meals to be beautiful not only in taste, but in appearance as well.
Our last dish (dessert) came to the table– a light and fluffy Guinness Chocolate Cake with a raspberry sauce. The Belgian chocolate whipped ganache was fluffy like a mousse and didn’t overpower like thick ganaches tend to do. Although we had eaten our fill and even had a bag of leftovers to take home, we found that little pocket in everyone’s stomach that is reserved for dessert, no matter how full you may think you are. After all, there is ALWAYS room for dessert.
Bellies full and plates mostly emptied, we said our farewells to Chef Ryan and his staff. The restaurant, which we had entered at 5:30pm, was in full swing by almost 8pm with families, couples and singles at the bar enjoying their meals before and after their day’s activities. The décor mixed rustic and rock n’roll to create a comfortable space to bring your kids, but also hang out with friends for a late night burger and beer.
My husband and I, not quite ready to go back to the house and be parents again, wandered through the shops of Georgetown and a few of the side streets of this historic neighborhood. We both love the old architecture and dreamed of the massive houses we would never be able to afford one day. Walking off a few of those burger pounds was a side benefit, but the leftovers would keep our bellies full until the next morning.
Eat Good, Do Good: Social share to help raise money for local food banks
Now for a bit of fun. Fortessa will be donating $5 for every social media share using the hashtag #FindingFortessa, up to $10,000. All money will go the Capital Area Food Bank DC, Blue Ridge Pantry in Winchester, Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore and Interfaith Food Bank in Loudoun.
What’s the deal: In an effort to raise awareness of their tableware AND the restaurants where it’s being used, Fortessa is hosting the influencer campaign Eat Good, Do Good. We’re encouraging people in the greater DC and Baltimore area to check out this amazing list of restaurants, each run by unique and talented chefs. And of course we want to highlight the beautiful dinnerware each of these chef’s use. Thus, #FindingFortessa!
Participating Chefs and restaurants:
- Water & Wall in Arlington, VA: Chef Tim Ma
- Village Market & Bistro in Winchester, VA: Chef Daniel Kalber
- Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville, VA: Chef Jason Lage
- 13.5 Wine Bar in Baltimore, MD: Chef Cyrus Keefer
- The Food Market in Baltimore, MD: Chef Chad Gauss
- Maxime in DC: Chef Ryan Fichter
- Bodega in DC: Chef Ryan Fichter
- Thunder Burger in DC: Chef Ryan Fichter
How’s it work? Fortessa will donate $5 to the restaurant’s chosen charity (up to $10,000 across the different charities listed above) for each photo social share with the #FindingFortessa hashtag now until July 31st. Although you can certainly have your own date night at any of these restaurants and post photos to participate, we know not everyone lives in town, so retweets, shares, and regrams count in the donation total as well, which means we can meet our goal of $10,000! It’s easy, it’s free and you might just find a few new restaurants to check out when you visit the area.
Many thanks to Thunder Burger and Fortessa for providing our meal for the purposes of this post. I was also compensated for my participation in this campaign. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know.