I’ve sure mentioned it before, but Tom and I don’t do gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas. Instead, we opt for experiences so that we can look back and say “Oh yeah, our fifth anniversary, that’s when we spent three weeks in Italy” (wouldn’t that be nice?), which is usually far more memorable than a material object.
Our birthdays are three weeks apart, so often we try to plan a trip around that time to celebrate. And if that doesn’t work out… we eat!
Tom is a Christmas Eve baby, so most of the time his celebrating is mixed in with Christmas events. We were in New Jersey for his birthday this year, which was a wonderful time, but I still wanted to have a day dedicated solely to Tom.
One of our favorite birthday things to do is to wander aimlessly around the city for the majority of the day eating and drinking whatever our hearts desire. And that’s just what we did this past Sunday.
Tom mentioned awhile back that he wanted a burger for his birthday. A really, really good burger. We talked over a few options, but kept going back to Duke’s Grocery, a neighborhood pub in Dupont Circle. The place is small and usually crowded and hard to get into, but on the Sunday after Christmas it was practically empty. I swear, we are masters at finding nearly empty restaurants to dine at. It’s either a skill or a curse, who knows.
People (and by people I mostly mean Yelp) have been lauding this the best burger in DC for years. We actually got to sample it at the Landmark Music Festival earlier this year, but it was toned down a notch to make it easier to eat standing up and therefore didn’t have quite the same impact.
I was actually kind of nervous that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. I mean, when you plan an entire birthday celebration around a burger you want it to be over-the-top, swift-kick-in-the-ass fantastic.
But my worries were unfounded, because Tom quickly decided it’s not only the best burger in DC but maybe the best burger he’s ever had in his life. #BirthdayBurgerGoalsAccomplished
I won’t lie, I had one too (I had to see for myself and homie was not going to share on his birthday) and it was outstanding. This was one case where the Yelp hype didn’t lie. The patties were incredibly juicy, not at all overcooked with just an edge of sear to them. The charred onions lent a sweetness, while the sweet Thai chili sauce provided a subtle kick. And there’s arugula (rocket) on there for a health boost (ha!). I also really appreciated the side pickles, because you can never have enough pickles.
The burgers were so large we had nothing else with our meal besides red wine, which I always prefer with a burger over beer.
Afterward, we went to a nearby bar to try to watch the rest of the Jets game and to pass time until our anticipated next stop opened.
I’ve been curious about McClellan’s retreat since it opened, but have never had occasion to visit. We’re not usually the cocktail bar type, but for a birthday it feels appropriate.
We walked over and were surprised to find it housed in the spot where Veritas use to be, one of our old favorite wine bars from back in the day (back in the day meaning 2012) – a place that smelled of dirty feet but had excellent wine on tap and friendly staff to help you make the perfect wine selection.
As we entered, we noted that the smelly feet aroma has yet to fully leave the building, but everything else was quite an upgrade. Dimly lit, good music playing overhead (you play Modest Mouse, you’ve got a friend in me) and ample room at the bar immediately drew us in.
Tom dove straight into the whiskey selection, while I went with one of the specialty cocktails.
I can only drink cocktails made from vodka, gin or rum which often limits my options since the trend nowadays is rye, bourbon and scotch in everything. Luckily, McClellan’s had me covered. The Grant’s Hour, made with a bunch of stuff with which I’m unfamiliar (Angostura Amaro, Angostura 7 yr rum, house made orgeat, lemon – oh oh I know that one!) shaken vigorously by our friendly bartender was excellent.
We hung out for quite a while, reflecting on the fact that we’re both turning 30 this year. I think we both expected it to hit us kind of hard, but when you live a life full of love, family, travel, dog cuddles and burgers – what’s there to freak out about? So we raised a glass to our fourth decade, and kept drinking.
Happy New Year’s everyone! Have a safe and wonderful time. We’ll be huddled up in the house. If you ever see me out on New Year’s Eve, check to see if my body has been taken over by zombie aliens. That would be the only logical explanation.