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Hamburger Joints: Too Many, or Not Enough?


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#1 DonRocks

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:15 PM

Seeing this article by MeMc made me think of something I've never quite thought of before.

I think it would be very interesting to compare the total number of hamburger shops today with what we had ten years ago. The first reaction might be, "Well, there are way more today!" But without doing any type of research, I'm not so sure that's true; it's just that ten years ago, 99.9% of them were national fast-food chains.

So, is there really a glut of hamburger places? I don't think so, and I think that the Five Guys, BGR Joints, and Hell-Burgers of this world are doing to McDonald's what Starbucks did to Dunkin' Donuts.

The problem is that everything you read about them has been written by a food writer, and food writers are *sick* of trying to think of new ways to discuss what is essentially a new food truck challenging the hot dog vendor across the street. What's to analyze about Starbucks? Nothing. What's to analyze about Red Hook? Nothing. What's to analyze about Five Guys? Nothing.

Bring on even more of them, I say, and if they manage to pry people out of McDonald's, etc., then it's all for the common good. Rest assured I will not be going into great detail about the next one that opens.

To directly address Melissa's title, yes, we (the food writers) have had enough, but I think the public has room for many, many more. (Nicely written article, btw - it was the introspective aspect of it that made me think to write this.)

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#2 MeMc

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:00 PM

You know if we're talking about whether the new burger places are better than a McWendyKing, of course they are in terms of sourcing alone. They're also a step up in terms of investment in the community: Hell Burger is a totally different thing from Five Guys by virtue of Landrum's commitment to the area.

Whether its DC or where I live now, where a new burger place lands is usually more desirable real estate compared to where a Wendy's or McDonalds has resided. Burger places now are in the neighborhood, with dozens more within walking distance than they used to be. McWendyking has increasingly been marginalized to strip malls and commuter roadways or rest stops.

How does this real estate shift affect a diner's overall health? Does it mean he's going out for burgers more often? In Florida, it's probably a yes. There aren't as many choices here. The glut in what little neighborhood exists means fewer chances for alternatives in the walkable community. Such is not the case in DC, where walking, riding, and mixed use space is generally protected rather than paved over for more highway and more strip malls.

Because DC sustains a different communal landscape --and a better economy plus more wealth-- the area can sustain this onslaught of single concept places, whether it's burger joints or independent shops like Souper Girl, Mussel Bar, and taquerias. Florida is a different story, hence the headline.

The article linked does not mirror what I'd write for DC. (Oh, how much I miss this community.)
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#3 goodeats

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:22 PM

You know if we're talking about whether the new burger places are better than a McWendyKing, of course they are in terms of sourcing alone.

I think I found my new favorite term [emphasis mine].

I worry about the big conglomerate competition of the MWKs only because it means more marketing and more bargains, which may lead to more overbuying or more overeating. My recent experience at McD's during lent reminds me of such: Fillet O'Fish = 2 for $3. I asked for one and was sold two because buying one is more expensive than buying one, strangely.

To me, the answer is yes, there is a glut if it leads to an "over-(fill-in-the-blank)" of anything (i.e., overfarming of cows, etc.).
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#4 DonRocks

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:23 PM

You know if we're talking about whether the new burger places are better than a McWendyKing, of course they are in terms of sourcing alone. They're also a step up in terms of investment in the community: Hell Burger is a totally different thing from Five Guys by virtue of Landrum's commitment to the area.

Whether its DC or where I live now, where a new burger place lands is usually more desirable real estate compared to where a Wendy's or McDonalds has resided. Burger places now are in the neighborhood, with dozens more within walking distance than they used to be. McWendyking has increasingly been marginalized to strip malls and commuter roadways or rest stops.

How does this real estate shift affect a diner's overall health? Does it mean he's going out for burgers more often? In Florida, it's probably a yes. There aren't as many choices here. The glut in what little neighborhood exists means fewer chances for alternatives in the walkable community. Such is not the case in DC, where walking, riding, and mixed use space is generally protected rather than paved over for more highway and more strip malls.

Because DC sustains a different communal landscape --and a better economy plus more wealth-- the area can sustain this onslaught of single concept places, whether it's burger joints or independent shops like Souper Girl, Mussel Bar, and taquerias. Florida is a different story, hence the headline.

The article linked does not mirror what I'd write for DC.


Interesting. Five Guys used to be considered a local treasure - in the late 1980s, they used to buy their buns from Brenner's bakery right next door to it. My, how times have changed: their website says they now have 900 "units" and - get this - *1500* more in development!

In the Victims of Expansion thread, it goes without saying that the dining public is the biggest victim of all. It's kind of tough to pity the owners of Five Guys. :)

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#5 B.A.R.

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:43 PM

So, is there really a glut of hamburger places? I don't think so, and I think that the Five Guys, BGR Joints, and Hell-Burgers of this world are doing to McDonald's what Starbucks did to Dunkin' Donuts.


Please give me an example of somewhere, anywhere, in which a McDonald's has been replaced by anything. <_<
ETA: I think we have reached burger joint saturation.

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#6 Ferhat Yalcin

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:01 PM

Please give me an example of somewhere, anywhere, in which a McDonald's has been replaced by anything. <_<
ETA: I think we have reached burger joint saturation.


cleveland park, tackle box replaced mcd

Fishnet Restaurant(s)

 

- 5010 Berwyn Rd, College Park, MD, 20740
301 220 10 70

 

- 1819 7th St, NW, Washington DC, 20001
202 350 4 350

 

www.eatfishnet.com


#7 B.A.R.

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:59 PM

I have seen McDonalds that are in strip malls go under, but never the stand alone type.

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#8 goldenticket

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:03 PM

Please give me an example of somewhere, anywhere, in which a McDonald's has been replaced by anything. <_<
ETA: I think we have reached burger joint saturation.


The McDonald's that used to be on King Street in Old Town Alexandria is now a Walgreen's.

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#9 Tweaked

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:13 PM

Walgreen's is the new invasive species they are popping up all over the place!

Personally I would like to see more falafel shops (not named Roti).
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#10 Choirgirl21

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:25 PM

Walgreen's is the new invasive species they are popping up all over the place!


No kidding. One of the few decent places to eat in Laurel, Irene's was kicked out to make way for the new Walgreen's, which is literally about a block away from the existing CVS. :rolleyes:

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#11 Michael Landrum

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:54 PM

You know if we're talking about whether the new burger places are better than a McWendyKing, of course they are in terms of sourcing alone. They're also a step up in terms of investment in the community: Hell Burger is a totally different thing from Five Guys by virtue of Landrum's commitment to the area.

Whether its DC or where I live now, where a new burger place lands is usually more desirable real estate compared to where a Wendy's or McDonalds has resided. Burger places now are in the neighborhood, with dozens more within walking distance than they used to be. McWendyking has increasingly been marginalized to strip malls and commuter roadways or rest stops.

How does this real estate shift affect a diner's overall health? Does it mean he's going out for burgers more often? In Florida, it's probably a yes. There aren't as many choices here. The glut in what little neighborhood exists means fewer chances for alternatives in the walkable community. Such is not the case in DC, where walking, riding, and mixed use space is generally protected rather than paved over for more highway and more strip malls.

Because DC sustains a different communal landscape --and a better economy plus more wealth-- the area can sustain this onslaught of single concept places, whether it's burger joints or independent shops like Souper Girl, Mussel Bar, and taquerias. Florida is a different story, hence the headline.

The article linked does not mirror what I'd write for DC.


Be careful, now that my nephew is in Wellington each winter playing in the Open, and all the time I spend getting drunk at asados and sleeping in the horse stalls down there (not to mention the Players' Club...) you might just be seeing a Hell-Burger popping up in your new neck of the woods...

#12 Michael Landrum

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:19 PM

On the subject, however, I will point a very obvious fact that has been overlooked in this analysis and make the case that there are actually FEWER burger places in DC then ever.

How so? Not too long ago people flocked to places like The Childe Harold, Chadwick's, Sign of the Whale, The Tombs, Clyde's even, or any of a countless number of great saloons for amazing burgers at very gentle prices. The burger was the hallmark and the bragging point of the saloon culture and hand-crafted burgers abounded. People spent a little more time and care to enjoy them, together with their friends, colleagues, companions and general good company--but not a lot of money.

It took a little bit more time (which people seemed to have) and required a bit more social interaction, but a great burger was never more than a few blocks away.

It is today's self-absorbtion and need for immediate gratification that have put those places out of business, or out of the business of selling top-quality, affordable, straight-forward American fare. The number of higher-quality burger joints that have come into play do not come near to replacing the number of places that have disappeared.

And that doesn't even begin to address the loss or marginalization of diners and joints like Linda's Place with great burgers that also far out-numbered in their time the number of Johnny-come-lately, over-priced burger joints.

At the same time, the whole argument or "controversy", whether it be over burgers or over pizza, is misguided, over-wrought or even specious. Pizza and hamburgers are so woven into the fabric of American culture as to be un-remarkable--like complaining about too many bars serving Jamon Serrano and Tortilla Espanola in Spain, or too many baguettes in France, or too many felafel joints in Israel.

#13 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:35 PM

Not too long ago people flocked to places like The Childe Harold, Chadwick's, Sign of the Whale, The Tombs, Clyde's even, or any of a countless number of great saloons for amazing burgers at very gentle prices.


I have a beef with too many burger joints, mostly because I don't eat burgers at restaurants. Once upon a time I did (and I still remember how good a foie gras burger tasted at the original Hellburger). But now, with my doctor monitoring my cholesterol level, I rather see other restaurants instead of more burger joints. And I think your praise of the quoted restaurants is exaggerated. I used to live a block away from Chadwick's in G'town, ate there almost every Monday night after going to the gym ($5 burgers) and ate many dry, bland burgers. I'm pretty sure I've had Clyde's burgers in G'town as well, and the Tombs.....I have no doubt Hellburger is significantly better.

BTW, there was a Mickey D's at the intersection of Old Dominion and Chain Bridge Rd in McLean that's a stand alone - it's now gone. I think their problem is it's actually on a side street (Elm) and they have no drive-through. The branch up at Dolley Madison and Old Dominion seems to be doing very well.

#14 DonRocks

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:11 PM

And that doesn't even begin to address the loss or marginalization of diners and joints like Linda's Place with great burgers that also far out-numbered in their time the number of Johnny-come-lately, over-priced burger joints.

At the same time, the whole argument or "controversy", whether it be over burgers or over pizza, is misguided, over-wrought or even specious. Pizza and hamburgers are so woven into the fabric of American culture as to be un-remarkable--like complaining about too many bars serving Jamon Serrano and Tortilla Espanola in Spain, or too many baguettes in France, or too many felafel joints in Israel.


Yes, the hamburger isn't a trend; it's a 50-year-old establishment. Same with pizza.

I disagree about Linda's whose burgers are (to my memory) pre-formed and frozen (and only in two locations, although their burger is decent within that genre), but I cannot compare hamburgers and pizza - classic "50's foods" like the ice cream cone, milkshake, or sundae - with cupcakes which truly are a ten-year-old fad (which may, by the way, bear the test of time).

Hamburgers (and french fries) are the mainstay of the United States's pop culinary culture, like it or not, and they're not going anywhere. Now, it's just a matter of which cream will rise to the top. This is from a purely mass-marketing, business point of view, having little or nothing to do with quality.

This post (my post) is poorly written, but I think it makes and confirms some valid points, so despite that I hate my own writing, I'll leave it up for now.

Cheers,
Rocks

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#15 DonRocks

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:17 PM

BTW, there was a Mickey D's at the intersection of Old Dominion and Chain Bridge Rd in McLean that's a stand alone - it's now gone. I think their problem is it's actually on a side street (Elm) and they have no drive-through. The branch up at Dolley Madison and Old Dominion seems to be doing very well.


Correct, they had no drive-thru. Not sure if the new place (just a couple blocks away) has the same ownership, but if so, it makes sense. They are highly efficient, and seem to expedite 2-3 cars per minute during peak times.

I sometimes get Matt (my 15-year-old son) an Egg McMuffin for breakfast - I lament the "smokey" flavor in their Canadian bacon which I smell from my driver's seat as he's unwrapping the paper from his passenger's seat. My son deserves better than artificial smoke aromas even though I admit they smell quite appetizing. At least he knows, when he does eat them, that he's eating garbage. It's an informed choice that I have no problem with; almost always, we go to Dominion Deli for his breakfast rather than drive an extra block down Gallows toward McDonald's, and I suspect we'll be at Dominion Deli about 8 hours from now. No healthier; just a little bit more homey and human.

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#16 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:30 PM

Egg McMuffins are also pretty cheap. One reason why I do occasionally eat at Mickey D's is because of their dollar menu. If it's not good, at least it's cheap.

#17 Tweaked

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:50 AM

any of a countless number of great saloons for amazing burgers at very gentle prices.

I would place Mr. Henry's on Capitol Hill on that list...open since 1966 and serving up a satisfying burger....nothing fancy about it.
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#18 Pat

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:56 AM

I have seen McDonalds that are in strip malls go under, but never the stand alone type.

The one that was on the 600 block of PA Ave, SE, closed some time ago. I think that's where the mattress shop is now, but I'm not sure.




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