Habit Burger Grill Opens Dec. 5 in Ashburn
The Habit Burger Grill will open its first fast-casual burger restaurant in the DMV at Belmont Chase Commons, 19855 Belmont Chase Dr., Ashburn, on Saturday less than a half-mile from INOVA Loudon Hospital and next to the Belmont Chase Country Club. It is joining Loudon County’s first Cava Grill and Whole Foods Market in the shopping center and the first DMV-area location of Cooper’s Hawk, a massive, Illinois-based winery and restaurant that includes a barrel room, tasting room and retail shop.
The first Habit Burger Grill opened as a burger shack on the beach in Santa Barbara in 1969, and the chain has grown to 140 restaurants in California, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Idaho, Washington and Virginia. Other DMV locations will include a restaurant on Rockville Pike in the Wintergreen Shopping Center in May of next year and on Route 1 in Riverdale Park just outside College Park near the new Whole Foods Market sometime in early 2017, Steve Pirato, vice president of East Coast operations, told DC on Heels.
In July 2014, Consumers Report named Habit Burger Grill Best Tasting Burger in the nation out of 65 burger chains that were reviewed.
Pirato said the chain chose Ashburn because it is similar to New Jersey, where it first expanded east of the Mississippi. “The people are transient and many already know the brand,” he said. “And the people eat out. We want to be their favorite neighborhood burger.”
He added that it is harder to find real estate in D.C., although they hope to be in the city eventually.
Ashburn general manager Patty Romero said the restaurant starts with fresh, not frozen, hamburger patties that are delivered three times a week and a friendly staff.
The burgers are cooked as ordered and not prepared ahead of time. Pirato said the fresh patty is charbroiled over an open flame, seasoned then flipped. They are then moved to a flattop grill for cheese to be melted on top. The buns are toasted on a separate flattop so they “hold up to the toppings and don’t fall apart.” Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are cut fresh daily in house,
The restaurant serves it charburgers, which all come with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions, five ways: original with just the basics; with sautéed mushrooms and melted white American cheese; with grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce; with bacon and barbecue sauce; or with the basics and two patties. American cheese can be added for an additional charge. There’s also a Santa Barbara style double char with cheese and avocado on grilled sourdough bread.
The restaurant also offers a hand-filleted marinated chicken breast with cheese and barbecue or teriyaki sauce; a chicken club with bacon and avocado; line-caught, sushi-grade tuna steak flown in from Fiji several times a week with a teriyaki glaze and house-made tartar sauce; a sirloin steak sandwich made with tri-tip steak and barbecue or teriyaki sauce; a grilled pastrami sandwich with mustard; and a veggie patty with cucumbers and honey Dijon dressing. They all come with lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions and mayo. All the hamburgers and sandwiches can also be ordered as a lettuce wrap instead of on a bun.
Salads made fresh each morning include a garden salad with romaine, iceberg and red leaf lettuce, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots and croutons (brill tuna or sirloin steak can be added); a grilled chicken Caesar with croutons, freshly grated parmesan cheese, croutons and Caesar dressing topped with a grilled chicken brest; a grilled chicken salad is a garden salad topped with a grilled chicken breast; and the BBQ chicken salad is the garden salad with cilantro, bacon, grilled chicken breast and BBQ sauce.
Sides include French fries, sweet potato fries, side Caesar salad, onion rings, side salad and tempura green beans. There are charburger, grilled cheese and chicken nuggets kids’ meals with fries, apple slices or applesauce and a soft drink, apple juice or milk. Dessert includes chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, mocha and coffee shakes and malts, vanilla soft serve cones and Hershey’s Chocolate sundaes with vanilla soft serve, whipped cream and nuts.
I got a preview on Tuesday. We got to sample all the charburgers, except the Santa Fe style. Each burger, and I assume every sandwich, comes half wrapped in paper ready for you to pick up and eat without dripping on yourself. My favorites were the mushroom char, which was topped with a generous helping of sautéed mushrooms, and the teriyaki charburger, which was sweet from the pineapple and tangy from the teriyaki sauce. The original charburger is a good basic burger, but the BBQ bacon and double charburgers I tried were too salty. Granted, the meal was part of the staff’s training and each burger is seasoned when ordered so it may have just been a case of someone going heavy-handed on the salt and it gets worked out before Saturday.
We also got to sample the sides. The fries came out warm and crispy. The onion rings and sweet potato fries were tasty, but the tempura green beans served with house-made ranch dressing were the bomb. They alone are worth the hour drive from D.C. to Ashburn. Unfortunately, they weren’t serving shakes, so I’ll have to make another trip back to try those.
The Ashburn location is a 2,700 square-foot space that can seat 86 people in the dining room and on the outdoor patio. It has about 45 employees.
If you can’t wait until the official opening on Saturday, you can get a FREE preview Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. when the first 200 customers will get free food as part of the staff’s training. There will also be a preview on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. when the restaurant hosts a fundraiser for the Stonebridge High School Booster Club with all the proceeds will be donated to the school.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.