A former gardening shop and nursery might not seem like the best spot for a meaty al fresco meal. But the months-old Garden District is grilling summer's perfect burger.
From its earliest days, crowds would cram into the fenced-in patio for steins of Hofbrau beer or vinegar-spiked pulled pork sandwiches. Since the restaurant added its retro, seemingly In-N-Out-inspired cheeseburger ($8), though, we've ordered nothing else, even stopping in three days in a row to sate the craving.
Chef Tad Curtz has mastered the classic, keeping it simple with a thick, well-seasoned patty, ripe summer tomatoes, pickles and a splash of Thousand Island-style sauce tucked into a fluffy but sturdy sesame bun.
Though the combination has been replicated in thousands of greasy spoons, Curtz sets his burger apart with its proportions. Instead of relish or small pickle coins, Curtz cuts his own long, oblique slices of snappy dills, which double as the burger's crunch and acid. Rather than wilt under thick coats of cheese, the burger glimmers with a thin veneer of sharp cheddar, the lot excellent with a mug of icy Bitburger Pilsner ($5.50).
As you leave, take advantage of Garden District's latest backward-looking coup: On weekends, the restaurant serves grab-and-go doughnuts, frying cinnamon-sugar rounds ($1) to order for diners or passersby.
Garden District, 1801 14th St. (at S St.); gardendistrictdc.com