REVIEW: Big Buns, Arlington VA
STYLE: Burger Joint
DECOR: 4/5 -
VIBE: 3.5/5 - Casual and relaxed; loud - big groups, lots of families.
FOOD: 5/5 - I was practically weeping as I ate, and mopping up drippings with the broad side of my burger.
SERVICE: 3.5/5 - As fast-casual as the place itself.
PRICE: $ - Most Burgers under $10; Beer to go is $6 for 32 oz.
FINAL WORD: Dare I say: "Better than Shake Shack"?
There's a lot going on on the menu at this burger joint, which probably explains why, on a Saturday night in the otherwise pretty quiet city of Arlington, VA, Big Buns was popping with activity. Aside from the requisite fries, shakes, beer and cocktails (the adult beverage menu was cheekily named "Attitude Adjusters") there are also a handful of creatively curated burgers on offer, including tons of variations and add-ons. Burgers options include beef (Angus or Wagyu), bison, chicken, turkey, veggie, or sushi-grade Ahi tuna, as well as Burger Bowls (why the hell not?).
I ordered, without too much of a second thought, The Frickin' Goood Fried Chicken, and I cannot stress to you how truly accurate that name is. This was one of the best fried chicken sandwiches I've had to date. The bun was slick with butter, there were not one but two pieces of fried chicken, the sauce was flavorful and the shredded lettuce and pickles lent just the right crunchy brightness.
The Hop Daddy (IPA marinated grilled chicken, havarti cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, portobello mushroom cap, roasted red peppers and pesto mayo) and The Sea Salt 'n Peppa (Bison crusted with sea salt and black peppercorns, blue cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, pickles and Frank's hot sauce) sounded phenomenal too, and an iPad by the register where customers can scroll through images of all the menu items offered photographic evidence to back it up.
Early(ish) birds will find something to nosh on here, too. Big Buns has three solid brunch options on weekends from 11am-3pm; the CBLT, a jumbo lump crab cake topped with bacon, lettuce, beefsteak tomato and house remoulade sauce sounds worth getting out of bed for.
Because we were being healthy (otherwise we wouldn't be there, right?) we snagged an arugula salad that was a delicious follow-up (yeah, we eat salads second) and palate cleanser after the ginormous big burgers.
You know that expression "You eat first with your eyes"? Well...the one place where Big Buns lost points was - and I know this is so tiny in the grand scheme of things - the salad dressing. It was not exactly what you would call aesthetically pleasing. It quite honestly looks, at best like chocolate pudding and at worst like baby poo. It tasted fine (not words you'd expect to follow the phrase "baby poo") but it looked so unappealing that we hardly wanted to use it, and ate the salad mostly without it.
Then again, if we're being optimistic here, it was a damn good salad to be eaten naked, sans dressing. The goat cheese-arugula-candied-walnuts proportions were absolutely perfect, and anything that helps you feel like a supermodel after devouring a two giant slabs of deep-fried deliciousness on a buttery bun is alright with me! (Although, I would have rather had a milkshake, if I'm being honest, and the Shake of the Month for May, the Mexican Chocolate Shake with cinnamon, chile powder, nutmeg and chocolate chips sounded worth the calories.
More From Big Buns:
Big Buns is super casual and laid back, with the half DIY/half table service that is now nearly ubiquitous with new fast-casual joints; order at the register, take your number to the table and wait hungrily for a food runner to bring your burger babies. The cashiers were ok - not overly friendly and a little brusque and impatient, but it was a busy Saturday night so no hard feelings, guys. Decor is simple and bright and slightly industrial, with paper towel rolls on a pipe attached to the tables, communal seating, and a monochrome, blue color scheme.
It can get a little loud - there were large groups of people carrying on and having a good time and smaller groups of families with young children. Overall, the vibes were good and happy, and frankly, I'd rather be focused on eating these items than talking or listening, at least until the last morsel is gone.