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City Burger next up In Food Wine & Co.'s Bethesda eatery empire

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 5/12/2014, 3:25pm  ET

City Burger, set to open this week on Wisconsin Avenue

City Burger, the better burger joint from the guys behind Food Wine & Co., is the latest in the group’s growing collection of Bethesda eateries.

Chef Michael Harr and Food Wine & Co. co-owner Francis Namin opened Fish Taco in 2013, off the beaten path in Glen Echo. City Burger, in the former space of a frame store at 7105 Wisconsin Ave., is just a few storefronts down from Namin’s Beer Wine & Co.

It will have a soft opening on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, depending on the inspection schedule.

“Bethesda’s our home base and why not work within the Bethesda community more so than anywhere else,” Harr said. “We really want to get people excited about us and make people aware of what we’re trying to do in the community.”

The all-natural beef burgers will run from about $4 to $9 and include speciality choices such as ham and pineapple with chili sauce, homemade spicy pickles and roasted mushrooms and blue cheese. There will also be a fried cheese option, including all the topics you’d get on a regular burger.

Better burger places are everywhere in Bethesda — or at least it seems as if they’re everywhere.

Harr countered by pointing out there really isn’t a burger option in the stretch of stores and restaurants on Wisconsin Avenue, which has a Chevy Chase address. The burgers won’t be exactly like the popular ones a few blocks away at Food Wine & Co., where Harr is the executive chef.

“This is a stem on that aspect but ultimately it’s not anything close to that,” Harr said. “On this row alone, there were some things that were missing and burgers were one of them.”

It’s a small space with about 15 seats, so the model will be fast casual and geared to takeout orders. There will be ice cream made in-house and part of City Burger’s draw is its natural ingredients and homemade toppings.

Even so, the menu will be short and simple. Harr has two friers and a griddle and not much kitchen space to work with.

As for more restaurants in the Food Wine & Co. restaurant empire, Harr said the group is always looking at spaces. A recent menu change at Fish Taco seems to have put that restaurant on the right path, Harr said.

Red Tomato, which was run by Namin’s wife Fay, closed in January in Woodmont Triangle because of issues with the construction of an apartment building next door.

Harr said the Red Tomato concept isn’t dead, but it won’t be coming back to its longtime spot at 4910 St Elmo Ave.