Darden Restaurants is preparing to open a burger-focused sibling of its high-end steakhouse chain, The Capital Grille. With an anticipated debut in March, according to its website, The Capital Burger will open across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Darden operates LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Cheddar’s. Eddie V’s, Yard House, and Seasons 52 as well. The Capital Grille is its first burger brand.
The starting menu features six Signature Burgers, including a Blue Cheese and Truffle Burger for $16 and a Roasted Wild Mushroom and Swissburger for $16. A Bacon Cheesburger ($17), The Capital Burger ($16), Vegetarian Burger ($15), and Classic Cheeseburger ($15) round out the lineup. Each burger comes with housemade pickles presented by the jar.
A 7-ounce filet is also on the menu, as are four sandwiches (Southern-Style Fried Chicken, Grilled All-Beef Hot Dog, Grand Cru Grilled Cheese, and a Maine Lobster Roll). Two salads are joined by an extensive nine-selection “Snacks” menu that features Pan-Fried Calamari for $12, Lobster and Crab Cakes for $16, and King Pao Brussels Sprouts for $8 (you can add a fried organic egg for an extra $2).
The more casual version of The Capital Grille features similar branding, including an identical logo that just swaps the “Grille” out for “Burger.” Naturally it’s a much lower price point. The lowest-priced entrée on The Capital Grille’s dinner menu is Roasted Chicken for $29. The concept is one of Darden’s top performers, and reported 3.8 percent same-store sales growth in the second quarter. The site says The Capital Burger will lean on some of its operational success.
“… these burgers call for a world-class wine-by-the-glass list, boozy milkshakes, and a staff inspired by The Capital Grille legacy with a desire to revolutionize burger dining. Wave your linen napkins and surrender yourself to excellence.”
The Capital Burger already has an email program setup called Burger Zealot.
At the center of the concept is a proprietary blend of beef Darden created by working alongside Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. LaFrieda is a third-generation butcher who uses beef from small, family-owned farms.
“We believe the classic American burger, when well-crafted, is as fine a dining experience as any. To achieve that, we left no patty unturned as we sought out purveyors of the best beef, created recipes for our own pickles, Shake and a burger and curated a wine list that speaks to the fact that these luxury burgers are anything but ordinary. We still encourage you to set aside forks in favor of bare hands but rest assured, linen napkins are in abundance,” the concept says on its site.
On the beverage side, there’s also a global “Rarely Offered by the Glass” wines program. The site also promotes boozy milkshakes. “Like rich vanilla blended with our own pineapple-infused Stolichnaya Vodka for a sweet twist on our classic Stoli Doli,” the site says.
There are craft beer from locals breweries DC Brau Brewing Company, Right Proper Brewing Company, and Port City Brewing Company offered. A daily happy hour that offers wines for $7 and beers on draft for $5 from 3–6:30 p.m. every afternoon is also listed.
In the second quarter, Darden’s total sales boomed 14.6 percent, year-over-year, to $1.88 billion. Overall same-store sales from its seven brands (not counting recently purchased Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen) rose 3.1 percent.