- 4733 Elm St., Bethesda, MD, 20814
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat. 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sun. 12 p.m.-9 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Kraze Burger was founded in Korea in the late 90s and quickly saw their popularity spread to China, Japan and beyond. So what do you do when your restaurant chain is a burgeoning success? Bring it to America, of course!
Last week in Bethesda Row, Kraze (defiantly pronounced "crazy") opened their first location in the United States. If the crowds that packed the former National Jean Co. space on busy Woodmont Ave. were any indication, the nation's capital was ready to see what all the fuss was about.
And we're still waiting, honestly. Kraze burgers were tasty, but left a bit to be desired on the “wow factor” scale. Out of the ones we tried, the K Onion Burger was the best, packing a fried onion ring that provided a good crunch and boost of flavor. The K++ is their standard hamburger with the addition of a fried egg and two bacon strips, which was nice, but still tasted like a regular burger with bacon and eggs. And then there’s the Megabite, a beast topped with double patties, double cheese and all the trimmings. It was also so greasy it soaked through a stack of five napkins and dripped during consumption. (This is a good time to mention that if you eat in, Kraze doesn’t provide you with individual plates, instead putting the burgers on a shared tray, which can make eating awkward as you and your dining buddy crowd together to eat.)
The ingredients are all high quality—natural hormone-free beef patties, buns baked fresh daily and a variety of homemade sauces available—but they struggle to stand out. The meat was nicely charbroiled but didn’t have a lot of flavor on its own. (The patties are also fairly small.) Their famous condiments--Megabite Sauce, Kraze Sauce, Steak Sauce—all tasted like variations on traditional barbecue sauce. The buns were surprisingly the most noticeable part of the ensemble though, staying fresh and unsoggy the whole way through. Except on the Megabite, though that poor bread never had a chance.
What's most disappointing about Kraze Burger is how straightforward the food was. When we think Korean burger chain, regardless of its name, we're expecting some unique options. Where’s all the red chilies, the smell of sesame oil, the succulently marinated or barbecued meats? Heck, we’d settle for a side of kimchi. Granted, there is a burger with spicy sauce and a Hawaiian Burger with cream cheese and pineapple, but none of these variations scream “Korean” to us. Instead, Kraze seems more like an Asian eatery trying to copy the kitsch, cliché idea of an American hamburger joint. (That might explain all the barbecue sauce.) Even the décor, with its green walls adorned with cactus plants, seems to mimicking the generic American southwest. It might be cool for Korean audiences to experience, but it seems like a missed opportunity to bring to the U.S. Perhaps this was a misunderstanding on our expectations, but for the most part these are just your average slightly-elevated hamburgers.
While you won’t find any bulgogi, Kraze does offer options like turkey, grilled tofu and veggie burgers, as well as salads and sandwiches. The KO was a unique take on a chicken sandwich, packed with breaded chicken nuggets as opposed to a standard filet or patty. However, like the burgers the chicken was in need of some seasoning. The accompanying salad with balsamic dressing helped compensate, but the main protein should be the star here.
As for sides, their fries are stellar, a slightly bigger version of a shoestring potato with the Sweet Potato Fries in particular being super crispy and delicious. The Herb Fries have great flavor, although by the time you get down to the bottom you’re left with an unappealing pile of rosemary needles. For the health conscious, Kraze also offers grilled asparagus spears, but they had run out by lunchtime during our visit.
One final plus is the price. You could easily get a full meal for under $10 here, which is very impressive for Bethesda Row and garners it some bonus points for value. However, on the downside is speed. We’ll give Kraze some leeway for being new, but the restaurant was not busy during our visit and it still took 15 to 20 minutes to get our food after ordering. That, and the fact that they give you a pager to signal your order is ready, does not say “fast food” to us. Plan accordingly.
Bottom Line: Kraze Burger is just fine when it comes to quality and taste, but if you have "crazy" in your name, you better live up to it.
Kraze Burger is now open daily in Bethesda Row. The dining room is essentially a few tables, but they're currently expanding to make more room for seating and a dessert bar.