Matchbox-Rockville is located at 1699 Rockville Pike, in the Congressional Plaza shopping center in Rockville, Maryland.
Why is this relevant?
Because anyone from the Rockville and surrounding area is well aware that this venue has been nothing more than a revolving door of failed restaurants for the better part of the last decade.
- It started as a “That’s Amore”
- then became another restaurant
- then probably something else
- Then, it moonlighted as some golf-themed restaurant that seemed wildly unpopular
- and there was also probably something else after that; but believe me, whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t memorable
Given that history, I’d place a very, very large wager that Matchbox-Rockville is going to end that trend. These days, if you attempt to dine at 1699 Rockville Pike on a given night of the week without a reservation (even on a Monday or Tuesday), expect a wait — with those waiting times creeping over an hour or so on the always-popular Thursday through Saturday evenings.
Undoubtedly, the Matchbox restaurant group is renowned for its damn good pizza — but the burgers are actually a close second, in terms of their quality there, even if it is overshadowed by the primary entree attraction there.
To wit:, you’ll see half the waitstaff in the place wearing shirts that simply say “3–6–9” — a reference not to a song by Lil’ Jon, but rather, the fact that their burger sliders can be ordered in sets of 3, 6, or 9, all topped with a massive mountain of onion straws. I could easily bang out another 500+ words on how good the sliders are here — there aren’t any better sliders anywhere in the DMV, I promise you — but I’m here to talk about the burger.
“Unequivocally, the game changer for this burger was the Gorgonzola cheese.”
When mentioning our intention to order the burger (after being seated), the waiter immediately recommended Matchbox’s Bistro Burger in the same breath as their pizza and sliders — thereby further confirming its place in Matchbox’s culinary standings.
On the menu, the Bistro Burger’s description states that it’s made of grilled certified Angus beef, melted Gorgonzola, cremini mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon and thick-cut onion rings. So yeah, this sounded more like a gourmet “pre-made” burger instead of the standard cheeseburger that’s being measured up in this competition. But for our intents and purposes, this is a cheeseburger with bacon and mushrooms.
[Note: We were able to get a cheddar cheeseburger custom-ordered here at a later date, but the option wasn’t presented on the menu, so I stuck with the Bistro Burger as the subject of the review.]
As an aside: any carnivore worth his salt knows the culinary omnipotence of bacon. Bacon is to cooking what Nate Dogg (RIP) was to hip-hop: you add it to your product, and it’s a guaranteed hit. But to make sure that this burger didn’t get the unfair advantage over its competitors in our city-wide ratings exercise, I committed the almost-unspeakable act that could (or should) be considered heresy in some parts of this country: I ate and judged the burger without the bacon. Let the record show that I am a sucker for fair competition, even at my own detriment.
Interestingly, my burger was actually still really warm — almost too warm — when it arrived at my table. Which was both genuinely surprising, yet refreshing, to me. My impressions after the first couple of bites? Even though the burger was cooked closer to medium-well, as opposed to the medium that I actually (and emphatically) asked for, the meat was excellent.
Unequivocally, , though, the game changer for this burger was the Gorgonzola. The cheese provided that perfect hint of salt and melty fat to deftly accompany my bite into the juicy burger itself, which was followed by the drips of delicious burger fat rolling down my face and onto my hands — the sign of a great burger.
Ironically, when I put the bun and all of the toppings together (and this isn’t even including the bacon, nor the tasty, if not novelty-sized, onion rings), the burger may have almost been too big, if such a thing even exists. I definitely had to hold this with two hands.
(That’s what she said).
I’ll make it simple: this is a great burger, and that’s even after foregoing the bacon when consuming it.
One thing that sets Matchbox’s renowned sliders and burgers apart from many other restaurants is that they use brioche buns. This was something I was really eager to try on the bistro burger. Brioche’s fluffy, airy and buttery flavor is a money combination when paired with great meat stuffed in-between.
If we’re picking nits: even if it does taste like chewy water, I think lettuce does play an important role in a burger, adding just a little bit of crunch and chill as a contrast to everything else going on. In this case, my burger had a pretty pathetic-looking piece of romaine lettuce lazily and haphazardly thrown on. The cremini mushrooms were certainly there, yet unmemorable overall. But really, outside of those, plus the slight overcooking of the meat, that’s about as much criticism as I can level on this thing.
After all, this judgement was made without the (high-quality) bacon adding a layer of fatty, hammy goodness to this already awesome burger, which would probably just give it it yet another dimension of flavor jumping into this already-awesome pool.
Let’s make this as simple as possible: the bistro burger is a damn good burger, and damn good choice overall if you decide that pizza and/or sliders are not for you — and that’s even if you forego the bacon when consuming it (something, of course, I do NOT advocate for). It hits all the right spots a cheeseburger should: huge, balanced, tender, juicy, messy, salty, fatty and I-think-I-have-to-loosen-my-belt-y.
It’s safe to say that amidst a sea of generic chain restaurants or your typical fast food and fast-casual joints in the suburbs, Matchbox has found a home for itself, and the tenants in unit 1699 are finally here to stay. ■
This review was originally written for the now-defunct dmvburgerwars.com — a project launched back in 2011 by a group of friends (that included me) with the goal of empirically and quantitatively determining the best (cheese)burger in the greater Washington, D.C.-area