Standing in line at MELT, I note a guy with a name tag, David Chung of Brown’s Leesburg Hyundai. Commenting on the lengthening line, I query, “This place must be popular?” Chung eagerly replied, “My manager told me I had to check out the burgers here. I read reviews, and they’re all five stars.” Another guy feels passionately enough about the topic to pry himself from his cell phone to interject with, “I eat here once a week but not for beef burgers. I always get the ahi tuna burger.” Well, ok. Maybe we’re onto something.
My posse of Leesburg Outlet shoppers did not want food court food, did not want fast food, did not want formal dining. Our choices were, um, limited. “Let’s go to a deli,” someone said. There was a Deli South in Leesburg near the Dunkin Donuts that was vastly popular. We found that it was long gone. (How many years has it been? Yikes!) Before us stood a sign that read, “MELT” in its place. Hunger had replaced argumentative pride so in we went.
There’s a bustling, energetic vibe at MELT. Behind the counter and grill is what seems to be a husband and wife duo with six employees cranking out enormous platters of food. Burger joints often blare 50’s music so I was relieved to hear more familiar 60’s and 70’s tunes. When you enter, there is an ordering line straight ahead with some bar stools and high counters on the left. On the right front corner is the seating area.
We settle on basil pesto mac and cheese, bacon cheese fries, sweet potato fries with marshmallow cream, a bacon cheeseburger, and a crab cake with slaw. I’m sure outlet shopping gave us a calorie deficit for the day. Oh, and shakes. Two of them.
No ordinary burger, MELT’s have been voted Loudoun County’s best burger for three years in a row. The burgers are made of aged, hand trimmed, 100% Angus beef in MELT’s proprietary blend of chuck, brisket, and ribeye to get the right taste and fat content resulting in tender, juicy flavor. These all natural, premium, beef-cuts are ground fresh daily and hand-formed into half-pound burgers. Each burger is served on a fresh, house-made burger bun and char-grilled each to order. Char-grilling allows the fat to drip onto the grill creating smoke that wafts up flavoring the meat.
Turns out that the bacon cheeseburger is MELT’s most popular seller. Bacon cheeseburger doesn’t do this sandwich justice. Towering Burger of Big Beef or Colossal Concoction of Burgerness. With the exception of special-order novelty burgers, I have never seen a regular burger of this size. Served with aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, crisp lettuce, red ripe tomato, shaved onion, and MELT’s Special House Sauce, this burger has a big wow factor.
The sauce is similar to remoulade, or maybe a Russian dressing, which I loved. It’s important to note that the second most popular burger is the “bacon-blue.” It’s a masterpiece with imported Gorgonzola bleu cheese, balsamic glazed onions, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and a touch of MELT’s own creamy bleu cheese dressing. What might be surprising is that the veggie burger is the third most popular seller.
MELT offers a burger, shake, and mac-n-cheese of the month. During our visit, we shared the four cheese basil mac and the Butterfinger milkshake plus a raspberry milkshake from the regular menu. Aromatic basil brightens the cavatappi-shaped gooey mac-n-cheese, elevating it from the boxed stuff.There’s child-like pleasure digging into a cold, thick shake on a warm day, and these shakes are handcrafted rich goodness.
A pile of crispy shoestring fries with generous cheddar and bacon crumbles would sate a pack of hungry kids. My personal favorite is the sweet potato fries, and I don’t even like sweet potatoes. Hit with sea salt and cracked pepper, this crispy delight made a believer of sweet potatoes out of me. They’re served with a side of Marshmallow Fluff® which is creative sweet treat.
A word on the bread. We all know that bread and buns can make or break a sandwich. MELT takes the trouble to bake their own bread twice day—cut it, proof it, bake it. There is no salt in the sourdough so it is finished with a bit of kosher salt and butter.
Steve and Debbie Hancotte are the burger-meisters behind MELT. The couple met 26 years ago when they worked at the old Clarke’s Restaurant on Colley Street in Ghent, Norfolk. Later, they owned a successful gourmet restaurant in Hilton Head, SC which they sold in 2007. “We looked at each and said, ‘That’s it; we’re done,” says Debbie of their retirement. The couple moved to the Washington area to be nearer to family. After a while, they were bored with retirement and thought about doing “a little burger place.”
With 22 employees, the “little burger place” is an award-winning, busy burger destination. “We pride ourselves on the quality of meat selection and preparation,” admits Steve. “We put as much care into these burgers as a steak at our fine dining restaurant.” Whether you’re day tripping in Loudoun County, outlet mall shopping, or cruising for a good burger, MELT is worth a trip over the mountain.