MoCo Kitchen: Little Tavern Burgers

by Patrick Herron

Whenever we do a post looking back at MoCo restaurants from yesteryear, the first place that pops up in the comment section is Little Tavern Burgers.  A little backstory from a 2017 article:

In the 1940s, there were almost 50 Little Tavern location in the D.C. and Baltimore Metro area. By the early 90s, that number dropped to 20. The last one closed about a decade ago.
Through the years there were 4 MoCo locations (2 in Silver Spring, 1 in Bethesda, and 1 in Wheaton). Most MoCo folks remember the one across from Wheaton Plaza best. One Montgomery County native told me that in the 50s you could buy their famous burgers for .5 cents each, but most people remember the $5 bag of burgers from the 80s/90s. The best part…they were open 24 hours a day.

Today we’ll be recreating the famous “buy em by the bag!” burgers.

The most circulated version of the Little Tavern Burger recipe is this one found at It calls for:

  • 8 ounces ground beef, rolled into 1-ounce balls
  • teaspoons dehydrated onion, reconstituted in warm water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hamburger dills, sliced
  • 8 dinner rolls, sliced

After doing some research and reading comments from former employees, the only issue I found with the above recipe is that Little Tavern used “seasoning salt” for their burgers, not just “salt in pepper”.

We tried to recreate these burgers as close to the real thing as possible, right down to the dehydrated onions.  To start:

Place your one ounce burger balls on a heated pan or flat top grill.  Add a dash of the reconstituted onions and smash the burgers with spatula.  Cook for a minute or two, flip, and add seasoning salt. If you wanted to add cheese to the burgers, now would be the time. Cook another two minutes.

If you are fortunate enough to have a large flat top grill, toast the buns next to burgers when they are almost finished cooking. If not, toast the buns in the remaining grease after removing the burgers from the pan.

When the buns are toasted, add the pickle first and then the burger. Top with desired condiments. Little Tavern’s mustard was the topping of choice for most people back in the day.

If you want them as authentic as possible, you can keep them in a “steam drawer” so that the bun gets soft. Most of us don’t have steam drawers at home, so a slightly hot pan with a cover helps recreate that.

Toss them in a white paper bag and enjoy!

Here’s a few photos of what Little Tavern burgers might look like if they were being served in 2020:




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Jeffrey A Schmidt December 9, 2020 - 12:03 am

I know the daughter of the old owner she has the original building at he house in her garage she lives in Darnestown Maryland

Brenda January 1, 2021 - 3:50 pm

Can she take a picture of the building?


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