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    Mixing passion and creativity: MELT takes the gourmet burger to the next place

    Leesburg-based MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers has won multiple local awards for their beefy creations. Contributed Photo/David Ives
    Nudging aside hot dogs and pizza, Americans rank hamburgers as their No. 1, according to Fitness Republic in October 2013. According to their survey, we eat on average three burgers a week, for a total annual consumption of 13 billion burgers in a year. That’s a lot of beef, and somewhere in there Leesburg’s haute hamburger place, MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers, can account for its fair share.

    Winner of several local awards, MELT is the brainchild – maybe inspiration is a better description – of the husband-wife team, Steve and Debbie Hancotte.

    Although they intended to retire, the couple decided they were too young to give up what they loved the most, the restaurant world. Having settled in Brambleton, they tossed around several ideas, such as a hot dog joint, a gourmet hamburger place and a small seafood eatery, said Steve Hancotte. They looked at what the competition might be in the Leesburg area.

    To their surprise, at that time, about three years ago, there were no hamburger restaurants nearby.

    “Other hamburger restaurant owners thought that hamburgers would not be big sellers here,” said Steve Hancotte. “So we presented our idea to the landlord, who said he wanted a burger place….We knew we wanted a niche, so we would not be duplicating a McDonald’s.” Of course, he added, as soon as others saw how successful MELT had become, other hamburger restaurants moved in, too.

    Regardless of any competition, what sets MELT apart from anyone else are the awesome burgers, so oversized that one burger could probably stretch for two meals …maybe. While you can order one that’s plain, one that you create or maybe a burger topped with several different cheese add-ons, such as the Gorgonzola-bacon burger, it's the flavor combos that capture the audience. Take, for example, the Greek lamb burger with roasted garlic and Greek feta cheese, or the fire-roasted green chile burger with roasted garlic, fire-roasted green chiles, crispy bacon and Tillamook cheddar cheese.

    And that just focuses on the toppings. What about the tuna burger, the bison burger (once a special, and now a permanent fixture), the lump crab burger and the veggie burger? All this underscores how chef/owner Steve Hancotte has pushed the envelope.

    The obvious question for him is this: How do you come up with these creations? A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the chef-owner of two long-term restaurants, he has plenty of experiences to guide and inspire him, he explained. “He thinks gourmet. He thinks creative,” added Debbie Hancotte. “That is his passion.”

    The couple said that Fridays and weekends are “crazy-busy,” with lines that may extend out the door. But besides the food, one other factor may appeal to many of MELT’s patrons: the décor. “We love animals, always had them. We do whatever we can for them,” said Debbie Hancotte.

    So the couple decided to line the walls with photos of homeless animals housed at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter. “Every few weeks, the shelter emails us photos of new ones there,” said Debbie Hancotte.
    “And we have them blown up. We don’t take tips because we have a box for money for shelter animals. We send over $900 a month to them. We draw a huge clientele of animal lovers, who will do anything for the animals.”

    With all this going for them, no wonder MELT wins awards.

    MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers, Bellewood Commons,
    525 E. Market St., Suite J, Leesburg

    Pico De Gallo

    The owners of MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers shared their recipe for their awesome pico de gallo. This yields 2 quarts, but you can cut the amounts in half for a smaller portion. The restaurant uses this on the Tex-Mex burgers.

    3 cups diced red onions
    7 tomatoes, seeded and diced
    3 jalapeños, seeded and diced
    1 cup chopped cilantro
    ½ cup lime juice
    3 tablespoons roasted garlic purée
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    1 tablespoon coarse black pepper

    Combine the red onions, tomatoes, jalapeños and cilantro together in a large bowl, stirring well. Combine the lime juice, garlic purée, sugar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Toss the two mixtures together.
    Refrigerate until ready to use.
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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

    Loudoun Business Journal - Spring 2014