The Thinking Carnivore’s Hero

Last Chance impresses even the ultimate burger snob.

What: Cheeseburger, brisket and bean chili, classic meat chili, and smoked-jalapeño mac 'n' cheese (yes, I had help). Where: Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack & Watering Hole, 5606 First Ave. S., 762-7900, GEORGETOWN. Cost: $41.73 (with fries and two sodas). Official Tasting Notes: Last Chance co-owner Michael Lucas is the thinking carnivore's hero. While some burger purveyors brag about the fact that their meat has never been frozen, Lucas cuts straight to the matter of what really makes the difference: freshly ground meat. Freshly ground means hand-formed patties that are butter-tender on the inside but with a perfectly seared crust on the outside, and a loose construction that results in both seasonings and smoke permeating the meat beautifully. Such gorgeous architecture is not to be fucked with, and accordingly, the cheese is thoroughly melted, the shredded iceberg lettuce is uniformly crisp, the bun is toasted just ever so slightly, and the rich, smoky sauce doesn't conflict with the star ingredient. I'm a complete burger snob, and this one blew me away. In a bilateral use of ingredients, Lucas also makes an excellent classic ground-beef chili, with a strong, straightforward flavor, that's suited for either gracing one of Slim's Kobe beef hot dogs or nestling in a cup with a contrasting dollop of sour cream and a pinch of fresh chives. Brisket is the star of the menu at Lucas' neighboring Pig Iron Bar-B-Q (Slim's opened as a drinking and live-music annex in February), so it's no surprise that marrying the beef with pinto beans, dense tomato sauce, and thoughtfully chosen spices would result in a triumph of reincarnation. Accessories are unnecessary, but I couldn't resist dressing mine up with cheddar cheese, sour cream, fried tortilla strips, and diced tomato. The mac 'n' cheese unfolds in unexpected ways, with a creaminess that is never cloying, a sharp dose of what appears to be white cheddar, and that deceptively slow-burning end note of smoked jalapeño. Addictive and potentially dangerous. HANNAH LEVIN

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