“What’s your favorite food?” I hate this question. To expect someone to pick “a food” out of the endless horizons of today’s cuisine is ridiculous.
With that being said, my answer is a cheeseburger.
Lightly toasted buns and a juicy beef patty embraced by melted cheese create the foundation of a sandwich that has come to define food in the USA since the first half of the 20th century. Since its basic beginnings, the cheeseburger has evolved into a dynamic dish that can take on any number of ingredients in flavor profiles. If you’re like me, you’ve enjoyed burgers that range from the classic combination of the patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles to burgers topped with a lobster tail.
If you’ve been to Dallas, you can’t go far without passing somewhere that serves a cheeseburger. With so many options, it’s about time somebody broke down the Dallas burger scene. To do that, I’ll use the restaurants that serve burgers as my main category criteria. Let’s get cooking!
Category 1: The Classic Burger Joint
When you’re feeling that unique combination of hunger and nostalgia, look no further than Category 1. There are a couple of classic burger joints that, from what I can tell, have hardly changed in a city that certainly can’t say the same. To me, the quintessential classic burger joints in Dallas are Burger House and Keller’s Drive-in. I’ve heard excellent things about Maple and Motor, but I haven’t crossed it off my list yet. Sesame buns, perfectly cooked thin patties, a thin slice of cheese, and whichever classic ingredients you like on a burger. For me, that’s lettuce, onion, and mayo. The first bite makes me smile with the understanding of why things started here. The side of thin, crispy fries plays the supporting role brilliantly.
Category 2: The Gourmet Burger Joint
Eventually, someone realized that there are more ingredients that go well with beef and buns than lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and pickles. Enter thick-cut bacon, mushrooms, jalapeños, marmalades, green chile, and more! If you can dream it, you can do it! Dallas boasts an impressive handful of gourmet burger joints: Hop Doddy (originally from Austin), Grub, Rodeo Goat, Haystack and Barley, and Village Burger Bar to name a few. These restaurants top burgers with ingredients you’d never expect, but don’t let them scare you! If it’s on the menu, someone has to have tried and liked it, so there is a good chance you will too! My favorite burger at any of these restaurants isn’t too crazy. The Dougie at Village Burger Bar isn’t insanely creative. They pretty much just put breakfast onto a cheeseburger by adding bacon and a fried egg. That morning combination and their special sauce make this burger uniquely rich without straying too much from that original burger we all know and love. These burgers can surprise you, but they can just easily make you think, “how come nobody thought of this sooner?”
Category 3: The Non-Burger-Restaurant Burger
I saved the “non-burger-restaurant burger” for last because it’s my favorite and probably the least expected. These burgers can be in any type of restaurant, as long as they only sell one burger. These restaurants like serving a variety of dishes, but they respect the almighty cheeseburger too much to keep it off the menu. To me, these are some of the very best burgers in Dallas. They are typically modeled after the Category 1 burgers but elevated with a higher quality patty and some kind of specialty topping. Take Commissary, for example. The do-it-all downtown eatery features a classic cheeseburger spiced up with a jalapeño relish. I want you to think of this blog when you see a solitary burger on a restaurant menu. And give it some serious consideration! My favorite burger in Dallas is in this category. CBD Provisions’ Double Cheeseburger stacks grass-fed beef, “fancy sauce”, mustard, pickles, and caramelized onions on freshly baked buns. Familiar yellow cheese cascades down both patties. It’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s perfecting it.
I love cheeseburgers. They give chefs and cooks the opportunity to stick to a program or turn the program on its head. They give eaters the opportunity to relax, get a little messy, and sink their teeth into something savory and exciting. Regardless of the category, every cheeseburger should put a smile on your face.
I certainly didn’t mention every restaurant where I’ve enjoyed a burger. But if there is a burger out there that you think I absolutely must try, let me know!