Dude Food: Dairy Palace isn't Quite Fit for a King
2301 N. Trade Days Blvd.
Dude Factor: 5, or Antiques Roadshow, on a scale of 1 (Cash In The Attic) to 10 (Pawn Stars).
The little missus and I recently found ourselves with an unexpectedly free weekend and a serious case of wanderlust, so we pulled out a map and decided on a destination for a quick day trip. We landed on the Pineywoods metropolis of Tyler where we'd eventually visit a state park, a nice zoo, a fancy Mexican joint in a mansion where you could get a burrito stuffed with a chile relleno, and a badass tiger sanctuary where we got to see Michael Jackson's old tiger, I shit you not.
But before we made it to Tyler, we had to stop for lunch, and the Dairy Palace beckoned with promises of "world famous hamburgers" and 32 flavors of Blue Bell. I remembered healthy crowds here when I visited as a child, but having forgotten that it was the final first Monday weekend before Christmas, little prepared me for the onslaught we'd find when we entered the place, which was packed with truckers, people in Christmas sweaters and a guy wearing one of these boingy hats.
We ordered two burgers, onion rings and freedom fries, which I'd never actually seen on a menu before (the Dairy Palace also has freedom toast, while the gas station next door has a bathroom vending machine that dispenses freedom ticklers). A few minutes later, a girl came strolling through the dining area yelling "order for Noah," which was charming in a way, though it must be really confusing when more than one Jerry Lee shows up. This is Canton, after all.
The burgers were perfectly satisfactory, but hardly seemed like "world famous" fare, especially considering how well done they were. The first bite of my bacon cheeseburger was promising, but each bite thereafter grew more tiresome. I finally gave up when I hit one of those unidentifiable rocks of fat/spice/grill dust that occasionally pop up in a diner burger. Still don't know what it was -- don't really wanna know, either.
As for the freedom fries, they were limp and undercooked. But then again, maybe I'm just a commie. The onion rings, however, were something worth fighting for, crisp and bursting with flavor.
Unfortunately, we bailed without getting ice cream, but not before checking out the community boards full of FFA animal portraits and the ridiculously small two-holer restrooms (there were like, 200 people in the Palace that day; you would think they could afford to add some urinals.) All in all it was a worthy people watching excursion, but hardly a meal fit for a king.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.