There are four items on the menu at Sky Rocket Burger: A single, double, and triple cheeseburger and a grilled cheese. On Scott and Tio Wagner’s 4-foot griddle, there’s little room for anything else. The restaurant's walls are have little more than a coat of white paint: Photos of their cheeseburgers, aligned under the TV-screen menu in a row like they're glamour photos of their kids, are the only pieces of art on the wall for the moment. An industrial stainless steel sink sits next to the soda fountain — the space used to be a dry cleaners. On the day I’m feasting on a cheeseburger, the air-conditioning is busted — and quickly fixed — the front door open to accept the breeze.
This week, the Wagners will celebrate four months (around) of opening their first burger joint. Scott Wagner’s behind the sizzling griddle at the moment, firing cheeseburgers, and Tio’s working the register, running steam-hot food, and being all-around joyous, to customers. They moved to Dallas a year ago. Wagner was in car sales in Southern California.
“We were on the lot and we’re always talking. You know everyone in the car business wants to get out of it.” Wagner says with a laugh, “I was talking about opening a restaurant.” One of his manager’s mentioned that a buddy was swimming in success with a new burger venture. His manager told Wagner, “Yeah, just keep it simple.”
The advice stuck like Velveeta. Sky Rocket’s space is pushed into a mini-strip mall directly off of the George Bush Turnpike, the view from the front door is an Exxon Mobil station. Wagner batted around a couple of concepts for the spot: A bagel joint in the morning that turns into a pizza oven at night? Tio Wagner is Indonesian, and she has a sensational fried chicken recipe that asks for no flour or egg, so the poultry theme was explored. He remembered a burrito spot in LA that had a line out of the door every day. “It wasn’t fancy and people didn’t care. You went there for the taste and the flavor. The food is the star.”
He grinds Angus beef, a mix of chuck and brisket, in-house. The fresh grind, a quarter pound, balls up and presses into the hot flat-grill. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper. A local bakery sends over a fluffy sesame seed bun, which gets real butter and a hard toast. Things are what they are at Sky Rocket — there's no hiding or reimagining.
“You go to some of the fancier places, and you get a bacon cheeseburger and they’ll put the bacon on like an 'x'," he says. "And it’s not even crispy. I’ve never understood that.”
The Wagner's cheeseburger is minimalism meets thoughtful execution. It's a ballgame burger. It's a home burger, done right. French fries, most with charred skins still on, are tall and fried to wall-to-wall crunchiness. Swipe them into Sky Rocket’s “secret sauce,” and your day will improve.
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Wagner’s no chef, and this is first meat rodeo.
“I want to have a spot where if you want a juicy burger that’s where you’re going,” Wagner says. “Being a guy is not made of, you know, gillions of dollars, it was a spot I can get into.”
Will they add more to their menu? It’s hard to imagine. There’s only so much room on their four-foot griddle, and, right now, that’s a very good thing.
Sky Rocket Burger, 7877 Frankford Road