Ten minutes after sunrise, if you time it right, you’ll hear the freshly ground burger patty hiss-sizzle on the flat grill. You might hear the clatter of metal spoons in coffee or the squawk of knives meeting plates beneath the steak and eggs, but you’re not at an all-night diner. This is the polished-up new Statler Hotel, and in the East Wing, you’ll find a morning cheeseburger that’s as farm-to-table as the sun coming up in the windows.
At Overeasy, chef and culinary director Graham Dodds and Rob McKee (now at Scout in the Statler) tuned their sandwich recipe until they hit the mark. They envisioned a diner-style patty melt: hard-seared beef patty with buttery, charred onions and melted cheese. They experimented with in-house grinds from 44 Farms, landing on a combination of inside round (the leg-rump region) and beef belly.
“I hate to use those charbroilers,” Dodds says. Fire grills may send out wonderful-smelling smoke and picturesque flames, but they allow beef fat to escape and die a hot, fiery death.
“Charbroilers just incinerate your food and don’t bring anything to it," he says. "I just put a cast-iron on them and get a nice crust.”
The best patty melts have mastered this crust. The all-time great melts, the ones that induce eight-hour comas, have fewer than five ingredients — including bread — and are executed with the care of someone who’s darkly familiar with the magic that happens when a lava-hot flat-top turns onions and beef into crusty things. Parlor on Commerce, for example, has one of Dallas’ most awe-inducing sandwiches. Jonathon’s in Oak Cliff has a beautiful, hibernating bear of a sandwich.
Chef Abel Munoz, who ran breakfast service at the shuttered Wayward Sons, is in the kitchen these days at Overeasy. My patty melt shows up before lunch, entangled with caramelized onions and bacon jam. Gruyere cheese cinches close to the patty, and the seeded rye is fluffy and scorched in the right places. Dodds' lesser-known magic trick is to brush mayonnaise over his bread in place of butter. Mayonnaise, it turns out, is the best butter.
“We don’t really tell anyone that,” he says with a laugh. “It just crusts up and gets this beautiful color to it.”
The patty melt, which is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., is diner simplicity served in a posh environment. It’s the best patty melt to eat in ostentatious hotel lobby chairs. It’s a transportation sandwich that’s the size of the Texas flag. Don’t expect medium-rare juices; the house-ground patty is flattened to meet the rye bread’s size. It’s spiked with 44 Farms beef bacon and embellished with a thick crust on the flat grill.
A few minutes after ordering, the sizzling sound fills the dining room. The best part of the sear is the mustard that’s fired right into the patty.
“I love to put the mustard on the burger and sear that as part of the crust,” Dodds says. “That’s a total rip-off on In-N-Out. I mean, that’s 'animal style.' But, you know, it works. It changes the crust. It takes on that magical tartness.”
The mustard acts as a defense mechanism to the richness. Halfway through the flag-sized sandwich, my brain asks me if I’m comfortable finishing the other half so early in the morning. The answer is yes.
Overeasy, 1914 Commerce St.