It begins, as some of the best meats do, behind pit doors. A ground beef patty snoozes for a while inside a sauna of smoke. The hand-formed beef discs, dusty from Lakewood Smokehouse’s barbecue seasoning, rest in a gray cloud until they’ve hit a rosy-middle temperature. If you like your burger encrusted and char-gray throughout, it'll be seared on the flat-top.
“We don’t push it down,” says general manager Matt Unger. “We don’t squeeze the juices out. Other than that, it’s pretty much just smoking it.”
Two years ago, Lakewood Smokehouse's smoked burger was an off-menu option hidden in chalk scrawl on a board outside the restaurant. Now, it's serving five of the biggest, most mountainous-with-beef-flavor cheeseburgers in East Dallas. They're hidden in plain sight on a barbecue-heavy menu. Pizzas and tacos and giant brisket sandwiches are fine. The burgers are giants.
Aside from the flourishes of toppings, the cheeseburgers at Lakewood Smokehouse are mostly lighthouses of nonsense-free simplicity. You’ll find bacon that breaks like a fist through movie glass. Mushrooms, coated in a simmered-down wine sauce — less funk and more earthy tang — are found on the cabernet burger. The Elvis patty carries an onion ring the size of Mount Doom, brisket and barbecue sauce erupting from the fried heart. One look into its eye will send you spiraling into madness.
Still, the ground beef, packed in heavy patties, is meat-eaters' joy. Smoke and salt are the primary flavors, like bright colors that you can visualize. The smoke layer is strong but fine. It’d be easy for Lakewood Smokehouse to overwhelm a lesser patty with a brutal flood of barbecue smoke, punch a burger-eater’s windpipe and dry the patty into a steamed sock texture. Instead, Lakewood bathes the packed ground beef patty for a few minutes, wraps it up to preserve the fatty juices and serves it under a curtain of melted cheese.
“We always practice with our smoker,” Unger says. “Once we did our burger for the first time, it took off.”
On a recent visit, I’m sitting with the Bleu Lou. It’s a smoked beef patty topped with melted blue cheese crumbles, bacon and red onion. Barbecue sauce is perfect for the tree-trunk-sized fries. The meat is ground beef, but it tastes as lavish as wagyu. Buttery challah bun secures every bite, and the bacon is crisp. Half of the sandwich is gone in a blink, earthly problems disappearing under a wave of smoke because the best meats have that power.
Lakewood Smokehouse, 1901 Abrams Road (East Dallas)