It’s the middle of lunch rush, but Andrew Taherzadeh is working the register with an admirable calm. One customer approaches the counter, empty mug outstretched like Oliver Twist, and Taherzadeh fills it with glacier-cold root beer without any exchange of words. Two hands means you can hold two plastic baskets heavy with cheeseburgers and fries. He announces the order, and then he’s back; the grill fizzles loudly with beef fat and the dripping cheese corners. He’s got the ease of a kid who’s been working the shift his entire life, because he has.
“Mustard and everything?” Taherzadeh asks a customer. He punches a few buttons, swipes a card and moves on. He was a little kid on the register when his family took over the burger joint almost 15 years ago.
Things cook fast inside Del’s Charcoal Burgers in Richardson, burgers and footsteps moving faster than the trends that typically bury this kind of joint. Around the city, we’ve lost classics. It would be a nauseating shame to lose Del’s Charcoal Burgers, which turns 61 this year. Del’s is the kind of place that lives outside time, where burgers have see-from-space grill marks, and the menu, yellowing and nearly blurry with age above the counter, stirs up a feeling akin to searching for a library book with the Dewey Decimal System.
And it’s the time of red plastic baskets inside Del’s. It’s one of the last breed of burger joints that makes its own damn root beer from scratch. When Taherzadeh’s dad took over, Del’s had been on a bit of a backslide. The previous owners used frozen beef and customers had dwindled. His dad — he goes by “Hoss,” Andrew Taherzadeh says — upgraded the beef, decorated the place with some Texicana. The fresh beef, dusted with a rub of paprika, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning and a handful of other spices, grills, as it always has been done, over flame-licked charcoal.
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On a recent visit, my first one ever at Del’s, I’m guided to try the “Texas Cheeseburger,” which has grilled bacon, jalapeños, cheese, mayo and barbecue sauce. It’s delivered in a few minutes, lines branded into the beef that are the deep black that comes from a long-seasoned grill. It’s good. The fries are bland as it gets, wanting a deluge of condiments, but no matter: You’re a Del’s customer for fire, grill smoke and chili dogs. You’re here because there’s a bottomless well of comfort for the burger joint that lives outside of the highway of trends, where root beer is served as cold as a melting glacier, where the “en” in “chicken sandwich” has fallen off the menu above the counter.
Diving into the burger, bacon that tastes like rocky fire in each bite, it disappears faster than I can touch a French fry. Plainly put, it's good as hell. A smarter soul would have ordered tater tots, and a Rembrandt asks them to be saddled with chili. Whatever you order, you’ll have your hot meal, fresh and cloaked in grill smoke, served faster than the urge will arise to check your phone.
Del's Charcoal Burgers, 10 S. McKinney St., Richardson.