There is griddle smoke, fresh paint on the walls and, somewhere back there, jars of Jif Peanut Butter.
At the counter, the line cooks work behind walls of smoky steam that pistons up from the hot griddle. The sound before the lunch rush is the crackle of bacon and burger patties like a record player needle off the groove. Jon Aisner roams the kitchen, eyeing the cheeseburger that’s getting wrapped like Christmas in paper. The burger’s set, gently, in a basket, and slides in front of me. He’s watching the burger like a hawk because it’s his baby.
It’s a new cheese- and bacon-topped burger that’s sentimental and carefully constructed. Behold it: the peanut butter, bacon, American cheese and hard-seared beef burger is a jaw-droppingly good collision of salty and sweet, and creamy and crunchy. It’s frustratingly good: You’ll wonder why you’re only now being introduced to peanut butter, the creamy stuff, as a burger condiment. What evil genius has been hiding how good American cheese, beef and peanut butter can be?
Aisner ate his peanut butter burger once a week, at least, as a line cook at gone-too-soon Tried and True. Now, six years after Off-Site Kitchen became one of Dallas’ most astonishingly good — and inexpensive — burgers, he is a general manager. Off-Site opened in the Design District in 2012 and moved to Trinity Groves about three years ago, and a couple of months back, Aisner helped Off-Site refresh the menu, refresh the paint and resurrect the PB&J and bacon cheeseburger that’s his passion.
Hang on, is peanut butter having a moment in Dallas? Weeks ago, Cold Beer Company spread Jif on a hot dog. They added hot pickles, too. It woke our minds up. There’s a peanut butter Old Fashioned at Texas Live! At Off-Site, some patrons stroll in, Aisner tells us, and are hit with the memory of a peanut butter burger they've downed in New Orleans. This is Dallas’ peanut butter gem, resplendent with golden American cheese. We can cloak our shoulders in the flag that bears the mark of yellow cheese, bacon and peanut butter. We own this. The good news is it's not going anywhere, as long as it sells. Rest your sweet, weary head and order it.
At the counter, an elderly solo-diner to my right, diving into his classic cheeseburger, is instantly skeptical. “It’s one of those things that sounds like it could work," he chuckles.
It does. Onions sleep in Worcestershire sauce until they’re good and sweet. Jalapeno pepper jam is a translucent amber beneath the griddle-encrusted — locking medium rare juices inside — chuck patty. A slice of unmelted yellow American hangs above the patty, and there’s a couple of planks of crispy bacon. The peanut butter, smoothed by the heat, finds those charred, fire-sparkled beef juices.
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“Yeah, we’re not making our own peanut butter,” Aisner says. “There’s a lot of ways I can waste my time; making my own peanut butter is not one of them.”
They use the Jif creamy blend, the peanut butter that’s probably half-empty in your pantry right now. The thick saltiness of peanuts finds a dart of jalapeno jam. It’s a nudge of heat, just enough to light up your mind in that way a new flavor profile can turn on the electricity.
It’s light years away from being novelty. Your skepticism will melt as soon as it's in front of you. It is, easily, the right kind of insane.
Off-Site Kitchen, 331 Singleton Blvd #100.