It’s tough to keep things simple in the burger capital of America.
In Deep Ellum, there are at least 15 burgers to choose from in the meat ecosystem that spans from Canton to Elm, not counting the beaver burger at Twisted Root. There’s a $22 burger in there somewhere. Executive chef Andrew Dilda (Reata, Barter) of Independent Bar & Kitchen, a restaurant that’s already smoking-hot with buzz at the corner of Main and Crowdus, delivers a burger with restraint.
I’m sitting in anticipation in a high chair facing the street, an unusually cool May breeze tumbling through the open-air bar area. Independent hasn’t been open long, and there’s already talk about its rustic European comfort food concept. The baked Scotch egg is a reported winner, which a couple next to me orders after hearing its description. How do you not order something described as “soft boiled egg wrapped in sausage”? At $13, Independent's burger is a 6-ounce patty dressed with Welsh rarebit — a bold, pourable cheese sauce like a Béchamel — and bacon.
Chef Dilda walks through the prep with me over the phone with the same casual restraint. The patty is certified Angus chuck, ground in-house, hit with salt and pepper. It sizzles on a volcano-hot flat top — “We inherited a super-hot flat top,” Dilda says with a chuckle — and is flipped once when it's ready. The bacon is house-cured too, packed with pepper, brown sugar and smoked over hickory wood. It’s sliced very thin for the burger, enough to have that stained glass look.
The Welsh rarebit, a cheese sauce I’d like to keep in a squeeze bottle on my belt like a revolver, gets a toasty melt. Pickles are cut like ribbons, with tomato, lettuce and onion on the side. Fries come with with a house mustard sauce that will make your eyes roll back like a shark.
Simplicity doesn’t mean laziness. This burger is thoughtful and bold without losing its focus. Bacon is flecked with pepper, the Empire bun is toasted on the flat top in butter and beef fat and pickles are curtain-thin, but the beef is still the star. That high-quality Angus chuck is rich and memorable. My patty was a touch over medium rare, possibly due to that magma-hot flat top — and I devoured the sandwich in minutes.
It’s a burger that doesn’t mind its competition. It knows what it’s doing.
Independent Bar & Kitchen, 2712 Main St.