We don't respect much here at the Dallas Observer, but when it comes to Texas barbecue, there's one guy whose word is holy writ: BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn, whose Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog is the go-to guide for sniffing out the best smoked meat in the state. So for Burger Week on City of Ate, who better to ask help us find that elusive creature, the real BBQ burger? Check out Vaughn's post below, and for more of the Deacon of Smoke's missives, mark your calendar for May 14. That's the release date for Vaughn's new book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat with photographer Nicholas McWhirter.
Where do you find a good barbecue burger in Dallas? Unlike Houston with Guy's Meat Market that smokes their burger patties, Dallas doesn't offer a truly smoked burger to my knowledge. There are plenty of burgers with ground brisket in the patty and even more slathered with barbecue sauce, bacon and/or onion rings and dubbed a "BBQ Burger." What I was seeking was simplicity rather than toppings. Meat cooked simply with fire, on a bun, naked and vulnerable.
Kenny Bowers will open a new barbecue joint in Plano next month, and maybe he'll do a smoked burger there. In the meantime I visited his eponymous Kenny's Wood Fired Grill in Addison. I ordered a burger to-go at the bar and found it curious that it came with a warm popover, but who was I to resist warm dough and soft butter? With only a few popover crumbs remaining on my shirt, I went over to the kitchen where they confirmed that the burgers were cooked directly over a hickory fire, unassisted by gas heat. Let's hope Kenny employs the same simple wisdom with his barbecue.
After so many barbecue meals eaten from a Styrofoam container on my trunk while out on countless barbecue road trips, it only seemed proper to enjoy this burger in the same fashion. Warmed by the sunlight and the asphalt I set my impromptu table while angry drivers passed by who were hoping for my spot to open up in a busy parking lot. After being in the box for just a minute or so, the ciabatta bun maintained its rugged surface and airy texture. Medium was the request for the meat, and they got it right. The bottom of the bun by now was pleasantly moist with meat juices, but still held together when I brought the burger to my mouth. The first bite was juicy all the way through. The surface of the meat had a solid crust with plenty of seasoning creating a rush of salty beef flavor. The meat stood out without toppings, dressings or cheese to muddy the flavors, and it didn't disappoint. This was smoky beefiness at its best. The bottom bun had by this point firmly adhered itself to the patty while the top bun retained a bit of crunch from the grill. I had only reached the midpoint of my contemplation by the time it was gone.
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I'm a purist about my barbecue, but I can't remember the last time I ate a burger without cheese before this one. Now I know to seek out a simpler burger more often, and Kenny's was a good place to start.