May is National Burger Month (yes, that's a thing) and to celebrate, we're spending an entire week celebrating what may well be Dallas' officially unofficial dish: the burger. From April 30 to May 8, writer Nick Rallo will explore every corner of Dallas burgers, from the grass-fed to the uber-greasy and even lab-grown. Grab a stack of napkins and join us.
It started with rationing.
Mariel Street was only getting so many cases per week of the Impossible Burger 2.0, the latest recipe of the lab-grown, plant-based, no-meat-whatsoever burger, so it was on Liberty Burger to limit offerings. Once the cases dried up, that was it. The demand grows more and more rabid — she’s not the only one sold out — and the date that Impossible Foods promised more kept getting pushed back. To hear Street talk about it, the Impossible Burger 2.0 is like a vaccine in a virus horror film: The people have taken to the streets, ready to carve up the rulebook the faceless corporation is telling them to use. Street says she’s been going through back channels, making hushed phone calls to purveyors to wheel and deal more Impossible patties.
“We’re just a step or two away from that,” when we joke about shadowed meetings in garages with trench coats, she says. “It’s just amazing how popular Impossible has become.”
Movie metaphors aside, it’s just one way Dallas’ best local burger chain is stepping in front of what’s coming. Liberty Burger has been ready for years to introduce new versions of the classic cheeseburger to adaptable meat-lovers. Street is doing exactly what a fast-food restaurant should do when the change comes thundering down.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she says of the surging love of Impossible and Beyond, another lab-grown meat option currently on the market — and whatever else comes next. Any beef option at Liberty can be swapped with bison for a fistful of dollars more and, along with the Impossible, is proving hard to keep in stock. Bison, in other words, is having a moment as a beef-like option. The Wild West, a cheddar-draped burger with bacon, pickles and onions hanging out in a restrained chipotle barbecue sauce, is one of Dallas’ best ways to eat a disc of bison.
The Chillerno, which comes with a pillow of soft queso blanco and a poblano pepper that claps you right out of the trance of rich cheesiness, is a stunner of a fast-food burger for less than 10 bucks. There’s enough fast-casual joints out there to feel stunned, and enough chains to leave you dumbfounded in a burger search: Liberty has been as reliable and sturdy as an oak tree.
And that’s why we keep leaning on Liberty Burger — they execute the bison, the Impossible or the tuna, even, with the same neighborhood, not-chain-even-though-they’re-a-chain feel as the simple beef cheeseburger, which costs six bucks and change minus fries.
Street hasn’t felt the pressure of a beef apocalypse looming just yet.
“Our beef prices have been relatively stable,” she says. “No one’s just going to quit eating beef.”
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Next month, Liberty will offer a burger with a patty that’s blended with 30% mushrooms. A recent study in World Resources Institute says cutting beef blends with 30% mushrooms could, if embraced, “reduce global agricultural land demand by more than 14,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Maryland.” It also reduces a stunning amount of water that beef production slurps from the planet.
If alternatives can help relax the pressure we're putting on animal production, maybe we won't have to quit beef.
“I think it’s exciting,” Street says.
Liberty Burger has locations in Lakewood, Forest Lane at Inwood, Richardson, Addison and Allen.