Bourdain, who died in 2018, said a perfect burger has three key factors: a soft squishy potato bun, well-ground, good-quality beef and "more often than not" processed meltable cheese. A good ol' slice of American cheese. He also notes that a squashed "grey" patty in the In-N-Out model is also perfect. That's it.
Herein lies the beauty of what Bourdain says, which mimics many of the great burgers around Dallas: It's not a CVS receipt of components. A perfect burger is simple yet satisfying. Humble.
Following is an updated list of some of the best burgers in Dallas, most of which line up with Bourdain's three key factors. But this is Dallas and so, yes, some are doused in queso, piled with bacon or have a dab of shallot marmalade. But you'll find one commonality: Most of these burgers start with a nice proper hunk of meat, usually ground in-house, and a soft bun, usually sourced from a local bakery. Let's eat.
8305 Westchester Drive (Park Cities)
AT Bistro in University Park opened last summer with a menagerie of cuisines: French, creole, classic Americana and whatever category a kimchi Reuben falls into. What really sets AT Bistro's burger apart from the pack is the 80/20 lean-to-fat, medium-grind blend sourced from Custom Meats on Lovers Lane, which uses New York strip steak and other dry-aged meats. That high-fat content gets stitched in while searing on the grill, which is key to a (we don't use this word wantonly) juicy burger. The smash-style burger ($18) comes with two 4-ounce patties, AT Bistro sauce, sautéed onions, American cheese and shredded iceberg lettuce nestled inside a sesame bun. Party tip: it's only $11 during happy hour.
87 Highland Park Village (Highland Park)
Listen, we know what you’re thinking: two French bistros right out of the gate? Oui. When it comes to Bistro 31, you need to throw any Francophile burger qualms out the window. This Highland Park restaurant uses a blend of whole brisket and chuck, ground in-house, with some New York strips and filet mignon thrown in for good measure. And let’s talk toppings: Tillamook cheddar, house-made pickles, aioli, Bibb lettuce, beef steak tomato and red onion all piled high on a brioche bun from Empire Baking Co. Sure, it’ll set you back $21, but just let it happen: laissez-faire fare.
2536 MLK Jr. Blvd. (South Dallas) and 2120 N. St. Augustine Road (Pleasant Grove)
Blackjack Pizza might be the ultimate sleeper hit of the Dallas burger scene, with the namesake pizza taking a back seat. These are simple burgers — chunky patties seared on a grill, then loaded with thick slices of tomatoes and onion — reminiscent of the kind Mom or Dad made on long weekends. You can get a double for less than $10, but the single patty cheeseburger is plenty for a meal and just $6.50. Go for the side of onion rings. But don't forget Blackjack is cash only and is closed on Sundays.
Craft and Growler, 3601 Parry Ave. (Fair Park)
Dave Culwell is a musician with a grilling problem. After years of cooking for his family and friends, sometimes bemoaning more "burger schmurgers," he got really good at it. His daughter suggested he take his burger game on the road, so he started popping up at breweries, and the concept caught fire [flame emoji]. Now you can catch these smashed burgers at Craft and Growler, where Culwell uses an 80/20 mix, pressing and searing the beef and onions together on a hot griddle. A slice of cheese goes over the patty while it's on the grill, dissolving into the beef and fat, rendering abstract expressionist carnivorous art. Go for the Maverick: two patties with smoked bacon jam held together with hope and a toasted buttery bun. Wash it all down with Craft and Growler's Schmurger Blonde.
6818 Snider Plaza (Park Cities)
Douglas Bar and Grill
Douglas Bar and Grill is making a name for itself with barbecue and Southern cooking, but the burgers are no sideshow. The Douglas is the most expensive burger on this list at $25, but that's because it's mammoth and made with two wagyu smash patties loaded with pimento cheese, barbecue sauce and either brisket or pulled pork. If that doesn't work into your budget, hit up happy hour (Monday to Friday, 4–6 p.m.), where the more modest smash burger with those same double wagyu patties, cheese and caramelized onions is just $10 (it's $19 at lunch). Get an order of the pimento fries topped with bacon while you're at it.
1154 Peavy Road (East Dallas)
Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House
Goodfriend is a signature piece of East Dallas. It's well worn, like those favored old Adidas or jeans, but still has energy and pep. The meat here is a proprietary blend (that means it's secret and they're not sharing) of all-Texas beef. Goodfriend boldly has a burger named for the ever-wandering chef, Anthony Bourdain. Fortunately, it's worthy. Chef David Pena builds this burger with two 6-ounce smashed patties and double American cheese is simply dressed with Kewpie mayo, pickles, lettuce and tomato. And it's perfect.
1928 Greenville Ave. (Lower Greenville)
HIDE originally opened in Deep Ellum and closed during the pandemic, but it recently reappeared on Greenville Avenue. Luckily, they double bubble-wrapped the OG Double Cheeseburger for the move. This stellar burger is made from a blend of brisket and chuck and slathered with caramelized beer onions, pickles and garlic aioli on a brioche bun, giving it a touch of sweetness. Head over during happy hour so you can score this beast for only $7; otherwise, it's $15, which includes a side of fries.
Do you surf and turf? Then Hudson House is the perfect spot for you. This bougie destination with several outlets in Dallas and one in Beverly Hills is known for its killer seafood options and coastal vibe, but don't miss the Hudson House Cheeseburger. It's the stuff of legend. Two 80/20 thin patties are each topped with a slice of American cheese, thick-cut pickles, onions and Hudson Sauce, a house-made spicy version of Thousand Island dressing. During happy hour (weekdays, 3–6 p.m., bar only) the burger is only $10. Consider getting a side of macaroni and cheese.
5809 Preston Road, Plano, and 1377 Legacy Drive, Frisco
Kenny's Burger Joint
This joint is an offshoot of the upscale restaurant Kenny's Wood Fired Grill, where the burgers were magic. After more than a few customer suggestions, founder Kenny Bowers opened Kenny’s Burger Joint, using the same hickory wood-burning grill for half-pound patties. The Bud’s Queso Burger ($11.99) is a behemoth with bacon, sautéed onions and jalapeños all blessed in queso; you'll need a knife, fork and possibly a spoon to finish it. Another favorite is the Black and Blue ($11.99) with Cajun spices and blue cheese dressing combining spice with a pungent and tangy twist. And if you’re looking for a good kick in the pants, try the seasonal Hatch Green Chile Burger.
Ah, Liberty Burger, where some of the burgers are so messy, you need a bib to eat them. This locally owned spot uses a custom beef blend of chuck, tenderloin and brisket. With 11 different specialty burgers, you can try a different one every day of the week and still have leftovers. Feeling hungover? The Nooner is the perfect cure, with a slice of American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, ham, hash browns and a fried egg. And let’s not forget the Baby Bella burger, with sautéed mushrooms, a big onion ring, basil garlic aioli and so much queso it will drip down your hands, a sure sign of a great feast. And don't skip the sweet potatoes dusted in a house spice.
4810 Maple Ave. (Medical District)
Maple & Motor
Jack Perkins opened his humble burger abode in 2009, thinking it was going to be a side hustle to his teaching gig. Needless to say, Maple & Motor is a full-time hustle. The burgers — priced to sell at just $8.75 — are a mix of brisket and chuck seared on a hot griddle, turned once; Perkins does not have time to fuss with things. The meat-to-fat ratio here has no shame. On a recent social media job post, the restaurant boasted about having their highest sales ever in 15 years of business, which in a city that loves to chase a social media trend is a testament to getting the simple things right. This is just a damn good burger.
Meridian5650 Village Glen Drive (The Village)
Meridian may serve a fancy-pants four-course prix-fixe menu in the main dining area, but let’s not forget about the bar offerings, specifically the X-Tudo [sheesh-tu-du] Burger. Two Rosewood wagyu beef patties coalesce with Gruyere, a maitake aioli and slightly sweet shallot marmalade, all nestled in a sourdough potato bun that's made in-house. It's $17, and you may think you can share one, but don't do that; this burger is not for sharing (lesson learned). For a side, get the Brazilian grilled Beach Cheese: a long stick of cheese served warm with a drizzle of hot honey over it. This isn't a meal, it's an experience.
132 N. Peak St. (East Dallas)
The Peak Inn
The Peak Inn is like that cool older cousin who lets you do things your parents wouldn’t. It’s a grown-up’s bar with Stone Temple Pilots on the jukebox and vintage Coors signs that somehow still work. It takes us back to a time when, let's be honest, we were all a little less stressed. The burgers here are taken seriously (all the food is, for that matter) but not like $27-serious. The Lil' Kahuna Burger is a house favorite and is $10.50 with fries. Two one-third-pound patties (ground in-house) come with from-scratch Thousand Island dressing along with a slice of American cheese. Local bakery Signature Baking provides the bun, which is buttered and toasted. The kitchen stays open until 1:30 a.m. every night. Mom might not like you being out so late, but blame it on that cousin.
Rodeo Goat offers some fantastic burgers as part of its regular menu, but the Battle of the Burgers reigns. Each month they introduce two contenders in a head-to-head competition. Your order equals one vote, and democracy never tasted so good. The winner gets bragging rights and, in some cases, becomes the burger to beat the following month. For May it's The Rebel versus The Empire. The Rebel is a thick all-beef patty topped with Mexican street corn, queso fresco, cilantro and lime mayo on a brioche bun. The Empire comes with two smash patties, sliced roast beef, provolone, Guinness Stout onions, red bell peppers and horseradish mayo served on a torta roll with a dark au jus for dipping. We recently took both on and The Empire reigned supreme.
Sky Rocket Burger
Sky Rocket Burger is the type of joint that brings you right back to your childhood; as soon as you walk in scents from the well-seasoned grill hit you. They use quarter-pound Angus beef patties, all ground on-site. It’s not fancy like the burgers you see on Instagram, but it doesn't need to be. Nothing is bungled by being overdesigned. A single with cheese is $7.49. But if you're looking to play a little, pay attention to the add-ons like spicy mayo, a secret sauce, grilled jalapeños or onions. Or get all of them — yes, do that. Get all of them.
2615 S. Beckley Ave. (Oak Cliff)
Wingfield’s Breakfast & Burger
Burgers here start at $10, and a double with bacon combo will run you a full $20 — not for bougie reasons, but because it's so much food. Wingfield's has challenge-level servings. We ordered a double with bacon just to show the kids, "See there? That's how they do it at Wingfield's," and they'll always remember that day and place. Wingfield's has been smashing huge meat patties on the grill since the mid-'80s and has acquired a large following who patiently hawk parking spaces and then hop into the tiny spot to pick up orders. You can (and should) order ahead online. Despite the name, Wingfield's doesn't serve breakfast and is closed on Sundays.
(Editor's Note: This list was originally published on May 18, 2022 and was updated May 24, 2023.)