No offense to American cheese, but the slice of yellow doesn’t win every time. Don’t get us wrong. It’s a perfect bit of yellow creaminess. American cheese melts as expertly as a Salvador Dali clock. Your eyes swirl as you take a bite. None of that means it gets to be the default slice for every single burger on earth.
You’re familiar with the standard, oh-so-hot-right-now bar menu at this point: Among the poke tacos and bison charcuterie is a replica of a diner classic cheeseburger, enrobed in that nuclear yellow that exists nowhere else on the color spectrum. American cheese was delicious then, it’s perfect now and it will, going forward, continue to evoke the memory of Big Macs in the backseat of a car at the drive-thru.
Billy Can Can’s been paying attention. Like the bison head bolted to the ceiling, chef Matt Ford sees all: He’s seen the American cheese trend, and he is striking back with a salty circle of Longhorn cheddar. He’s doing other, more meticulous things too. His cheeseburger at Billy Can Can, a marvel of acid-fat-heat, is a true Dallas bull's-eye, a real Texas sandwich. It’s a burger that knows the trends and fires back with salty, tangy, sweet, crunchy the way John Wick throws a knife.
Ford tested every bun he could find at Empire Bakery. His research told him that squishy-soft is the right texture to buttress the beef. He ended up with a challah, given the superpower of ascorbic acid. The natural vitamin lends a softer, squishier texture. He toasts it hard on a little pond of butter.
Whole-grain Dijon mustard, the kind that pops and crackles like that addictive cereal, gets a lip-smacking foundation from a Community Mosaic, a grassy IPA. The beer is reduced with onions and garlic before it gets folded into the mustard.
One bit of nostalgia comes from chef Ford’s jalapeños. He pickles them in a solution of carrots and loads of cumin like the jarred stuff you’d by at the grocery store. “It kinda gives it a meatier flavor,” he says.
Sweet Texas onions cook down, caramelizing on the flat top before getting a bolt of sherry vinegar.
Bacon, despite its infamous allure, is easy to mess up. Bad bacon, like the kind you get at, say, Subway — that wispy stuff that’s disturbingly translucent — is a planet-sized letdown. Billy Can Can’s bacon is “outrageously smoky and salty” — a slab of Benton’s shaved as thin as a postcard. It crunches, adding snap and salt, without reducing the joy from a good beef patty.
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Chef Ford’s blend is from 44 Farms, a grind of shoulder clod and beef belly that’s as powerful as a punch from the Incredible Hulk. They double-grind the mixture, which gives the burger a smoother, almost creamy feel. They pat it into a 7-ounce mixture, seasoned cleanly with salt and pepper. The Longhorn cheddar is draped over the toppings to hold everything in place.
The point here: It’s work you can sense with a bite. The cheeseburger as a precision balance, salty-creamy counterpoised by heat and tang from the mustard and jalapeños. Despite the careful curation (and the price), it’s as unpretentious as a backyard-grilled patty.
Pulled up to the bar, it’s best with a beer and the side of hot, salty fries. The bar roars to life at 5 p.m. — grab a counter seat and enjoy the effort that goes into a new classic.
Billy Can Can, 2386 Victory Park Lane