Earlier this year Toque brought you the throw-down between up-and-coming chain Five Guys Burger and the Oak Cliff standard, Wingfield's Breakfast and Burger. It was a messy proposition that actually took us to many burger fronts all in one day. We visited Smashburger and Mooyah, as they were new entries into the high-end burger market, and our goal at that time was to see if these glitzy burger fronts could compare to an old reliable such as Wingfield's.
As you might imagine, or possibly remember -- they couldn't.
For whatever reason, be it the economy or just our desires for simpler things in life, people across the country are reaching out for their inner-burger. Even our svelte president has fallen victim to the craze and was seen ordering Five Guys during the filming of a NBC special look at the White House.
We are pretty sure that it was the first and only time you will see Obama blazing a trail to order a burger. The president was not too happy with his handlers at the time and left them to order for themselves as he paid for his own meal, saying, "One cheeseburger and one fries for me." No burger bailout for the Secret Service gents that round.
In the past year we have been inundated with burgers of all types. The chef-driven burger phenomenon is no exception. We recently enjoyed the giant Stephan Pyle's hickory smocked Kobe burger on a house-made brioche that is a bargain for 10 bucks when you consider it comes with a giant haystack of finely shredded onion rings and an assortment of pickles made by the Pyles staff. Blythe Beck's smoked Gouda Kobe burger over at Central 214 (a tad pricier at $13.50) is another good burger in the cheffy world.
It is no secret that we adore the Maple Motor Burger experience that Jack Perkins built. That burger stands out in a league of its own with its crispy grilled buttery bun and the dribble-down-your-arm meaty juiciness that makes you eat quicker to avoid total collapse and possible loss of pickle. This burger rivals our memories of the late Prince of Burgers that graced Lemmon Avenue in Dallas for so many years. If we could only convince Jack to convert his behemoth parking lot into a drive-in.
And Lord we do love The Stodg at Henderson Avenue's Porch with its foie-buttered bun and added fried egg for the self-saucing effect. This is the Sunday-go-to-meetin' burger that will miraculously cure a hangover and comes with its own glory hallelujah chorus and string of flittering cherubs proffering sea-salted fries at no extra charge.
Then we have the greatest hype to hit Texas since Yao Ming -- the coming of In-N-Out Burger. This Southern California chain has been playing with the emotions and appetites of Texans all summer, claiming to be on the move towards Garland with no hint at an opening date. This gives cause for cheers to the diasporic minions from Southern California as they whet their appetites for the much ballyhooed 3x3 animal-style burger from its secret menu.
This leads us to today's challenge, which we will call The Burger Battle Round Two: Farnatchi Gourmet Oven vs. Square Burger.
Farnatchi has a varied Mediterranean-influenced menu that includes salads (the arugula with fresh pears, dates, walnuts and balsamic is killer) and hand-tossed pizzas. The laham-majoon is a lamb laden pie that resembles a pizza only in shape, and will have you begging for a dash of za'atar instead of the usual bogus Parmesan found in many pizza joints.
The true star of this BYOB haunt, located on the service road north of Knox Street, is the burger. Tasting the burger for the first time, your Toque-boy screamed out joyous chords. The burger is a seasoned, hand-formed meat patty with a buried treasure -- a surprise slice of mozzarella -- and is slathered with a harissa-infused sauce. The burger is then dressed with fresh, juicy tomatoes and arugula and topped with a crisp kaiser roll that is firm enough to hold fast to its beefy innards and yet fresh and yielding.
The burger is served with a choice of pan-crisped potatoes or a monstrous salad. The lunch special makes the burger-salad combo a steal at $8.
This is a great specialty burger and can only be followed up with another, so we headed north on Central Expressway to McKinney where our own Hanna Raskin assures us we can find another delicious burger on the downtown square. The restaurant is called Square Burger, after its location, not the shape of the burger.
Square Burger is breathy and bright with its scattered tables, clean lines, long bar and a huge choice of quality beers on tap. It serves grass-fed, fresh-ground Genesis beef. There are several combinations of the burger that is made by an honest-to-goodness CIA trained chef. How fortunate for me, since I like my burgers grass-fed and my burger makers trained in the art of espionage (just kidding, it's the other CIA that cranks out great chefs).
I order a fairly standard burger to suss out Square's basic quality, but eyeballed the lamb burger and reserved that for another visit. This day I wanted something simple yet unctuous enough to satisfy my burger craving.
The burger was simple with its sides of ketchup and mustard, adorned with a fresh Empire bakery bun (that's a good thing) and served with a side of hand-made onion rings and a complimentary fried pickle. No, not the usual lame and limp pickle chip that has taken a dip in batter and a swim through the fry vat. This was a crisp full length quartered spear that could win a Toque challenge on its own accord.
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The burger was fresh and meaty, made perfectly medium rare and topped with one of Paula Lambert's spicy cheeses. As with most really great burgers of this nature, the beef was the star of the show and didn't require a saucy song and dance to bring home the praises. When at Square Burger, and you really should pay them a visit, be sure to try a Franconia that is brewed not far from the square in McKinney. The pairing makes perfect sense.
Today's burger challenge was fun to be sure, giving us cause to try some of the new burgers in the area and revisit some old favorites in the name of research. For its simple divinity and reverence to what makes a burger truly special, we award today honors to Square Burger. Sometimes simplicity is all we need.
3001 Knox St.
115 N. Kentucky St., McKinney