It’s been 20 years since his restaurant opened, and Mike Snider is just now finding the room for a cheeseburger.
In 2000, he held a “restaurant shower” — the community showed up with booths and tables and slices of tile that were headed for the dumpster, because Deep Ellum adapts. Things evolve in new spaces, and the pieces change into something else. One commandment of his little cafe included the words “no TVs, no fries and no burgers.” One of those things changed a couple of months ago. Burgers, like the line in Jurassic Park, find a way.
At rush hour, the available metered parking spots vanish. At 5 p.m. on Main Street, AllGood Cafe, the storm of nightlife is just off the coastline. The wind’s picking up, and the traffic’s hollering down the street. The lights are still off in Snider’s hodge-podge dining room. In a couple of hours, he’ll have an acoustic band on the stage, and the place will be blazing.
“Medium rare!” is called to the cook, and the griddle wakes up with a hiss. A thick disc of ground chuck (80/20 blend of beef and fat) gets a stern sear. Two slices of Vermont cheddar drape over the patty, and the rest of the ingredients — chips, not fries, a handful of horseradish pickles and good tomatoes; it’s an homage to the cheeseburger at The Grape — rest on the side.
Breakfast has been booming for Snider — he can’t keep his griddle clear of pancakes — but dinnertime is slower. Especially on the weeknights. Down the street, there are bowling alleys and coal-black margaritas. Snider’s banking on folks being drawn to the flame of a charred cheeseburger.
“We just decided: Why not?” he sums it up.
Why isn’t the burger available all day? Blame the pancakes — they’re in such high demand that he can’t make room for the burger until the end of breakfast.
It’s worth the wait — the burger is a shining thing. It glistens with juices, sending stellar flavor into the soft pain au lait bun. The white cheddar is sharp, a jab of salt that fuses to the patty. It’s both smoky and charred.
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You’ll want to add the horseradish pickles, and definitely the tomato slice: They’ve got a thick-sliced, farmy thing that will remind you of summer BLT sandwiches (AllGood’s crunchy pepper bacon comes with it, too). It comes with an aioli side that’s unnecessary — the sparkling grease becomes its own condiment on the buttered bun. This is a burger that clears out the clutter of the mediocre ones. It’s a two-hander. It’s a real forget-the-rush-hour burger.
So, Snider adapts the menu. There’s a new, classically done club sandwich (you’ve got to admire a place that answers “club sandwich” when you ask what’s new). So, one aspect of the unofficial mission has changed. As for the others?
“I promise you will never see a TV,” he says. “No TVs.”
AllGood Cafe, 2934 Main St. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Burger served 5 p.m. to close daily.