There are so many burger options in Dallas you could spend half a year working your way through them. The problem is, most of them are forgettable, and many are downright bad. Taking that first bite into a perfect burger can be a transcendent experience, but first you have to find a kitchen that's capable. And even then there's luck involved. Restaurants that turn out burger salvation one day can plate up a dud the next. Consistency is key.
Here are the 10 restaurants most likely to serve up burger nirvana, based on my past four years of intensive burger consumption, and with some help from Observer burger correspondent Nick Rallo. If you're craving bliss on a bun, you can't go wrong with these.
Boulevardier (pictured above) Every time I've gone back to Boulevardier this burger has been the same -- kissed by flames in a way that imparts a real smoky flavor and accented with bacon for even more smokiness. Garden-fresh vegetables add crunch and coolness, and the bun is so soft you could get lost in it. It's Dallas' best burger. It just is.
Neighborhood Services The second you take a bite of this beauty you know it's genuinely different from every other burger in Dallas. The kitchen uses dry-aged meat in the grind, and that pungent funk, reminiscent of well-aged blue cheese, is loud. Served alongside solid fries, this burger is an experience to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, so is getting a seat at the bar.
Off-Site Kitchen Sometimes you're in a hurry, and that often means you're relegated to a paper-wrapped, cardboard burger at a fast-food stand. If it's within reach, make your way to Off-Site Kitchen, where one of the best burgers in Dallas is available, and it won't tie you up. The patties are thin and smashed on the grill to impart a nice crust. With toppings like shredded lettuce and bacon jam, you might get to this point on the list and stay put.
Lakewood Landing It may be the salt that's seemingly used to hold the patty together, or it may be the crunchy crust that's almost burnt yet still delicious, but this may be one of Dallas' most addictive burgers, and it's lifted by its humble, chef-less surroundings. If I'm not eating for a review or blog post, and I haven't just reviewed a steakhouse or Tex-Mex restaurant, you'll find my mitts wrapped around the burger pictured above. It's become an old, familiar friend, which is par for the course for pretty much everything else under the roof at the Landing.
Knife The Big O -- it's meant just one thing for so long until now. Then John Tesar dropped the Ozersky burger and everything changed forever. While most steakhouses think they're too good to put a burger on their menu (or maybe they're not good enough), Tesar celebrates the burger while paying homage to an Esquire food writer who's loved more burgers than any other human being ever. Yes, that's American cheese, and not one slice but two. Visit Knife to experience the burger that straddles humble and haute perfectly.
Stock and Barrel See that burger above? It's as tall as a mountain. It wears a pickle as a hat. It's the burger that led burger sleuth Nick Rallo to set a burger review to music, launching himself into a series of progressively stranger burger-posts that have pushed the boundaries of food writing. That's plenty to warrant putting a burger on a list like this. Click the link below to hear the music of cello master Yo-Yo Ma, and then picture your own Stock and Barrel burger sitting on a plate before you. Take some time. -- Nick Rallo
¡C Senor! Often when cooks replace beef with other burger ingredients the results are no good. But it turns out chorizo makes a solid addition to what could otherwise be a ho-hum burger experience in Oak Cliff. Spiced ketchup, diced onion, potato strings (crisp and as thin as matchsticks!), pepperjack cheese -- somehow all manage to get along inside a soft Cuban roll. French fries are eschewed for yucca to further play up that Latin feel. This may not be a traditional burger, but it's one of Dallas' best for sure.
Remedy Time travel is required at Remedy. It happens without permission. After one bite, you're sucked backwards into a scene straight out of Back to the Future. You're dreamy-eyed George McFly confessing true love to a burger: "Burger, you're my destiny!" Also, the soda-fountain-throwback flavor profile is executed with pinpoint accuracy. There's a perfect char on the meat, creamy mustard sauce, shredded lettuce, dill pickle and a slice of American cheese. Crunchy, sweet onions will make you want to switchblade-comb your hair, and Kansas City Kobe beef juice will run down your hand. It's what you dream of when you burger dream. -- Nick Rallo
The Grape It's a classic mess of a massive burger that has dominated the Dallas brunch scene for years now. Cheddar cheese, a cross of crispy bacon, and a girth that requires maxillofacial acrobatics make for a burger that will be permanently fixed in your memory.
Henry's Majestic, Best Bone-Marrow Burger This burger told vegetables and condiments to shut up. Shut up, it said, to mayonaise and green things from the ground. The burger is Akaushi beef with bone marrow. It comes with bacon, caramelized onions (they add an earthy, almost funky flavor), aged cheddar, chips and a handful of pickles. It's the burger equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. It'd be worth it, even if it disturbs your neighbor, to howl at the moon following the consumption of this burger. Get this, and tell vegetables to shut up for a second. -- Nick Rallo
Honorable mentions What, you thought ten burgers were enough? Here are a few we love that didn't make the cut.
Keller's, Best Drive-thru Burger What Keller's doesn't have in size or juiciness, it makes up for in flavor and spirit. I'm not sure how they season those nickel-thin patties but I do know your salivary glands open the floodgates the second you take a bite. Put the seat back 20 degrees and set the parking brake. Take a long, hard pull from a Bud bottle. Appreciate that all of this is happening and you haven't even gotten out of your car.
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Hopdoddy, Best Chain Burger The burger chains are invading from every direction outside Dallas and also from within. Many of them are passable, a few are good, but only one is consistently this good. Hopdoddy delivers by tackling every facet of burger construction on-site, from meat-grinding to bun-baking. On top of that, they keep the price low so you have some money left over for a boozy milkshake. Who knew you could find both quality and value on the same bun?
Proof and Pantry, Best Pantry Burger First, let's get this out of the way: This burger has a Kraft Single on it. Immediately you're wondering, why in sweet, holy Fair Park's balls am I paying 15 bucks for a burger with cheese that came in a plastic envelope? Because it's good. Really good. And it's not a quiet burger. It's a big glass-shatterer, made with a blend of sirloin, kobe and short rib. Capers, simmered-down onions and a little dijon round out the richness (and that weirdly yellow Kraft single). -- Nick Rallo