It’s one of the negative effects of the burger golden age in Dallas: Farm-to-table beef and high-end ingredients are driving up prices and quality of the average bar cheeseburger. But amidst the pricey burger renaissance, the workhorse cheeseburger — the under-8-buck burger, a charred patty with unremarkable but eternally effective ingredients — must never lose its rightful place in the spotlight.
I’m talking about the burger you order when life is moving too fast to think. It’s the cheeseburger you order when the day’s sapped you of any remaining energy or clever thought. You don’t speak when you eat this burger, and you eat every particle of it, pulling melted cheese off of the wax paper wrapping.
A go-to burger is hot, fast and cheap. It may require a palm pump of condiments from a square tub, and it's probably absent of anything that's been near a local farm. Store-bought pickles give it a crisp bite. The go-to burger is something to honor in case it disappears behind a lineup of finer things.
At Uncle Uber’s, right as the lunch hour steals every paid meter in Deep Ellum, the line at the register extends to the front door. The length dissolves quickly as orders zip through the system. Someone asks, “Dipping sauce for your fries?” and then you move on. This is fast food done correctly. I get a double cheeseburger with cheddar, with everything, for less than $8 with tax. My name is called almost suspiciously fast, and a good, hot cheeseburger, gold-topped with melted cheddar, is in a basket in front of me.
Smoky griddle grease, the best burger condiment on the planet, runs into the rounds of onions, pickle and tomato like an untouched Texas creek over rock. This double cheeseburger looks like the first cheeseburger to ever exist. This is my go-to burger. It is, for all the renovations and locally sourced ingredients of recent chef-driven concepts, a beautiful and perfectly simple thing.
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The beef patties are thin disks encrusted by fire and dark scales of char that inspire synesthesia. You'll imagine standing around the rusty grill with friends, holding an icy beer. You’ll picture the backyard grills pumping smoke like trains or paper-plate sandwiches you had as a kid with a iced-chipped Coke.
A go-to burger is a flashback and a new experience. It’s at once a Texas thing and a you thing. Everyone should have a go-to, and it should cost less than $10.
The more expensive burgers are welcome, of course. Some of them are new classics. I'd put recent additions to Dallas' burger scene against any "best" burger in New York or LA. Still, there’s something to their magic that doesn't touch the go-to. When you have your go-to burger in front of you, it's untouchable. It should be untouchable. It should be celebrated and raved. It should be respected, at least, despite the obvious, better-for-the-world effects of farm-to-table anything. After all, it's your go-to when you feel life’s strains. Which one is it for you?
Uncle Uber's, 2713 Commerce St.