What a day to celebrate choice. Regardless of what some may like to believe, really the most important choice most of us will make this week (honestly, any week) is which burger to eat. So many choices.
Well, we're here to help you with the electoral map of burgers. As part of Burger Week, we sent pollsters out to harass a sampling of local chefs, restaurateurs and a few personalities and ask them about their burger of choice.
The ballot had three questions: 1. What was your favorite burger as a kid? 2. What's your favorite burger now? 3. What makes a burger great?
The following voters participated in our poll: Chef Jason Maddy, Oak Jon Alexis, TJ's Fresh Seafood Market owner Chef Samir Dhurandhar, Nick & Sam's and Coal Vine's Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner Chef Jon Erdeljac, Jonathon's in Oak Cliff Corby Davidson, The Ticket Chef Jeff Harris, executive chef Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado Sarah Green, pastry chef, Oak Chef Matt Balke, executive sous chef, Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado Phil Romano, restaurateur, Fuddruckers, eatZi's Chef Jeana Johnson, ACME F&B, Good-2-Go Tacos, Goodfriend Burgers Chef Nathan Tate, Ava and Boulevardier
What was your favorite burger as a kid? Maddy: "As a kid we didn't do fast food; my mother is a great cook. But, I would have to say Dairy Queen because most backyard barbecues were reserved for other cuts of meat."
Alexis: "Burger House, still sentimental favorite."
Dhurandhar: (Seeing as Dhurandhar grew up in India, I asked for favorite "meal" growing up) "Favorite meal ... probably my mom's Indian cooking could never compare it to anyone's, including any of our family members' and friends'. Everything she made was worth looking forward to, thus inspired me to be a chef."
Cuban: "The burgers my dad made. I don't know what he put in them, but it was more than just hamburger meat. Loved them."
Erdeljac: "Growing up in Houston my favorite burger came from Cliff's Old Fashioned Hamburgers. It was your basic 1/2 pound patty, sesame seed bun, shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato, pickle, mayo and cheddar cheese. What made it so good was the wood grill it was cooked on. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!"
Davidson: "Wendys, hands down. I would go there for my birthday as a kid. My preference, double with mustard and ketchup only."
Harris: "The Butcher Shop in Longview, Texas."
Green: "Chili's ground peppercorn burger with crispy onions, bacon and blue cheese."
Balke: "Neal's Cafe. It's a small town north of Uvalde that makes one of the best burgers in Texas. You have the option of buns (sourdough/yeast roll), a perfect 8-ounce patty and choice of cheese and bacon (bits or strips). Cooked on a griddle. Pure perfection."
Romano: "Growing up my mom used to make a great meatball sandwich for me at home. To me, that was considered a 'burger.'"
Johnson: "My favorite burger growing up was from a small, family-owned restaurant in my hometown of Palestine called Chip's Burger Village."
Tate: "In high school it was all about the Sonic number one cheeseburger. A pretty classic griddled burger with American cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle." What's your favorite burger now? Maddy: "Hands down, Off-Site Kitchen. Sorry, Snuffers. It's the perfect one-hand cheeseburger on a Friday before service. I think I've had one every Friday since they opened."
Alexis: "Love the Grape, Maple and Motor, Twisted Root, but I have to say Liberty Burger by a hair. The variety there appeals to my admittedly weird burger tastes."
Dhurandhar: "I would say a tie in between our 'Pat La Frieda' patty at the new Nick & Sam's grill and Off-Site Kitchen."
Cuban: "The buffalo burgers at Twisted Root by SMU. Healthy, tasty, lots of good fixin's."
Erdeljac: "Now, my favorite burger is definitely The Patty Melt at my restaurant, half-pound patty, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, Provolone, Swiss and a roasted garlic aioli on toasted wheat."
Davidson: "I don't eat a lot of burgers now, but I'll go with Kincaid's in Fort Worth."
Harris: "Maple and Motor."
Green: "Off-Site Kitchen's Stock cheeseburger."
Balke: "Angry Dog. They win for their options. Choices like cheese, grilled or raw onions, grilled jalapeños, bacon, condiments and numerous other options. Also, cooked on a griddle and a perfectly toasted bun."
Romano: "Eatzi's makes an excellent burger, that has to be my favorite."
Johnson: "Nowadays, I'm a big fan of the P.L.O.T. at Goodfriend (of course)."
Tate: "Honestly, I very rarely eat them. If I do it's usually at Ava or Boulevardier. I hear they're pretty good. I also had a really good burger at Goodfriend recently." What's the most important aspect of great burger? Maddy: "It's all about the patty to topping ratio. If it's a big-ass patty, add very little topping and vice versa. If you add lamb, bacon, avocado etc. etc., minimize the patty. And most important, make the bun work with the above statement. The bun is the foundation for the whole project. If it cannot contain the beast you created, then you need a fork. Forks do not like burgers."
Alexis: "The contrast/balance. Hot beef, gooey cheese (if it's not melted, don't waste my time) and the cool crisp veg/sauces. Some places get the ingredients right, but the construction timing is off and the vegetables get warm or bun soggy, etc. It all has to come together perfectly."
Dhurandhar: "I think they all tie in together. To me it's like a restaurant, if the front and the back do not jell and work as a team you are never going to be successful."
Cuban: "Juicy, juicy, juicy. The messier the better. If you aren't wearing it when you're done, it wasn't worth eating!"
Erdeljac: "For me, what makes a burger great is the meat. We use Angus, in particular chuck."
Davidson: "HAS to have grilled onions, mushrooms and yes it has to be cooked medium to medium well. I put so much junk on my burger it's ridiculous. Maybe I should go back to my basic Wendy's double."
Harris: "When it comes to burgers I'm a purist. It's all about the meat and bun. I want the meat to be properly seasoned, to taste beefy and be served on a quality toasted bun. I think if you start with those two elements, you're going to have a good burger. Accent that with quality lettuce, beautiful tomato and maybe some sharp cheese. That's all you need. If you start putting a lot of other stuff on it, then the flavor of the beef is going to be lost."
Green: "Balance, not too much of one thing and a delicious beef patty."
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Balke: "There are three elements that make a perfect burger: a properly butter-toasted bun, the quality of the meat and meat-to-bun ratio. And it helps if it's cooked on a griddle."
Romano: "The bun. It's just as important as the meat."
Johnson: "I believe that what makes a great burger is the meat quality. The patty at Goodfriend is the highest quality meat we can get."
Tate: "Keep it simple. No foreign spices blended in the meat. It should taste like a burger, not a meat loaf. Too many additions ruin a burger. I like cheese and bacon, nothing too fussy that will overpower the beef."