| Burgers |

Dot's Hop House Resurrected the Ancient Club Schmitz Grill — and its Burger, Too

The golden glow of American cheese on the Club Schmitz burger ($10 at lunchtime).EXPAND
The golden glow of American cheese on the Club Schmitz burger ($10 at lunchtime).
Nick Rallo
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The grill was gone.

In 2014, Jeff Brightwell, who’d nursed many hangovers at Club Schmitz with a double cheeseburger, peeked through the window of the restaurant. Club Schmitz was gutted. Brightwell saw owners Bob Schmitz and Bob's cousin Larry eating a box of chicken inside the plundered restaurant.

A week earlier, Brightwell had taken the last single stool at the bar, downing one of the last burgers then-67-year-old Club Schmitz would serve, and he asked Bob if he could buy the famed grill. Before Brightwell could scoop it up, a man showed up at Schmitz carrying a wad of cash. He cleared the place out.

No hard feelings, Brightwell said to Bob, but he was not one to take no for an answer. This old flat-top mattered to him.

"I find it incredibly culturally significant," he says. Imagine the conversations, the people, the food that passed over that griddle. So Brightwell bugged Bob Schmitz for contact information for the man who'd bought the grill.

"I know this sounds creepy, but I monitored his social media," he says.

Brightwell contacted the man, but the grill wasn’t for sale. Still not backing down, Brightwell discovered the man with Schmitz's grill needed a unique floor job for his restaurant, and Brightwell had an idea: Trade a great floor guy for an ancient grill. That's when Brightwell offered the man the use of his general contractor in exchange for the Schmitz grill.

"I’ll buy you a floor if you give me the grill," Brightwell told the man.

The grill, which is so old that there are no model or serial numbers (Brighwell wagers it's at least 50 years old), sat in his garage for months before the kernel of an idea popped for Dot’s Hop House and Cocktail Courtyard.

Dot’s Hop House opened in November to rave reviews from Deep Ellum drinkers who love the massive open-air patio, the 100-beer tap list and the menu of indulgent pub fare. On a recent afternoon, gray clouds sweeping across the sky, I’m battening down the hatches at the bar. Dot's bourbon and whiskey shelf glows in front of me, a near-staring contest that begs me to order drinks on the rocks.

I order the Club Schmitz Burger, made with two quarter-pound 44 Farms beef patties, American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion and house-made pickles. This is America’s sandwich. Each patty has cheese melted over it like a Salvador Dali clock. This burger is painterly. This is a burger you put away your phone for. You keep this one to yourself.

Left to right: Jeff Brightwell, Bob Schmitz, partner Brian Milburn and chef Nick Wells
Left to right: Jeff Brightwell, Bob Schmitz, partner Brian Milburn and chef Nick Wells
Dot’s Hop House and Courtyard Facebook

Tomato is sliced thin alongside rings of red onion and chopped lettuce placed underneath the double patties. The pickles, brushed with horseradish flavor, are placed on top of the cheese-soaked patties. One bite in and there’s a buttery, wintery, cheesy feeling that sinks into your bones. I’d asked for a medium rare cook, but the burger arrives more on the medium side. Even slightly overcooked, floods of hot juices are in every bite of my burger.

“I don’t care if it’s messy,” Brightwell says. “That’s what I always got to cure my hangover at Club Schmitz.”

There are no condiments; they’re looking to stay true to the 44 Farms beef, cheese and lettuce-tomato-onion burger that’s soaked in the beef’s fine, fine juices.

I’m 75 percent through the burger before I touch at my fries. American cheese and beef grease have made their way into the rounds of red onion and lettuce, like the best salad on Earth. It’s addictive. On my first visit, my burger didn’t have that hard, crusty flat top sear, but it was sincerely juicy. How’s that?

“That’s the magic of the Schmitz Grill,” Brightwell's business partner Brian Milburn says.

Just before the close of 2016, Brightwell found a way to get Bob Schmitz down to Dot’s to try the burger. Schmitz devoured a cheesy burger in front of the grill. Did he like it, I asked?

“I think so," he says. "He ate the whole thing.”

Dot's Hop House & Cocktail Courtyard, 2645 Commerce St.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.