If you haven’t already, it’s time to pay attention to the burger situation in Dallas. Every week, it seems a new burger, whether built using farm-fresh Texas goods or good old-fashioned American cheese and shredded lettuce, arrives on our doorstep. Small Brewpub, for example, simmers the caramelized onions for its burger in beer brewed a few feet away. There's another notable new burger in the market: Grayson Social's Grayson Burger, part of executive chef Cortney Quinn's revamped summer menu.
Don’t be annoyed by the downtown temperament of this place. Yes, it’s an $18 burger. Parking is a hellscape that I’m pretty sure Dante wrote about. The restaurant also has silverware so cerebral that it mimics ancient embalming tools. Can we let it slide? Grayson Social's new burger is built with luxury but, above all, with a sharp and focused love for the golden original burger.
To start with, Quinn knows how to pickle. She drops a deluge of heated cider vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and mustard seed over baby sweet bell peppers to keep them crunchy while pickling. The pickled peppers sit on the bottom bun, mingling with a made-in-house mayonnaise that’s zapped with lemon zest, lemon juice and some of the pickle brine. Above the mayo are two crunchy onion rings. Those get dusted with Old Bay, brown sugar, maple sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. It tastes like something in between a summer backyard cookout and the cheer of a winter pub.
The main attraction is griddle-seared wagyu beef crowned with a sear-cap like a top layer of fudge on a sundae. It’s beautiful, and the beef is cooked with a crimson red center. Then there’s the pork belly, which is usually a limp, chewy bummer on cheeseburgers; at Grayson Social, it'll knock you straight out of your chair.
“The way that we cook our pork belly is super fun,” Quinn says. In this case, fun means duck fat. Chef Quinn seasons and brines the pork belly for about a day, then simmers it in the duck's glorious fat for 4 ½ hours. Then, it’s seared on the same griddle as the burger. The best thick-cut pork belly can make you forget about piddly, thin bacon slices. Quinn achieves this without overwhelming your mind with salt. The pork belly has a meaty, porky crunch — the kind that makes you feel like you’re on the good pain meds.
“This is our ode to people who want a really great burger,” Quinn says. “It’s a monster to eat.”
Monster is a relative term though, right? The construction works better than it sounds. Despite the towering ingredients, I experienced no burger-toppling. Slicing the burger down the center released a golden flow of yolk, exactly as it happens in your burger dreams. The onion rings hold their position, crunchily. Everything sits between a butter-toasted Empire bun, and damn, that’s enough. We, the burger eaters, wave our napkins like white flags.
Grayson Social’s burger may have all the temperament of an expensive downtown burger, but it eats more like an over-the-top burger you made with love at home.
Grayson Social, 1555 Elm St.
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