The Real Cheezy Burger, layered with Donkey Sauce, passes through the window. It’s a Saturday evening, and Dallas is cooler than usual with a Creamsicle sky. There’s no one else in line or waiting at Guy’s Burger Stand, tucked into the south-ish end of the Starplex Pavilion. A breeze kicks up, and I’m starting to feel like I’m at the carnival from Big, sliding a coin into the Zoltar Speaks arcade.
The cheezy burger emerges in a snap, surrounded by paper branded with the logo of Guy’s Burger Joint, the only Guy Fieri concept in Dallas. The burger’s crowned with a lot of shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, “S.M.C.” — that’s cheddar and “super melty cheese” sauce — and Donkey Sauce, Guy’s signature blend of mayonnaise and roasted garlic. The bun top has a circular brand, too: a toasted circle.
“That’s what he calls Guy’s kiss,” says Orazio LaManna, regional executive chef for Legends, the company that runs Guy's burger concept. Fieri’s kiss is apparently a hot fire circle, a burning ring that I’m hoping won’t cause the undead to walk the earth.
LaManna works with Fieri’s culinary band and all Guy's Burger Joint locations in Live Nation amphitheaters around the U.S. The Starplex location is playing Guy Fieri hits like the $14 Real Cheezy Burger and the Righteous Ring, a burger with a Sriracha barbecue sauce and an onion ring. Guy's menu lists each food's calories, and it's horrifying enough that you won't be able to look away.
Every menu item at Guy’s Burger Joint sounds like midnight Cinemax programming. I keep things modest, ordering the Real Cheezy Burger and Johnny Garlic Fries. The Johnny fries have dried-out Parmesan, parsley and an ice cream scoop of raw, minced garlic that would ward off even undead vampire Fieri. The fries are 1,430 calories. The Real Cheezy Burger is 1,030 calories, clocking this burger-and-fries meal in at 2,460 calories.
The fries are topped with Guy’s seasoning. Admittedly, Guy’s seasoning is more welcome than Guy’s kiss. Can we all brand things like this? I sliced some carrots last night, which I’m going to call Nick’s Round House Blasts.
For the record, I’m not rooting for this burger to be bad. Strolling the balmy, iconic Starplex, I’m ready for a great cheeseburger and some crunchy fries loaded with garlic. What I get is flabby beef, uncharred, choking with all the shredded lettuce and long onion strands in the world. The texture of warm Donkey Sauce, a thing no one can be forced to say, with a mountain of flavorless, shredded lettuce is one of the strangest I’ve had on a burger in months.
The onions are thin, papery, unappetizing threads. The tomato is so pale and whispery that it’s haunting the burger more than it’s complementing it. The S.M.C. cheese sauce, surprisingly un-super and un-melty, wishes it were American cheese.
“The unique thing with Guy’s approach to the condiments is the lettuce is finely shaved, the tomatoes very finely sliced and the onions are very finely sliced,” LaManna says. “What you get with that is a really nice complement to the burger and not an overwhelming vegetable taste.”
The problem here is “vegetable taste” isn’t overwhelming when the vegetables don’t suck. When they’re not paper, they’re the delicious components of a sandwich.
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The bun’s toasted yet somehow nearly the texture of wet bread, likely from the wash in garlic butter. Halfway in, after about 515 calories, I try the fries. The Rocky-style punch of raw garlic fills the air around me. The fries are incredibly oily.
I’m not anti-Guy Fieri. I’m not rooting for his bleached demise. His food is often ridiculous, but his show shoulders up mom-and-pop spots that might otherwise struggle in the age of the fancy, chef-driven bar. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives holds up restaurants that’d we’d be sore to lose. Here in Dallas, Guy's kissed Cane Rosso, Pecan Lodge, Maple and Motor, Pepe Y Mito’s and Avila’s, all restaurants we’d miss deeply if they went away. I thank Fieri for raising the profile of such joints.
Guy's Burger Joint, Dallas' first brush with The Bleached Haired One, is more of a kick to the face than a kiss, and the shoe is made of garlic cloves. My burger and fries lack the easygoing, thoughtful execution that you'll usually find at the restaurants championed by his show.
Guy's Burger Joint, Starplex Pavilion, 3839 S. Fitzhugh Ave.