One of the most underestimated techniques in the making of a good cheeseburger is seasoning. The beef can take it: A half-pound patty accepts salt like a character in a Martin Scorsese movie snorts cocaine. Dust the loose-packed beef with hefty pinches of coarse pepper and salt, slide it onto a flat grill that’s singe-the-eyebrows hot and a perfect cheeseburger patty will find its way to the bun.
I’m saddled up to a tiny back-corner table in Oddfellows around lunchtime, coveting croissant sandwiches and eggs as they fly to their tables. Oddfellows is a place for the hungover mind to unwind its knots. A double espresso, a Topo Chico wedged with lime and a burger will do you right.
The burger arrives with french fries cut and crisped with a finite exactitude, and the cheeseburger is stacked with firetruck red tomatoes. Tart pickles, sliced to maintain crunch but not get in the way of the burger, mingle with a housemade mayo and Frank’s Red Hot sauce that heats things up to the right temperature.
Oddfellows' cheeseburger is a master class in proper beef seasoning. Executive chef Anastacia Quiñones took control of the Oak Cliff kitchen a little over a year ago and employs a secret seasoning blend.
“We really wanted to take the burger game to the next level,” she says.
The restaurant had been working with a ground beef mixture for the patties and, after testing different blends, voted for a brisket and short rib grind from Crystal Creek Cattle company in Dallas. It’s an 8-ounce patty that gets a hard char on the flat grill after the jacket of seasoning.
Ask Quiñones to divulge her seasoning secrets, and you won't get very far.
“No, no,” she says with a laugh. “All we can say is we used it a restaurant in the past. If you know where I worked in the past, you can taste the familiarity of it,” the former Komali and Kitchen LTO chef says.
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The smoky, charred cap on the brisket and short rib patty — with its fearless seasoning — makes for one of the beefiest flavors I’ve had in months. It highlights flavors like bright lights in your mind. My burger is cooked precisely medium rare, with good grease juices finding their way into the Frank’s Red Hot speared mayo.
If we're being nitpicky, the lettuce and tomato resting on top of the melted cheddar patty allowed things to topple over when cut in half, but still, this is a burger you’ll want to slice down the middle to marvel at the beef. One bite in and construction issues dissolve behind a good, simple sandwich. The bun, from Esmeralda’s French Bakery in Dallas (it's made daily shipments to Quiñones for years), provides a crusty-meets-chewy soft texture. It holds everything together like a bookend.
“My staff tries to eat one every day, so I feel like I’m doing something right,” Quiñones says. She’s a fan of Off-Site Kitchen’s smartly executed burger and Maple & Motor’s griddled patty. The simple boldness, like her burger favorites, ranks Quiñones’ version up with simple greats in the city and certainly in Oak Cliff. And the seasoning remains a secret.
Oddfellows, 316 W. Seventh St.