More Dallas restaurants are grinding their own beef, an attempt to differentiate their burgers from the rising deluge of patty grease. They're also making the move because it results in burgers that are more delicious.
Just three years ago, burgers made from house-ground meat were hard to find in Dallas. In my review of 303 Bar & Grill, I was disappointed to find that the kitchen that had initially promised freshly ground beef had decided to abandon the practice. The burgers were terrible. I was confused because, back then, grinding your own meat for burgers was a clear differentiator. Now, it's not so much.
Austin-based Hopdoddy's growing empire is built on the house grind. Grub Burger Bar unleashed more of the same on Dallas in 2013. Now they have locations all over Texas and in four other states as far away as Pennsylvania. Rodeo Goat recently landed in town from Fort Worth with grinding blades spinning, and over on Greenville the Libertine Bar spent a solid amount of money on a new grinder so they could amplify their burger.
If you're wondering what the big deal is, and why burger meat that's ground over there would be significantly worse than burger meat ground over here, the difference is significant. First, there's a matter of freshness -- the meat just tastes better when it's ground the day it's seared -- but there's also a matter of burger mechanics. Burger meat that arrives pre-ground is often wrapped in plastic or, worse, formed into tightly packed plastic disks and then wrapped in plastic. That compression leads to dense and tough burgers.
By grinding it in-house, a kitchen gains control of the many variables that effect your burger experience. Meat can be formed into loosely packed patties that will cook evenly and give gently when the recipient takes a bite, and cooks know without a doubt how long ago the meat was processed. You can still make a shitty burger with house-ground beef by squishing the patty while you grill it (dry), under seasoning it (bland) or over cooking it (even drier), but usually restaurants that take the time to grind their own meat don't skimp on the other steps.
I haven't tried the burgers at Braindead or Spork, yet, but their menus are both making me feel a little lusty. If you want a good chance at a solid burger experience, just look toward the grind.