With burgers, like many things, beauty is in the mouth of the be-eater. While I've been running around town looking for my perfect burger, I realize that everyone has their favorites, and no amount of smackdownin' is going to change the mind of a devoted burger enthusiast.
I polled the staff of the Observer and asked them, not to simply vote for their favorite burger, but defend their love. They sent me a mouthful.
Rachel Watts, clubs editor My favorite burger is the Cool Beans cheeseburger at Cool Beans Bar and Grill in Denton, where they have maintained the same $3.50 burger special each Friday for more than a decade. For the past two years I have seldom skipped a Friday. Eating Cool Beans cheeseburgers over a game of dominoes is now a tradition in my world. What I admire most, and what has kept me coming back more than 100 times, is its inconsistency. You never really know what you're going to get, and it depends a lot on which cook is making it.
Really, it's nothing terribly fancy, just your run-of-the-mill toppings, like lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, mustard, onions, pickles and cheddar cheese. Sometimes the burger and bun are burned to a crisp, other times the burger is so juicy the cheesy grease sauce runs down your arm and drips off of your elbow onto your basket of waffle fries (which are included in the $3.99 basket and drink special). I guess I like the element of surprise. Somehow the cheeseburger never tastes the same as the last time I ate it, whether because the proportions are always different or because each cook uses a different method, but regardless, it always tastes like a cheap American cheeseburger -- the best kind.
Food Bitch During a lunchtime visit to Oak, I felt compelled to order the burger. It's intriguing when a high-end restaurant offers up a burger, and many do, because it feels like table stakes; a menu item restaurants consider a challenge. An Oak fan, I was interested to see how chef Jason Maddy would put his own spin on the everyday sandwich. What resulted was not only incredible, but incredibly memorable. It came open faced, showing off a soft butter lettuce leaf topped with a thick, red slice of tomato, some red onion and salt and pepper. A small bowl of thick-cut horsey pickles cheered me on from the sidelines. The cheese on this thing was near pornographic. I found myself wanting to cover it up, gently moving the red and green toppings over to the gooey side. Then I spread some of the accompanying Dijon onto the bun before assembling the tower completely and slicing it through to reveal its medium-rare insides.
The first bite made me slightly uncomfortable. This thing was just too juicy to be enjoyed in such a buttoned-up setting. And I'm not sure if there's such a thing as too much umami, but if it can be argued that there is, this burger had it. It was savory to a visceral degree. Hours, even days later, I was still thinking about it. Nowadays, Oak has eliminated their lunch service, but the memory of that burger proves Maddy can rock a somewhat pedestrian dish just as expertly as one that contains octopus and pork jowl. It might not have been as beautiful, but my mouth didn't mind one bit. That burger still haunts me. It is my burger white whale.
Jessy Hughey, copy editor Malt and Jake's Special: Thousand Island, double meat, teenage graffiti.