Let’s celebrate some hamburgers.
It’s easy to feel pangs of despair: Dallas has lost some new classics, in a blunt way, right before the end of this year. Like something from Tolkien, Remedy’s super yet simple burger is sailing off into the Grey Havens. On the Lamb had a nearly perfect grilled double cheeseburger — which almost made us forget the flat top — then sharply disappeared. Knuckle Sandwich had a promising cheeseburger, topped with melted gouda, that left in the wind like dandelion spores. And we’re all, obviously, still mourning the loss of Uncle Herky.
So let’s take a deep breath and celebrate what remains. There’s been joy in the burgers of 2016. There have been comebacks, like iconic dive bar Midway Point, which closed and re-opened weeks later with their juicy slabs of beef and classics solidifying themselves as icons.
Here’s a look at our favorites:
The Off-Menu Smoked Cheeseburger
1901 Abrams Road
It’s painfully easy to murder a smoked cheeseburger. Most of the barbecue joint burgers taste like steamed hockey pucks. Lakewood smokes their new burger, then finishes the rare, juicy patty on the flat top. Thick, crispy bacon — some of the best I’ve had this year — tops the patty (melted cheddar is a good choice). Red onions, lettuce and tomato rest underneath, accepting those meat juices, in between a soft Empire bakery bun. It’s a new and off-menu sandwich. An underrated entry of the year is Smokehouse’s fantastic, salty and crispy fries — don’t forget those.
The Simple Cheeseburger
The Burger Edge
7529 Campbell Road
This is the burger you crave after long stretches of healthy-eating. Burger Edge has Cast Away burgers: Burgers you’d eat after being plane-wrecked on an island for four or five years. It comes in the tried and true plastic basket, a heap of grilled onions looking back at you (toppings are by request, but you should get the onions). Two griddled quarter-pound patties with American cheese and crunchy tater tots will save you. Their cornmeal-dusted Kaiser roll is bathed in the burger’s wonderful grease, and it’s toasted on both sides and flattened out. Dive in.
The Patty Melt
Jonathon’s Oak Cliff
1619 N. Beckley Ave.
This was the first hangover cure I wanted, and needed, after election night in America. It may not be a new burger, but it tasted like it was supposed to be: Buttery, decadent mushrooms and onions under a warm blanket of Swiss and provolone and well-salted beef, cleared the path that day. Jonathon’s sandwich construction is precise and comforting. I felt heads turn around me when my melt arrived. A golden brown sauce ran from the onions. I think it may have glinted in the light.
The Bacon and Welsh Rarebit-Topped Burger
Independent Bar and Kitchen
2712 Main St.
This is a 6-ounce Angus chuck patty, rocketed into space with a wildly good Welsh rarebit (a bold, pourable cheese sauce comparable to a béchamel) and crispy bacon. The patty is ground in-house, hit with only salt and pepper. It sizzles on a volcano-hot flat top, and flipped once — just once — when it's ready. The bacon is house-cured too, packed with pepper, brown sugar and smoked over hickory wood. It’s sliced very thin for the burger, enough to have that stained-glass look. It’s simple, smart and delicious.
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The $17 Cabernet Smothered Burger
3701 Dallas Parkway, Plano
Dallas’ sexiest new beef is Akaushi beef. It's hot right now. In this superb burger, tender and juicy like a steak and easily one of the best in Plano, the book-thick patty is a bright star. The Cabernet sauce, reduced down, accentuates every nook and cranny of that beef. The onions are cooked low and slow into a salty-sweet jam and spread over the bottom bun and the Raclette cheese is sliced thin. A slice of good tomato and mayo, always a good marriage, provides another dimension — and a little of that homey feeling. It’s worth every penny.
The Scratch-Made American Cheese Burger
2901 Elm St.
Right now, they’re making the American cheese in-house at LTO. The dry-aged ground beef, from Arrowhead in Kansas, is ground right into the Texas Akaushi (like wagyu) beef, along with fat from beef tenderloin for steak-level burgering. A crown of sheer white onions was seared right into the crust of my patty on one visit, as a homage to great diner burgers. So good. Rounds of paper-thin pickles razor through the richness of the cheese and fresh mayo. The flavor will transport you.
The Pecan Lodge Sausage Shack Burger
2500 N. Pearl St.
Seriously, you’d have to be a Marvel villain to dislike this burger. A slab of sliced and griddled sausage rests next to melted American cheese, all of which hugs the seared patty. Two pickle discs, also damn happy to be there, and the trademarked "ShakeSauce" are the only other things keeping you from beef and sausage. The potato bun is lightly butter-toasted and still soft. Griddle-charred and fresh, the sausage is the star, as it should be. It’s Pecan Lodge barbecue, after all.
The Tillamook Cheddar Burger
8220 Westchester Dr.
A slab of bold crimson gives way to char: This is one the best medium rare cooks I had on a burger all year. Montlake’s cooking their loosely packed chuck blend on a cast iron skillet, smoking-hot, to give a sear that’ll dilate your pupils. Shreds of lettuce get tossed with house-made Thousand Island, a creamy, yet vinegary dressing. I may have actually said “smile, you son of a bitch!” channeling what Roy Scheider does to Jaws, before taking a bite of another one of Nick Badovinus’ iconic burgers. A good tomato sends sparks through the richness of the burger and cheddar above. It’s one of the best new burgers of the year.