Today is, apparently, National Hamburger Day. I’m sure this was decided upon by somebody who wanted to sell a lot of hamburgers, and, luckily for them, we all want to eat some. Not like National Rutabaga Mash Day or National Mr. Pibb Day. Nobody asks me to write articles about those.
Anyway, there’s no place like North Texas to eat a burger. We’ve got so many it’s almost useless to try to choose the “best.” Best old-fashioned diner-style burger? Best double cheeseburger? Best gourmet burger? There are too many to choose from.
So here are six recent favorites of mine, from locally owned businesses and representing a variety of styles. As always when people ask about burgers, I offer the caveat that you could do a whole best-burger list without ever leaving the premises of Knife on Mockingbird Lane (see photo above). Start there, and then work through these six contenders, plus a bonus recipe of my own.
The NotoriousInvasion, East Dallas
Invasion won our hearts with its charitable mindset, but it won our bellies with its mountainous sandwiches. My favorite is the Notorious, a burger with pizza-like undertones. It’s stuffed with onions, jalapeños and gooey mozzarella, then topped with a crispy flash-cooked basil leaf. The burger patty itself is as thick as a fist, and, as Martha Stewart would say if she ever tucked a bib into her collar and tried to take this sucker down, that’s a good thing.
The Funky BurgerFunky Picnic Brewery, Fort Worth
Just look at that beauty, with its black-and-white sesame seed bun and its housemade potato chips on the side. Funky Picnic makes a diverse range of good beers — I dug the Mexican lager — and the kitchen makes its pimento cheese, too. The only complaint I have is that after I finished my cheeseburger, on a night shortly after getting my second vaccine, they pulled down a projector and started showing The Phantom Menace. That was probably a one-time thing, so the dining room is probably safe again now.
The K TownLA Burger, Six Locations in the Suburbs
Kimchi on a hamburger is such a good idea that last spring when the lockdown was at its tightest, I got desperate and quick-pickled radishes from our home garden for burgering reasons. But if you want to let the professionals do it, there’s always LA Burger, where they make kimchi with enough spicy punch to wake up any sandwich, but mellow enough to roll with cheese. LA Burger is a true Dallas-area success story, a mini-chain that’s expanding without sacrificing quality.
Build Your Own CheeseburgerSky Rocket Burger, Deep Ellum
Picky burger eater? Want mustard but no mayo, double onions, no pickle and extra sauce? Sky Rocket’s online ordering system for its Deep Ellum location can accommodate every request. Better yet, we’re talking about some of the most textbook-perfect burgers in the city. I feel like I’m saying this in every blurb, but: Just look at it!
Plus, if you’re taking your meal to go, you can ask for the fries extra crispy.
Anything with Hot PeppersPorky’s Burgers and Wings, Mesquite
Porky’s, led by Ernesto and Alfredo Peña, has a particular gift for burgers topped with grilled onions and jalapeños. The onion rings are pretty solid, too. My burger fell apart and had me rooting around for chunks of stray bun and patty, but it was probably my own fault for weighing it down with so many toppings. Sorry. I’m a maximalist.
The Kahuna BurgerPeak Inn, Old East Dallas
Honesty time: I haven’t tried this one. It’s on my own personal to-do list based on this love letter to Peak Inn penned by expert burger hunter and world’s leading sandwich consumer Nick Rallo. Quoth the eater: “Peak Inn knows the power of good grease — all of those toppings sit proudly under the smoky patty as beef juices come down like rain from a tin roof. It’s a spectacular burger, and it’s seven bucks.” Heck, maybe this is what I’ll order tonight.
Bonus: Make Your Own Feta Lamburger at Home
Here’s a rough sketch recipe derived from my American burger-grilling dad and Turkish kebab-making mom. Take some ground lamb — the fattiest package you can find, mixing in some 80/20 ground beef if all the lamb at the store is lean. Throw it in a big bowl and season it with salt, black pepper, cumin and Aleppo pepper (a very mild crushed red pepper you can find at Sara’s, Central Market or other spice shops). Mix things up and create your burger patty portions.
Cook them how you like them — on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet, probably — and serve with a toasted bun and sliced good summer tomatoes. For the feta relish on top, crumble up good feta cheese with chopped parsley and red onions. Boom. Delicious.
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