There is so much Texas decor screaming at you at Stampede 66, I expected the ghost of Sam Houston to deliver my menu with a firm slap on the back. High on the wall, a high-res video of ranch-hands herding cattle plays on loop. Horses made of wire, like some weird artifacts from the Body Worlds exhibit, passionately gallop above the bar, and I counted 15 sets of longhorns hanging there, too. It may have been a Texan's hazy dream, but I’m pretty sure I saw a waiter carrying a Shiner Bock can in a tiny dish (turns out, they’re making bread in Shiner cans).
I went to Stampede during lunch for their Texasy double stack burger with bacon, cheddar and fried pickles, but that’s not what I ended up with. The waiter tells me, with gusto, about their brand-spanking-new dry-aged burger, which is not on the menu right now. New executive chef Michael Matis is working on the new burger, my server tells me. Hang on — there's a new chef at Stampede 66? Yes, there is: Chef Michael Matis is in place now at Stampede and has been for two weeks now (he tells me by phone later).
For 13 bucks, the new burger is a dry-aged Wagyu patty topped with cheddar, pickled Fresno chilies and tomato aioli. I apologize in advance to the burger with the fried pickles, but I’m going with the off-menu special. Sorry, Menu Burger.
I’d like to stake my claim in naming what will be a buzzing food trend in 2016: Awesome Knives. At Wayward Sons, the knife that came with my burger looked like it was found in a frontier tree, and Stampede 66’s special burger knife was, I’m certain, a relic from The Alamo.
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The burger arrives, and I have surprise bacon. Not complaining. A thick slice of cheddar — refreshingly un-melted — is hanging out with rounds of Fresno chiles as red as Christmas ornaments. The Wagyu has a good crust. The first bite is juicy and smoky, with a sweet-meets-tangy flavor from the tomato aioli. Fresno chiles give a nudge of heat. The bacon is crispy and comforting. This is a burger that needs to join the menu. Fries, showered with lots of paprika and some sugar, are scattered along the back of the plate, and fresh pickles make my brain want to lead the room in singing a chorus from a Willie Nelson song. Maybe “Can I Sleep In Your Burger Forever?" The tomato aioli (on a sturdy but soft bun) gives off a wintery flavor profile, like you’re eating it huddled under a bear skin blanket.
So, in truth, this is a plea to whom it may concern at Stampede 66:
Let’s get that dry-aged burger solidified on the menu. Fried pickles are fine, but this dry-aged option is an eye-opener. It’s memorable burger-eating. Maybe add it to the dinner side of things, too.
Who doesn’t like to eat a burger that eats like a good Texas steak, deep in the heart of Texas?
Stampede 66, 1717 McKinney Ave., 214-550-6966