May is National Burger Month (yes, that's a thing) and to celebrate, we're spending an entire week celebrating what may well be Dallas' officially unofficial dish: the burger. From April 30 to May 8, writer Nick Rallo will explore every corner of Dallas burgers, from the grass-fed to the uber-greasy and even lab-grown. Grab a stack of napkins and join us.
They're getting harder and harder to find. Some of the best ones are served near the rattle of an old air-conditioning wall unit, found in a strip mall off a roaring highway or on the second page of a menu at a trendy taco joint. In the age of beef that's sourced from local farms, prices are going up. Our burgers are more responsible. More sustainable. It's a good thing, but it also costs consumers more.
Still, these are the last-stand cheeseburgers. Each one of these burgers is reliable, an anchor that doesn't budge after four or five visits. Most are less concerned with sustainability, devoting more time to maintaining a well seasoned griddle. You may have had these burgers a dozen or more times, and they're still perfect — and under $10 — today.
The cheeseburger at Sky Rocket Burger$5.59
7877 Frankford Road (Far North Dallas)
The entire menu at Sky Rocket Burger, the joint tucked, very snugly, into a strip mall off the highway, is comprised of a single, double and elephantine triple cheeseburger. That's why you're here, after all: You're looking for a no-fuss cheeseburger. Owners Scott and Tio Wagner grind the Angus beef behind the kitchen. They sear the hand-formed patties. Bronzed, sparkling beef juices from the hot griddle run into the lettuce, onion, and tomato. No condiments needed here, which is the mark of a truly great burger.
The cheeseburger at Maple and Motor $8.25
4810 Maple Ave. (Oak Lawn)
Ten years after opening, you’ll find the same chunk of finely ground brisket and chuck, hovering around 75 percent lean beef and 25 percent fat, balled-up and pressed into the flat top at Maple and Motor. It’s a new Dallas classic. It's true, cheap burger happiness, especially with some golden-hued tater tots on the side.
The arepa burger at Shoals and Sounds $7 at happy hour
2614 Elm St. (Deep Ellum)
There must be something magic on the grill at this Deep Ellum cocktail bar. Shoals has gone through a chef change or three, and each time, the cheeseburger has been right as rain. This year’s new cheeseburger, made with melted cheddar, arrives with chopped and hot-crunchy giardiniera and a fried egg. It’s framed with the thin corn shell of an arepa that’s got the big, bright flavors of corn, salt and buttery oil.
The arepa burger at Arepa TX $9.50
5940 Royal Lane (North Dallas)
A thin shell of corn, griddled in the panini press that allows for a fluffy interior, is the only bun alternative that works. The kitchen is small, which means that chef Mary Ann Allen has the brisket-short rib blend griddled after a coat of salt and pepper. The juices run beautifully into the onion, tomato and pickle.
The Burguesa Burger at Digg’s Tacos$6
7325 Gaston Ave. (Lakewood)
It takes about 10 minutes, and while it's cooked, the grill seems to shush the noisy room. The meat is seasoned with their own blend of taco seasoning, and it’s an 80 percent chuck, 20 percent fat blend. They use a flat iron to gently press the patty into the hot griddle, which urges that deep, crusty sear. Cheese, jack or cheddar, melts under a dome, and they hand-batter the onion rings.
The Stock Cheese at Off-Site Kitchen $5.49
331 Singleton Blvd. (West Dallas/Trinity Groves)
There is nothing like a precisely executed, under-$6 burger — hell, you can rarely find a good burger that cheap from a fast-food drive-thru. Off-Site Kitchen is an icon, one of the burger joints most revered by Dallas chefs. The burger is always well-seasoned and is a quick choice for lovers of a heavy crust. As you order, you'll catch the piping-hot griddle hissing with their custom Angus chuck roll and shoulder patty blend. The beef gets a crown of micro-shredded lettuce and a slice of American cheese.
The cheeseburger at Dairy-Ette $4
9785 Ferguson Road (East Dallas)
Decades of iodized-salted burgers have seasoned the griddle at Dairy-Ette. It’s a drive-in, but head inside the restaurant for the fastest, hottest, better-than-any-fast-food cheeseburger. Don’t expect farm-to-table anything here. This has been a half-melted cheese, murky griddle-charred masterpiece since 1956.
The double cheeseburger at Uncle Uber’s $8
2713 Commerce St. (Deep Ellum)
Smoky beef grease, the best burger condiment on the planet that you can’t buy in a store, runs into the onion rounds and lettuce curls at Uncle Uber's. This double cheeseburger is a reliable anchor in Deep Ellum’s strong, ever-changing tides. A single cheeseburger is a workhorse sandwich, but two seared and thin patties is a Dallas gem. It's a close call, but it bests Angry Dog's shredded cheese-crowned cheeseburger.
The half-pound Burger $9.70 with cheese; includes tax
at Lee Harvey’s
1807 Gould St. (The Cedars)
Moonlit cheeseburgers and onion rings have been Lee Harvey's staple for years. The kitchen fire-grills a prime Angus patty (80% beef, 20% fat), seasoned well, with toppings on the side. On a breezy patio night, you’ll glimpse the fire leaping from the old-fashioned grill. The cheese is molten for a few short minutes; that’s all you’ll need to finish the burger.
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