At the top of Mudhen Meat and Green's laminated menu is the following quote: “I really regret eating healthy today — said no one ever.” It’s a quote that’s been memed-up on Pinterest, and has that nutritional confidence that, at first, elicited a downtrodden I guess that’s right feeling deep in my American-cheesed arteries. After eating the Mudhen burger, I would like to argue: The quote is 100% false. I’ve known eating-healthy regret. I have known vegetable regret.
First of all, if you’ll allow me: While it’s extremely, unendingly fun to make fun of kale (extra fun when backed up with GIFs of Ron Swanson), I’d like to think I’m not a meat-lover cliché. I love vegetables. Badass, fresh vegetables, cooked right, can blow the socks clean off your feet. The Brussels sprouts at Uchi, their leaves crispy and hearts improbably juicy, are among the best dishes I’ve eaten in Dallas recently.
It's a sunny day at Mudhen in the Farmers Market, and I’m looking at the menu and repeating to myself, “I’m not a cliché; I’m not a cliché." Sitting at the bar, the farmhouse theme is ever-present: Beer tap handles are bolted into a thick, grass-green pipe, exposed wood beams run above, pickles are marinating in jars to my right, and two wall-encompassing chalkboards on either side of the restaurant showcase the vegetables in season like the betting wall of an old horse track.
The Grass-Fed Beef Burger is 15 dollars — con. It comes with Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Granbury Vintage Gouda, which sounds like it came from an artisanal cheese name generator, and garlic aioli. Pro? The 44 Farms ground beef patty is on a nine-grain bun — both pro and con? Sometimes multi-grain buns taste like oatmeal cookies. When I ordered the burger, the server asked if I’d like “kale chips or vegetable crudités” as a side. I couldn’t help but think of Kurt Russell shouting “NOOO” in Tombstone.
For the crudités, I thought I’d get some nice, fresh veggies and a dip of some kind. On my first visit to Knife, which also serves 44 Farms meat, the meal began with vegetable crudités that included a cooling dipping sauce (and a giant sheet of beef jerky). Mudhen’s burger arrives — the bun flecked with raindrop-sized seeds, a curtain of melted gouda underneath — with a pile of raw radishes, cauliflower and sliced carrots.
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This is where I can’t help but get punchy: I get the pride in real, fresh vegetables. I’m happy to pay a little bit more for good ingredients, but for a 15-buck burger, a side of radishes, raw, makes me want to run full-speed, weeping wildly, into a jacuzzi full of burnt ends and bacon. Radishes and raw cauliflower, it turns out, are deeply unsatisfying next to a beef burger. Maybe kale chips would have blown my eyebrows off. For the price, I think a little more indulgence is allowed.
The 44 Farms patty, cooked past the medium rare I requested, was still very juicy, and big in flavor — sort-of pro. The marinated, nearly caramelized jalapeños and pickles added dimension — pro. The nine-grain bun (I couldn’t name or see which nine) became soggy after a wave of juice flowed from the burger when I sliced it. The bun also eclipsed the burger patty like a Cowboy hat. A couple of cons for me there. The gouda was funky and interesting — pro.
Not every burger has to be loaded with American cheese to be awesome. But when you order a burger, you expect to indulge, and that indulgence can be delivered in many forms. Mudhen’s burger, with some pros and cons, comes up short. I regretted eating healthy this time around.
Mudhen is at 900 S. Harwood St.