Six years ago in April, Jason Boso found himself sweating away behind the kitchen of his burger joint, painstakingly separating meat from a beaver carcass.
The process was arduous. He’d purchased around 60 pounds of the prehistoric rodents to grind into burger patties that he’d serve for $8 each. The premise of the idea was a joke. Mostly, Boso wanted to hear Dallasites vocalize an order for a beaver burger.
As a human being who enjoys a wide variety of Earth’s wondrous animals between buns, I was one of the few who ordered this beaver sandwich. I remember expecting an intense, gamey flavor, which seems reasonable when you imagine the strenuous work that goes into constructing a dam. Instead, the ground beaver patty was mellow, capped with a good sear, with a beef-adjacent flavor and texture. I added cheese. Somehow, it worked.
It may have been an eye-roll of a joke, but Twisted Root, our neighborhood joint turned burger chain, thrives most when it’s experimenting. Cheeseburgers made of the usual cows are the weakest dish of the 12-year-old franchise.
The flagship location in Deep Ellum began like a slow climb. Boso did not find instant burger success. In 2006, rent was basement-low in the nightlife district. He cobbled together restaurant parts, a Frankenstein monster coming to life, after culinary school and his fine-dining work at the Four Seasons.
In the days before social media could bullhorn the word of local mom-and-pop joints, Boso found himself wondering: Why are Dallas’ best quality burgers limited to fancy-pants steakhouses? He maxed out his credit cards, asked friends to pitch in and infused his own brand of humor into the walls at 2615 Commerce St.
Then, the bleached-haired one entered the scene. The man known as Guy Fieri issued an ominous warning to the husband-wife team of Jason and Amando Boso during filming: “Be careful. This show is a blessing and a curse.” Fieri, it seems, understood the Fieri Effect: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives can send a deluge of new visitors to each of the show's featured restaurants — and bury an ill-prepared owner. Heeding the Bleached One’s warning, Twisted Root thrived instead of falling.
Nine years after the show aired, a new wave of customers washes up each time it reruns. Folks still show up via the Triple D app, Amanda Boso tells us, and the Western Burger, which Guy Fieri’s face devoured sometime before 2009, still tops the list of best-sellers.
I’m sitting and waiting for a Verde burger — roasted hatch chiles, a ice-cream scoop of guacamole and melted pepper jack cheese laid over the buffalo-grind patty. A green slip of paper denotes that someone will be referring to my order when he or she shouts the name Muhammed Ali through the mic. It’s Twisted Root's schtick. Meanwhile, I overload three plastic ramekins with pickles — dill, bread and butter, and spicy from a Garland-based family pickle factory — and thunk the soda fountain with my cup until it’s full of ice-cold root beer.
There’s an overwhelming menu at Twisted Root, but the best trio can be found in cold root beer, spicy pickles and a piping-hot buffalo patty.
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The buffalo overruns with juices, a grass-meets-blue-sky taste that snaps the mind out of beef fatigue. It makes sense: Twisted Root has an exclusive partnership with a nearby ranch that hunts and field dresses buffalo on site. The ranchers whittle down the buffalo right there under the blue sky. The entire buffalo is flown to Twisted Root for the grind.
Twisted Root’s beef program doesn't have the same power. On a recent visit, the Western burger featured overcooked, underseasoned beef. The toppings overwhelmed the patty, then exploded out of the bun. Wagyu from A Bar N Ranch, a new option, is far superior.
Keep an eye on its announcements online, and you’ll find happiness in not-cows at Twisted Root. Elk? Emu? Yes, it's worth it. Buffalo is reliable, big on flavor and healthier. A Verde version with venison (more fun than saying deer) stood out among the crowd at one point. Alligator, beaver or kangaroo may not yield the best sandwich — alligator was Boso’s most frustrating exotic animal prep experience — but at the minimum, it’s an experience.
Twisted Root, 2615 Commerce St.