It's time for another segment in our annual Tastemaker Awards, which honor the top talent in the Dallas restaurant industry. Over the next few weeks, we're dedicating stories to these champions-to-be, as a build-up to our grand tasting event on May 14, 7-10 pm, at the Empire Room in the Design District.
For our 2015 edition, we're devoting a special chapter to one of the most hotly debated food categories of all: burgers. Few foodstuffs have received as much attention as this simple ground beef patty, and that's even more true in the past few years as a wave of so-called "better burger" joints washed across Dallas-Fort Worth. Our list includes some of those players, who go up against some longtime classics.
From these 10 finalists, a winner will be announced at our party (for which you can buy tickets here), featuring signature snacks from top restaurants and a cocktail face-off hosted by Herradura between our Bartender of the Year nominees.
Veteran Greenville Avenue bistro has decades of history under its belt, renowned chefs, a legendary wine list, a stellar manager and its beloved cream of mushroom soup. But thanks to an award from Texas Monthly, The Grape has become known for its burger. This is a burger done chef-style: The meat is ground in-house; the bacon is cured onsite. Bibb lettuce, perfect red tomato, white cheddar and a mustard-mayo blend sit tall on a sweet, buttered, toasted brioche bun.
Fancy sibling of Bread Winners boasts many good things, including serious cocktails and some intriguing dishes. Those include the marrow burger, one of the city's most distinctive specimens. The patty is made of well-marbled Akaushi beef, topped with a layer of flavorful marrow, just-melting aged cheddar, crisp strips of bacon and caramelized onions on a glossy, eggy brioche.
American Graffiti-style drive-in comes literally straight out of the '50s, with old-fashioned burgers delivered via carhops and a fun car-culture vibe. Their burger is like a homemade version of fast food, with a thin patty, American cheese and shredded lettuce on a soft poppy-seed bun. At $2.35, the cheeseburger is cheap enough that you can splurge on a side of Tater tots.
This modern steakhouse in the stylish Highlands Dallas hotel does a modern, innovative twist on steak, featuring all kinds of beef, including some aged up to 240 days. You can get that in the dining room with a nice bottle of red. But as he proved at his now-closed One Arts Plaza restaurant The Commissary, chef John Tesar is the consummate burger flipper. His Ozersky burger is a winner: topped with slivered red onions and two slices of American cheese, placed just so.
As a member of the famed Street family (Good Eats, Black Eyed Pea), Mariel Street is part of Dallas restaurant royalty. Rather than coast on the family name, she started her own Hopdoddy-style chain, with a dozen high-end burgers and wine by the glass too. Its best entries run healthy; the turkey burger topped with mustard on a wheat bun is sweet, and the veggie burger is a frequent best-list topper.
Maple & Motor
Do not sit at a table until after you order. The rules at M&M are very, very important. They must be followed. But if you comply, you will be rewarded. There's a homespun quality to the thick, juicy patties, cooked on a griddle until pink in the middle and set on a bun that's buttered and toasted. Topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard, cheese, bacon and griddled jalapeños, it's the perfect Texas burger.
Cheap and no-frills — and, yet, in its own way high end — OSK is a chef's fantasy of what a burger joint is. It's where foodies go for a burger when they feel like "slumming" — i.e., the more industrial side of the Design District (which is hardly slumming at all). The price point is a draw; the renowned Locals Only burger is $4.75. It's a medium-rare patty, with thick bacon and a harmonious balance of ingredients that includes mustard, American cheese and jalapeño.
First launched in Fort Worth in late 2012, this stab at the burger concept by the Wynne family (Flying Saucer, Meddlesome Moth) comes off nicely, with a list of fancy burgers and, of course, a firm commitment to craft beer. A Dallas branch, newly opened in the Design District, has a pretty patio and a menu of burgers with quirky titles such as the one named for Mayor Mike Rawlings with Irish cheddar. The classic remains the "Caca Oaxaca," a beef and chorizo burger with avocado, pico de gallo, queso fresco, Tabasco mayo and a fried egg.
Swiss Pastry Shop
Owner Hans Muller has recast this quaint Fort Worth diner as a burger destination, by deploying an ever-changing lineup of creative burger specials. He uses fancy meat, often Wagyu, adds a goodly dose of salt and pepper, puts it on a house-made bun, and tops it with all manner of things. Latest edition: a 12-ounce Wagyu burger ground with smoked bacon, topped with four slices of American cheese, "P.L.O.T." and a house-made "special sauce."
D Magazine made this modest to-go joint locally famous when it pronounced the burger the best in 2006. Richard Wingfield mans the grill at this takeout-only, Oak Cliff joint wedged between a car lot and a mechanic's garage. The burger is big and sloppy, with a monster hand-molded patty, American cheese, shredded iceberg, sliced tomato and sharp red onion on a nothing-fancy bun. Even without bacon on top, it has a bacon flavor, but go ahead and get bacon.
Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on May 14.