“These burgers are just too big. My innocent observation of Snuffer’s thick, salty sandwich set off a verbal barroom burger brawl and led ultimately to Burger Madness, this magazine’s attempt to settle, once and for all, the overcooked debate: “Which is the best burger in Dallas?”
To avoid any semblance of democracy, I appointed myself committee chairman, the grand dame of ground round. Fearing for their lives and reputations, my two committee members opted for anonymity. “Meathead” and “Prince” (his favorite) set up our competition based on the NCAA college basketball tournament. Rules were written, faxed, and e-mailed back and forth until the three of us agreed on the selection criteria.
The taste-off tipped off in June 2001, and, after six months of comparing and swearing, we’d eaten more than 50 different burgers-some of them two or three times.
We declared the chains-Mickey D’s, Whataburger, Burger Street, Chili’s, etc.-ineligible for competition. Other local favorites-Feedbag, Slider & Blues, Dairyette, Jakes-weren’t good enough to make the final cut and were relegated to NIT (Not In Tournament) status. Just as in the NCAA tournament, an invitation to the “Big Burger Dance€VbCrLf is in itself an honor. If you don’t spot your favorite on our list, it wasn’t overlooked. It just didn’t make the cut.
We scouted bars, restaurants, dives, and drive-ins all over Dallas and seeded the top 32 burgers (not the buns) to fill out our tournament dance card. We divided the qualifying burgers into two brackets: bars and restaurants. (As in any tournament, the quality of competition among the participants isn’t always equal.) In our tournament, the bar bracket turned out to be far stronger. For the record, we didn’t include Rose’s, opting to induct the longtime champion into the Dallas Burger Hall of Fame.
We began with some biases: we believe that a burger, like any other champion, is greater than the sum of its parts. Some burgers featured delicious meat but were crippled by SBS (Soggy Bun Syndrome) or suffered from a severe case of Condimentia (any patty dressed with radicchio was sent to the showers). Proportion is paramount. Some general parameters to keep the playing field-or plate-level:
- Burgers were ordered with American cheese and whatever condiments each place normally provides.
- We took into consideration meat flavor, juiciness, texture, and meat-to-bun ratio.
- Most burgers were cooked medium; if we were asked, we ordered them medium.
- In the early rounds, we met weekly with two contenders, rating each on a 1 to 10 scale. Our accompanying assistant numbered the burgers and set them before us, and we tasted without knowing the source.
There were early upsets: The Midway Point, with a dedicated cult following, drew Snuffer’s in the first round. (We chose quality over quantity: the Point’s fist-sized patty lacked the flavor of Snuffer’s.) Prince of
Hamburgers rolled over Keller’s No. 5 in the duel of the drive-ins. Some pre-tournament favorites were bounced out by lesser-known burgers. Highly touted Chip’s, Burger House, and Hunky’s all bowed out in the second round. Even our personal favorites were defeated, as our purely empirical blind-tasting method separated our hearts from our taste buds.
In the round of eight, every genre was represented, ranging in size from the half-pound Loon sandwich to the wafer-thin Prince of Hamburgers patty. Cultures clashed. Deep Ellum’s Angry Dog faced off with the kid-friendly Purple Cow (whose burger seemed less savory when the accompanying chocolate shake could not be taken into consideration).
Tension mounted in the quarterfinals when Snuffer’s was finally upset by the Cinderella Loon burger, while the ultimate hangover favorite Angry Dog was upended by neighborhood secret Uptown Bar and Grill. We swear: no money changed hands.
It was a long, hard-fought battle, and we were well aware of the responsibility we carried in our bellies. Over the years, many publications have dared to name the best burger in Dallas, but none has ever applied such rigorous scientific method nor demonstrated such disregard for the bottom line. Not to mention the waist line. No need to thank us. The work is its own reward.
Adair’s Saloon, 2624 Commerce St., 214-939-9900
Angry Dog, 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406
Bailey’s 1st & 10, 6465 E. Mockingbird Ln., 214-828-0055
Balls Hamburgers, Snider Plaza, 3404 Rankin, 214-373-1717; 4343 W. Northwest Hwy., 214-352-2525
Ben’s Half-Yard House, 7102 Greenville Ave., 214-363-1118
Burger House, 6913 Hillcrest Ave., 214-361-0370; 6248 E. Mockingbird Ln., 214-828-2732
Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers, 4530 W. Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447; 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092
Chuck’s, 3308 Preston Rd., Plano, 972-596-4211, Multiple locations
Club Schmitz, 9661 Denton Dr., 214-350-3607
EZ’s, 6833 W. Northwest Hwy., 214-750-6677
Gazeebo Burger, 5950 Royal Ln., 214-368-3344; 4727 Frankford Rd., 972-713-6992
Goff’s, 5702 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-3336
Hole in the Wall, 11654 Harry Hines Blvd., 972-247-2253
Hunky’s, 4000 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-522-1212
J.G.’s, 12101 Greenville Ave., Ste. 109, 972-644-8628
Joe Willy’s Market & Grill, 7033 Greenville Ave., 214-691-8930
Keller’s Drive-In, 10554 Harry Hines Blvd., 214-357-3572; 6537 E. Northwest Hwy., 214-368-1209
Lakewood Bar and Grill, 6340 Gaston Ave., 214-826-3888
The Loon, 3531 McKinney Ave., 214-559-3059
The Midway Point, 12801 Midway Rd., 972-484-3470
Milo Butterfingers, 5645 Yale Blvd., 214-368-9212
Ozona Grill and Bar, 4615 Greenville Ave., 214-265-9105
Prince of Hamburgers, 5200 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-9081
Purdy’s Restaurant, 1403 E. Campbell Rd., 972-480-0288; 4812 Belt Line Rd., 972-960-2494
The Purple Cow, 110 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-373-0037; 5809 Preston Rd., Plano, 972-473-6100; 2051 W. Airport Fwy., Euless, 817-858-9000
Snookie’s Bar and Grill, 3604 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-1068; 5181 Keller Springs Rd., 972-248-1435
Snuffer’s, 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811
Stan’s Blue Note, 2908 Greenville Ave., 214-827-1977
Stoneleigh P, 2926 Maple Ave., 214-871-2346
Texas Special, 1606 Market Center Blvd., 214-747-2222
Theo’s Diner, 111 S. Hall St., 214-747-6936
Uptown Bar and Grill, 2412 Fairmount St., 214-969-9433
Uptown Bar and Grill vs. Stoneleigh P
Ben’s Half-Yard House vs. Ozona Grill and Bar
Bailey’s 1st & 10 vs. Milo Butterfingers
The Midway Point vs. Snuffer’s
The Loon vs. Snookie’s Bar and Grill
Lakewood Bar and Grill vs. Stan’s Blue Note
Club Schmitz vs. Hole in the Wall
Angry Dog vs. Adair’s Saloon
Uptown Bar and Grill vs. Ben’s Half-Yard House
Bailey’s 1st & 10 vs. Snuffer’s
The Loon vs. Stan’s Blue Note
Club Schmitz vs. Angry Dog
Uptown Bar and Grill vs. Snuffer’s
Too much salt kept Snuffer’s from advancing to the finals.
The Loon vs. Angry Dog
Heated battle between two classic bar burgers-the touch of Worcestershire sauce in the Loon burger ousted the Angry Dog’s entrant.
Uptown Bar and Grill vs. The Loon
What a meat matchup! And a major upset! Uptown’s chopped onions and lettuce beat the Loon at the buzzer.
J.G.’s vs. EZ’s
Goff’s vs. Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers
Balls Hamburgers vs. Burger House
The Purple Cow vs. Gazeebo Burger
Joe Willy’s Market & Grill vs. Theo’s Diner
Chuck’s vs. Purdy’s Restaurant
Hunky’s vs. Texas Special
Prince of Hamburgers vs. Keller’s Drive-In
J.G.’s vs. Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers
Burger House vs. The Purple Cow
Joe Willy’s Market & Grill vs. Purdy’s Restaurant
Hunky’s vs. Prince of Hamburgers
J.G.’s vs. The Purple Cow
Battle of the Buns: the toasted bread of long shot J.G.’s beat favorite Purple Cow, which suffered from Soggy Bun Syndrome.
Joe Willy’s Market & Grill vs. Prince of Hamburgers
The lean, mean Prince burger with perfect proportion of meat to bun beat the unwieldy Willy by a mere tenth of a point.
J.G.’s vs. Prince of Hamburgers
Tournament favorite Prince was downed by the thicker patty of newcomer J.G.’s.
Uptown Bar and Grill vs. J.G.’s
Time for the big dance-the final taste off tipped off at noon. Tension mounted as the samples were placed in front of the judges. Silence was broken only by requests: “I need a visual on number one, shouted Meathead while Prince commented that the bun on two was “a dash doughy. For the next two hours, every component of what makes a perfect burger (meat flavor, ratio of meat to bun, condiment proportion) was put to the ultimate test. In the end the toasted bun that brought J.G.’s to the finals couldn’t stand up to the thicker patty wrapped in melted cheese at Uptown. Entrant J.G.’s ran out of juice in the final minute. One bloated judge stood and proclaimed, “This might be a bigger upset than Villanova and Kentucky.”
And the Champ of Chuck is… Uptown Bar and Grill