Remember when ordering a burger was simple? When the most complex question might be: "You want fries with that?"
That seems like a long time ago, in a drive-through far, far away.
Not only has there been an explosion of new fast-food options in the Metroplex (In-N-Out, Smashburger, Five Guys, etc.) but also more upscale burger joints, like Twisted Root, H2 Burger Co. and Village Burger Bar, which strive to make the humble sandwich more gourmet. The latest eatery trying to make its name in the deluxe category is Liberty Burger in North Dallas, opened by Mariel Street, the daughter of North Texas restaurant god Gene Street (Black-Eyed Pea, Lucky's, Good Eats, Cool River).
Walking into the expansive -- and, judging from my two visits there, comfortably crowded -- space, you're overwhelmed by the amount of choices available. You can choose beef, bison, turkey, lamb or veggie, and there are 11 types of burgers. After much dithering, we settled on the Libertine (turkey), Jackie O (lamb), Woodstock (veggie) and the Napa (beef).
Perhaps surprisingly, considering the word "burger" is in the place's name, our two favorites didn't involve dead mammals at all. The Libertine ($6.50), featuring a turkey patty topped with arugula, avocado, tomato, onion, mustard and marinated cucumbers, completely upends the notion that a turkey burger has to be dry and relatively flavorless. After H2's version, this may be the second-best turkey burger in the area.
Also impressive is the Woodstock ($7), which has a patty made from chopped vegetables, grains, hummus and seeds beneath a slathering of Swiss cheese, spring greens, avocado, tomato and basil garlic aioli. The burger has a sweetness to it that came as a pleasant surprise. The Woodstock forces those who think a veggie burger has to be the mocked and forgotten stepchild of the burger family to reconsider that notion.
While solid, the Napa ($8, with gorgonzola cheese, arugula, roasted tomatoes, green olives, onion, basil garlic aioli) and the Jackie O ($9.50, with feta cheese, spinach, roasted tomatoes, tzatziki sauce), were slightly undone by the dryness of the patties.
The sides prove to be something of a mixed bag. The sweet potato fries ($2.50) and skinny fries ($2) are crunchy and flavorful, but the Big O Rings ($4) -- elephantine onion saucers that you're not sure whether to eat or use as hula hoops -- suffer from an overabundance of pepper seasoning.
The caramel sea salt shake ($4), while maybe too salty for some, is deliciously distinctive, whereas the chocolate peanut butter shake is more predictable in its flavor profile. The personal meringue pie ($4) is a cute idea, but our chocolate one proved rather flat in execution.
Overall, Liberty is definitely a welcome addition to the North Texas burger scene -- though perhaps its biggest drawback has less to do with the menu than the somewhat limited hours. The place is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday -- so if you're jonesing for a Napa, some skinny fries and a caramel sea salt shake late on a weekend night, too bad. Guess there's always that none-too-gourmet standby, Whataburger.