Hopdoddy Burger Bar is part of the "better burger" trend, in which restaurateurs take the everyday burger and trick it up with gourmet ingredients and a higher price. The chain-in-the-making started out in Austin in 2010, and recently opened a branch, its third, in Dallas' buzzing Preston Center.
Dallas-Fort Worth has its share of burger joints, so it's no small feat that Hopdoddy has distinguished itself not only as a hot destination with 30-minute waits on weekends, but one whose burgers deserve the "better" label. Fries were good, and to complete the trinity, so were the shakes.
The service mode is similar to another recent Austin import, Torchy's Tacos. A single line forms in the center of the restaurant. The staff has the wait time down to a formula, ensuring that no order gets placed until a table is vacant.
A dozen burger options ranged from Angus beef to bison to lamb to tuna. Toppings were gourmet all the way: arugula, Brie cheese and truffle aioli. A few burgers featured spicy chiles such as jalapenos and habaneros, and there was a veggie burger, too.
The Magic Shroom ($8.50) with Angus beef was flavorful, with goat cheese and sautéed mushrooms. The patty looked hand-formed, and thick enough for a contrast between its slightly pink center and charred crust. A toasted, buttered bun, green-leaf lettuce and a large slice of tomato made for a picture-perfect experience.
The veggie burger, called La Bandita ($8), is not Hopdoddy's best. Nutritionally, their house-made blend of quinoa, brown rice, black bean and corn was sound, but the texture and flavor were disappointing. The patty had no body, oozing messily out of the stiff whole wheat bun. The flavor was all cumin, the hackneyed spice choice that plagues many veggie burgers.
The Continental Club ($8) was a turkey patty, with Provolone, bacon and arugula on a whole wheat bun. This was well-conceived; the bacon and a basil pesto covered for the turkey's pallid flavor. With all those ingredients, the wheat bun's stiffness was an asset.
Everything came on a rectangular aluminum tray, including salads. The baby kale ($9) included mixed kale with arugula, spinach, avocado, goat cheese and sunflower seeds. But the stand-out ingredient was sweet refreshing watermelon, cut into cubes. Spinach and arugula ($9) was the favorite salad with its sweet extras: crunchy sugar-snap peas, thinly sliced apples and toasted pecans.
Hopdoddy uses brand-name Kennebec potatoes for its fries ($2.75), and those alone made this worth a visit. They were like thick matchsticks, but with skins still on, and fried until a deep brown. We sprung for the fries with rich green-chile queso ($6), great for dipping. Speaking of rich, milkshakes ($5.50) came in novel flavors such as Nutella and chocolate pretzel, or caramel and sea salt. We wondered why they were served in plastic cups, even if they were eco-friendly, like Hopdoddy's compostable plastic forks and paper sleeves for the burgers.
There are cocktails and craft beer, with an emphasis on regional and local brews. That's what the "hop" stands for, while "doddy" is a nickname for a cow in Aberdeen. Beer and burgers is what they do.