DFW Burger Battle 2013: Mustard Region Round 1 results

Posted 6:22pm on Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013

Mustard Region

Here's how Round 1 of the judges' bracket played out in the 2013 DFW Burger Battle: Mustard Region. (For the other region matchups, click here on Pickle, Baconand Ketchup. And click here to cast a vote in the Readers' Choice bracket!)

(1) Fred’s, 915 Currie St., Fort Worth vs. (8) Burger Xtreme, 6401 McCart Ave.

Fred’s Texas Cafe, our 2009 champion and a Final Four burger in 2011, served up its signature Diablo piping hot and cooked meticulously to medium, as requested. The first bite sent an exhilarating rush of heat up our nostrils, the chipotle peppers flashing Fred’s championship form. The beef was juicy, too, lightly spiced and melded nicely with the vinegary mustard, pickles and sweet grilled onions. But our Swiss cheese, the creamy yin to the chipotles’ fiery yang, wasn’t fully melted, throwing off the burger’s equilibrium. When the flimsy Mrs Baird’s bun gave way on our third bite, the Diablo seemed, for once, vulnerable.

Burger Xtreme, in business just a couple of years, occupies a corner space in a southwest Fort Worth strip mall. Nothing remarkable to see here, except the burgers — half-pound beauties served on sturdy 5-inch buns. Our Bacon Cheeseburger Extreme was juicy throughout, cooked to the requested medium, and the patty had more assertive salt-and-pepper flavor. The American cheese was melted masterfully, and the bacon was among the best we’ve had: smoky, chewy, an able sidekick to the beef. The veggies were fresh, and only a heavy hand with the mustard kept this burger from being an unqualified success.

If this had been a prize fight, we might have called it a draw. Two heavyweights — one famous, the other virtually unknown — throwing haymakers, neither willing to go down. But in the end, it was the ex-champ that seemed more wobbly, undone by a bun.

Winner: Burger Xtreme

(2) Dutch’s, 3009 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, vs. (7) LA Burger, 10045 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving.

“LA” stands for “Los Angeles,” or as close as you can get at a burger counter in a strip shopping center in Valley Ranch. And LA nearly ousted Dutch’s home-team burger in this round, delivering a Koreatown-style teriyaki cheeseburger with a fried egg, chopped jalapeños and spicy kimchee instead of pickles. It’s all served on a sweet Hawaiian bun similar to Dutch’s, so this was a head-on clash.

The egg-jalapeño combination is interesting — sort of like a Whataburger with a taquito on top — but when you peel back all the toppings, LA Burger’s flaw was the teriyaki ground beef. There just wasn’t enough of it under all that California flash. Dutch’s half-pound burger delivered more beef on a bigger bun. Even with bacon, grilled onions, cheddar, shredded bibb lettuce and deep red tomatoes, a single-meat version of Dutch’s Lineman burger tasted primarily of fresh, well-seasoned beef. The thick, half-pound patty crumbled at the touch of a fork. Somehow, this half-pound burger seemed much larger than LA Burger’s. And in the Burger Battle, meat matters.

Winner: Dutch’s

(3) Twisted Root, 2615 Commerce St., Dallas vs. (6) Smashburger, 1605 S. University Drive, Fort Worth

Smashburger, the Colorado-based chain that planted its flag in DFW a few years ago, derives its name from the “smashing” technique it uses to sear extra flavor into its burgers. But our Classic Smash, which arrived open faced in a basket, was flat as a pancake and largely flavorless, as if it had taken too much of a pounding on the grill. (The partially melted cheese didn’t help, either.) The toasted egg bun was scrumptious and gave us a flicker of hope. But with standard veggies and forgettable condiments (ketchup and Smash Sauce), this burger did very little to distinguish itself.

Twisted Root, on the other hand, is a funky Deep Ellum original that occasionally goes too far trying to be different. But on this day, we chose a fairly standard burger, and the half-pounder with cheddar and bacon arrived sizzling, on a buttery-brown bun. The patty was seasoned with a pinch too much pepper, but the delicious burger juice (is there a better word?) made up for it. We got an ample mouthful of crisp bacon with each bite, and the house-made ancho-chipotle ketchup gave this traditional burger a modern flair and a powerful punch of flavor — one that easily knocked out Smashburger.

The winner: Twisted Root

(4) Johnny B’s, 2704 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake vs. (5) Pappas Burger, 2700 West Freeway, Fort Worth

In an area with Five Guys, Kincaid’s and Snuffer’s within a short drive of one another, Johnny B’s has staked its claim as the hometown burger joint, with Southlake Carroll memorabilia among the wall decorations. Johnny B’s also honors the high school with its Dragonburger, a name that also refers to the jalapeño/chili-with-an-i topping on the triple-decker cheeseburger. An architectural marvel in presentation, it toppled into a forkburger on first bite after the patties proved to be too much for the sourdough bun. But that first bite revealed that the trio of thin patties and the cheese stood out, thanks in part to a delicate hand with the chili and the jalapeños, which provided spice without turning this into a fire-breather. Among the other ingredients — lettuce, tomato, onion and Thousand Island sauce — only the julienned raw onions didn’t get lost.

But the patties’ beefy flavor was enough to give Johnny B’s the edge over Pappas’ peppercorn ranch burger, which was greasy and showed pink even though the menu says its burgers are prepared medium well. Except for the peppercorns, which provided a hint of heat, everything about this burger — the ranch dressing, the steak sauce, the onion-ring topping — tasted less impressive than it looked. The menu says this burger comes with pepper-jack cheese. But we couldn’t find it. And we couldn’t believe that Pappas, once a Final Four competitor, was slain this easily by the Dragonburger.

Winner: Johnny B’s

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