In 2011, the last time we put some local turkey burgers to the taste test, there was a canyon of quality between the great (Fort Worth’s H2 Burger) and not-so-great (Carl’s Jr.). This year, there’s less daylight between the high and the low, as each of the ones we tried had their strong points.
Alas, H2 is no longer serving turkey burgers (they’ve been replaced with a chicken sandwich – boo) so we started with a mostly clean slate for 2013, trying out places that either weren’t around or we missed two years ago. An exception was made for one old favorite.
In most of the eateries, I ordered the turkey burger as it’s served, with no special requests. As with their beef counterparts, what constitutes a t-burger can vary wildly from restaurant to restaurant. (Also, some places will sub in a turkey patty for beef on any of their burgers.)
This is hardly a definitive list, merely a sampling of several regional operators (as opposed to national chains) in different parts of North Texas. But here are seven worth trying, ranked in order. Happy gobbling.
1. Liberty Burger
This North Dallas-based joint threw open its doors at the end of 2011 and seemed to be an immediate hit. The place is always packed, they’ve opened a second one, and by the end of summer there’ll be a third.
While you can’t always judge a place by the size of the crowd, this is one case where quantity and quality are perfect partners. Their turkey burger, dubbed the Libertine, is at the top of this year’s list because it gets everything right. The patty is thick but not dry (always a danger with turkey burgers) and it’s topped with a forest of arugula, rings of raw red onion the size of a tricycle tire, tomato, mustard, and two items that push it over the edge into the land of awesome: avocado and marinated cucumbers. The blend of savory Southwestern tang (though I could have used even more avocado) and crispy crunch elevates the whole affair. And it’s only $7.50. I’ll take two, please.
5211 Forest Lane, Dallas, 214-239-2100; 5181 Keller Springs Rd., Dallas, 214 954-7223, 1904 Abrams Parkway, Dallas (opening soon); givemelibertyburger.com
2. Rodeo Goat
The Fort Worth burger hot spot known for putting everything from peanut butter to pineapple on its beef burgers hasn’t forgotten those of us looking for some bird in our bread. Their turkey burger doesn’t have a cute name like some of its red-meat cousins – it’s just called “turkey burger” – but that doesn’t mean the RG powers-that-be haven’t put any thought into this sandwich.
What gives their t-burger a lift is a nod to a Thanksgiving stereotype – they top their turkey burger with a berry boursin (creamy herbed cheese) that offers a hint of the sweetness associated with the cranberry’n’pumpkin-pie holiday.
While they don’t have the thickest patty, it’s seasoned well and topped with tomato, sprouts, onion, mustard, and mayo (pickles on the side). At $9, it’s slightly more pricey than some of its competition.
2836 Bledsoe, Fort Worth, 817-877-4628; rodeogoat.com
3. Hopdoddy Burger Bar
The Austin transplant that cruised into the Final Four in the judges’ burger bracket also serves a terrific turkey burger. Inexplicably called a Continental Club, it is a tower of turkey patty, provolone, arugula, mayonnaise, basil pesto, and, yes, apple-smoked bacon – and it ranks as one of the most flavorful and filling burgers we tried. I suppose we could deduct points for the addition of bacon – afterall, the point of a turkey burger is to avoid fattier meats – but their combo of bird and bacon is a pretty convincing argument, cardiologists be damned. If you have to, you can order the Continental Club without the pig and it’s still a knockout. $8
6030 Luther Lane, Dallas; 214-363-2337; hopdoddy.com
4. Simply Burgers
This north Arlington outpost doesn’t do anything fancy with their turkey burger. The word “boursin” doesn’t appear anywhere on the menu and, during a recent pop-in, businessmen looking for a quick lunch outnumbered hipsters by a fraction of, oh, 20 to 0.
But that doesn’t mean Simply Burgers doesn’t make a good sandwich. Its very straightforward patty comes with grilled onions, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. But the patty is well seasoned and very satisfying at only $5. If you’re feeling rich, add extra toppings like mushrooms and guacamole for 95 cents each.
2500 NE Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington; 817 795-9189
5. Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House
The turkey burger served at this popular east Dallas hangout is definitely the most unique of the group. Called The Gobbler, it’s served topped with lots of Asian slaw and on a rectangular ciabatta bun, a wise choice of bread. The slaw adds a tangy piquancy though it also tends dominate the turkey as opposed to always complementing it. The result is that, while the burger is flavorful, at times it feels like you’re eating more salad than sandwich.
1154 Peavy Rd., Dallas; 214 324-3335; goodfrienddallas.com
6. Twisted Root Burger Company
Here is the one returnee from last year. Since H2 knocked itself out of the running, I chose Twisted Root as the holdover to go up against all these new kids on the block.
Now, if you just order a turkey burger at Twisted Root, you’re going to get a pretty plain sandwich with just lettuce, tomato and onions on the side ($5.99). But you can order any of the Root’s specialty burgers and swap the beef out for turkey (or venison, elk, kangaroo, emu, boar, lamb, ostrich or gator depending on availability).
The Verde (with guacamole, pepperjack cheese, and green chili, $8.49) was a good choice. Though, unlike Liberty where I could have used more avocado-flavor, the huge dollop of guac on The Verde soaked through the bread and created a – gasp! – bun breach. By the end, it was more like a casserole that had to be eaten with a fork, but the flavors were still good.
2820 Central Dr., Bedford, 682-444-5650; 310 E. Abram St., Arlington, 817-201-9669; 2615 Commerce St., Dallas, 214 741-7668; 5609 SMU Blvd., Dallas, 214-361-2910; 101 S. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-490-6628; 7300 Lone Star Dr., Plano, 972-312-0011; 730 E. Campbell Rd., Richardson, 214-570-9999; 1111 S. Main, Carrollton, 214-449-8498; 232 Town Place, Fairview, 972-886-4045; twistedrootburgerco.com
7. Tommy’s Hamburger Grill
This is the one old-school burger joint on the list, having been open for 29 years serving west Fort Worth. Certainly, this is the place where you’re most likely to see guys in cowboy hats and waitresses like the kind you see in diner scenes in movies. They even call their drinks menu “Washdowns.” Can’t get much more homey than that.
As expected then, they serve a fairly basic turkey burger with onions, lettuce, and mustard for $7.99. It’s good but you’d probably be better off upgrading one of their regular burgers – like the Wholly Moley (with guacamole and cheese) – for $8.29.
5228 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817 569-1111; tommyshamburgergrill.com