At DFW.com, we’re pretty burger-obsessed. Every odd-numbered year since 2009, we’ve held an NCAA-bracket-style burger battle, seeking the best burger in DFW. On the even-numbered years, we boldly seek out new burgers and dream about the next burger battle.
So when we heard about the Eagle Mountain Classic Boat Club’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” boat cruise, we were intrigued. Andy Butchard, past president of the Classic Boat Club, told us about the cruise, explaining that with water levels down at Eagle Mountain Lake and other area lakes, the club came up with the cruise to promote lakeside businesses.
More than 40 people showed up for the cruise, a friendly, laid-back bunch that doesn’t take much seriously — except, perhaps, burgers. While DFW.com’s burger battles are all about the burger, with some awards for good sides, the boat cruise rated not just the burgers and the sides, but service and boat-friendliness — i.e., the ease with which boats could pull up to a dock outside the burger place.
The burger-cruise burgers were made to specifications — namely, the specifications in Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise (“I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer … medium rare with mustard’d be nice, where on earth is that onion slice?”) Burgers were also measured for height, weight and meat temperature. Like we said, serious.
The cruise visited four lakeside businesses: West Bay Grill, Poppy’s Grill, Augie’s Sunset Cafe and Boon-Docks at Eagle Mountain Arena. The following are DFW.com’s impressions, with the boat club’s official results.
• West Bay Grill: Officially part of the West Bay Marina and RV Park in Azle, and a relatively long but relaxing boat ride from our starting point at Eagle Mountain Marina in Fort Worth, West Bay Grill has been around for about 20 years, according to boat-club members. Of the places on the cruise, it’s the one that least fits the “bar” image, although beer is available. Service was impeccable: Burgers for a party of 40-plus, cut into quarters as requested, were being served up when we walked in. The burger was popular among boat-club members I talked to, but the quarter I got had too much bun and not enough patty, making for about two bites of meat. Flavor was good; there just wasn’t enough of it. Fresh-cut fries were good. Spoiler alert: Everyone’s fries were good. Boat club result: Honorable mention (a close second), best burger.
• Poppy’s: From a landlubber’s perspective, this had the best docking facilities, with a new marina and easy access and exits. Poppy’s, on the east side of the lake, also has a nice second-story patio with a good view of the lake. Although boat-club members seemed a little lukewarm on the burgers, this was my favorite patty, with house-blended beef that had a deep flavor that stood out from the pack (extra points for the crisp pickles sliced on the burger). Crunchy-on-the-outside fries were excellent, and a hit with the boat club as well.
• Augie’s: From a landlubber’s perspective … where was the dock? Boats had to pull up to the beach; the pontoon boat I was riding at the time needed assistance landing and leaving (there is a fishing pier with ladders, but I was told that wasn’t the best bet for entry/exit, especially after you’ve had a beer or two). The place has a funky divey-ness, and servers did a great job filling orders for a large group that shifted tables to shade after the sun emerged from behind clouds. My burger suffered from an overdose of mustard — and I’m a mustard guy. Fries were haphazardly seasoned, but if you dragged a fry through the settled powder, you got a nice salty-peppery mix. Still, this was probably the place that impressed me and boat-club members the least.
• Boon-Docks: This relatively new music venue (in the former home of Lauderdale’s on the Lake) has an impressive concert calendar — Justin Frazell of KFWR/95.9 FM “The Ranch” has started doing his Texas Red Dirt Roads TV show from here — and a cool stage that gives portions of the audience a lake view. There was some initial confusion about the burger order (initially, the place made just two burgers for more than 40 judges), but it was quickly settled, and the Boon-Docks burger had the best presentation. But for me, although it was a good burger, it didn’t live up to that presentation, and I still had fond memories of the Poppy’s patty. But it won the boat-club prize by, as Butchard put it in his article for the boat-club newsletter, a sliver of lettuce. Boat club result: Best cheeseburger on Eagle Mountain Lake.