DFW.com Burger Battle: The ‘one-hit wonders’

Posted 9:20am on Thursday, Sep. 10, 2015

In pop music, a “one-hit wonder” is an artist who had a hugely successful single — one that defined their career — but never really captured that magic again.

During the Burger Battle, a familiar refrain we hear is about restaurants that serve one great burger — sometimes hailed as the best in the land — but don’t really have burger grease in their DNA.

Now, as you probably already know, the 2015 DFW.com Burger Battle focuses on places that make their reputation on burgers, lots of them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love our “one-hit wonders,” too.

Here are some of the best we’ve tried. Tell us your favorites at DFW.com:

The Bearded Lady: The historic house along Magnolia Avenue’s restaurant row in Fort Worth is a haven for beer lovers, yes, but there’s something brewing in the kitchen, too. The Build Your Own 1/2-lb Burger ($7) is among the best we’ve tried in Cowtown. The patty is always pink inside, just the way we ask for it, and evenly seasoned with salt and pepper. We recommend adding the expertly melted cheddar and fiery jalapeños (50 cents each) and thick-cut bacon ($1), and then washing it down with one of the many local beers on tap. You can also add roasted poblano, sauteed portabellos and gouda to your burger if you wanna get fancy (and Bearded Lady also does a “Burger of the Week” that’s also very inventive). Bearded Lady’s menu offers fried okra, cactus strips and tamarind glazed wings, so the food here is no sideshow. And the burger deserves a spot in the center ring. 1229 Seventh Ave., Fort Worth. 817-349-9832 ; thebeardedladyftw.com

Clay Pigeon Food and Drink: The food at Clay Pigeon is seasonal, and that includes chef Marcus Paslay’s runaway-hit burger, easily our favorite fine-dining burger and one of our favorites in Fort Worth, period. We’ve been adrift without it this summer, but Paslay promises he’s bringing it back next month, most likely as a Monday-night special. What we love about it is its simplicity and focus on fresh ingredients. We remember how the Bibb lettuce crunched and the tomato slices squirted. We remember the half-pound, all-prime patty was cooked a perfect medium — we didn’t even have to ask. We remember the smoked cheddar that was still melting when it hit our table. We remember biting into the pickled red onions and thinking, “What a great idea.” And we remember the slight heat of the roasted garlic aioli and the soft-yet-firm texture and buttery flavor of the excellent housemade buns. October can’t get here soon enough. 2731 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth. 817-882-8065 ; www.claypigeonfd.com

Mo’s Best Eatery: “Juicy” doesn’t begin to describe the six-napkin job that is the burger at Mo’s Best Eatery in Arlington. Mo grinds his own meat using New York strip, brisket and two other cuts. He also grinds in fat and a mix of spices for flavor and tops the cooking patty with butter for even more flavor — now we’re beginning to understand the ooziness. The 1/3-pound burger is served on a toasted bun that had been brushed with, yes, more herbed butter. The burger fixin’s are tame — shredded lettuce, tomato, grilled onion and American cheese. You can also order a double patty and a triple, but we’re not sure how you’d get your mouth around that. 4004 Little Road, Arlington. 817-561-4522; www.mosbesteatery.com

Grace: Every prime steakhouse has a burger, usually on the bar menu. They’re typically good, because they’re made from steak cuts, but the best of the lot might be at Grace, the upscale cousin of Little Red Wasp in downtown Fort Worth. Grace’s burger is usually a thick, hand-packed helping of ground tenderloin with white cheddar and potatoes ($13; you can add a fried egg for $3). It’s only available at the bar, unless you’re dining with a group. 777 Main St., Fort Worth. 817-877-3388; http://gracefortworth.com

Little Red Wasp:The cheeseburger at LRW is an ode to simplicity: Thin patty, a perfectly melted slab of cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and Thousand Island-esque “Wasp sauce” on a potato bun. It’s the patty, made with 44 Farms beef and seasoned beautifully, that elevates the whole thing, but you can also taste every element, from the juice of the tomatoes to the tang of the condiments. Available in $9 and $13 versions; spring for the latter, because you’re going to want more of that beef. 808 Main St., Fort Worth. 817-877-3111 ; littleredwasp.com.

Lili’s Bistro: The half-pound burgers here are Magnolia Avenue’s original answer to Kincaid’s or Dutch’s, but with the bonus of thick, fresh jalapeño buns, which lifts the bacon-Gorgonzola house burger to Battle-worthy levels. Lili’s also serves other solid burgers, including one featuring a poblano-bacon-jack burger. (But face it: The best reason to eat burgers at Lili’s is the Gorgonzola waffle fries.) 1310 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-877-0700 ; http://lilisbistro.com

Max’s Wine Dive: Want a $34 burger? Take Max’s Signature Blend Burger — the patty is a combo of Angus short rib, brisket, chuck and beef belly — then add the “Oh My Lawd” toppings (truffle cream, foie gras and brie) for $18. Or be more modest and add the Dirty South (pimento cheese, fried green tomato, duck fat) or the B.O.B. (egg, bacon, cheese) for $6 a piece. Yes, even at base this is a $16 burger, but with that beef blend plus Bibb lettuce, hothouse tomatoes, red onion and housemade pickles on a brioche bun, it’s worth it, especially since it comes with Wine Dive frites and housemade pickled jalapeños. 2421 W. Seventh St., No. 109, Fort Worth. 817-870-1100 ; www.maxswinedive.com

Luscher’s Red Hots: Yes, this Deep Ellum eatery is primarily focused on haute dogs, but don’t overlook the lone burger on its menu. The $9 “Uncle Herky” is a thing of beauty: a pair of locally sourced Wagyu beef patties, American cheese, “prepared” mustard, fresh mayo, grilled onions and horseradish pickles on a seeded bun. (You’ll want to cough up the extra $1.50 and add peppered bacon.) The result is, as we noted in our May review of Luscher’s, “burger nirvana.” 2653 Commerce St., Dallas. 214-434-1006 ; luschers.com

BrainDead Brewing: On paper, it seems entirely possible this hip Deep Ellum craft brewery’s “Coma” burger might well put diners in a sleeper hold. A mixture of three select meats — Texas Wagyu beef, brisket and bacon — makes up the succulent patty of this $14 burger, which rests on a clarified butter-slicked brioche bun, and is topped with shredded butter lettuce, sweet onion jam, stout mustard, housemade beer pickles, tomato, smoked cheddar and crispy fried shallots. What’s remarkable is just how light the whole thing tastes, all of its decadent elements in near-perfect harmony — culinary masochists can make the Coma “gooey,” by adding queso for $2 more — and yet making it seem like, hey, maybe a post-burger nap isn’t such a bad idea after all. 2625 Main St., Dallas. 214-749-0600 ; braindeadbrewing.com

Kin Kin Urban Thai: Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin adds a playful Thai take to the all-American favorite by using sticky rice in place of the traditional bread bun. The Kin Kin burger ($14.95) is a real hit on Instagram, with fans posting photos and glowing reviews. We really like the garlic cilantro soy glaze on the double patties, which not only amps up of the flavor on the Angus beef but also helps create some lovely grill marks. Once you pile on the Romaine lettuce, tomato and pickled onion, the sticky rice buns will be tested, and you may want to keep your fork close at hand, but ours rice buns held up for the first few delicious bites. 2801 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth. 817-984-1363; kinkinurbanthai.com

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