I have food obsessions and although I may try to control these urges, the food usually wins. My first food addiction is Mexican food in its many forms. I could easily eat mexican food six out of seven days in a week. The day that I did not eat Mexican food, I would certainly crave a burger.
Of large chains, the only burger that qualifies is In-N-Out. Someone on this board recently equated P. Terry's as similar to In-N-Out. It is not even in the ballpark. Parts of the concept are similar, P. Terry's execution does not meet the reality of In-N-Out, but it made me think about what a burger should be.
Let me state my preferences. If the burger has a thin patty, then it doesn't bother me if they do not cook it Medium Rare (it is almost impossible anyway). If the patty is thick, it is almost a crime to not offer different temperatures. Larger patties past 8oz can be obscene. The bun must not disintergrate after two bites. Ideally an array of toppings is available (you never know what might interest you in any given day). If blue cheese crumbles, not dressing can be added that is always a bonus. Now on to the fries.....
The fries should be crisp or can be specially ordered crispy. The fries MUST be seasoned immediately after coming out of the fryer; by the time I get the fries, it is too late to add most seasonings (they simply fall off). An example of a fry that is crying out for seasoning specifically salt are the fries from Hyde Park Grill (which IMO are the most overrated in the city). I do have a certain bias for sweet potatoe fries, but will not hold it against a restaurant for not having them.
Here is the list of restaurants where I have eaten a burger.
DIRTY MARTINS a nice greasy diner burger with OK fries and you will not break the bank (a draw for college students certainly).
HUT'S would seem to be ideal, but lacks for sometimes unknown reasons. I have been twice and my burger has not been prepared temperature wise or ingredient wise. Fries were average at best both times. I HATE the onion rings, but that is not part of this post.
TOP NOTCH love the flavor of the charcoal. Fries (bleh). Best chocolate shake in the city so far.....
CASINO EL CASINO The buffalo burger was in the running, but fell short. The patty was not cooked even close to MR but was closer to well done. Patty may be too large. Seems to be running on reputation earned years ago, but I have only been here once and will return.
HILLBERTS decent in a pinch, but do not go out of your way for it. BTW their "Dallas Wings" are the smalles wings I have ever seen. These wings may be taken from cornish game hens, I mean tiny.
WATERLOO ICE HOUSE are you kidding me? not seasoned and the meat did not taste like beef should. Sides were fairly miserable. On a side note, their spicy BBQ wings for 25 cents each during happy hour might work for you if forced to go there.
BURGER HOUSE not really a chain just with 2 or 3 other locations in Dallas. Burgers are certainly acceptable, but would not drive that far for them. IMO the reason to go here are the fries sprinkled with the crack cocaine they call seasoning salt.
P TERRY'S I appreciate what he is trying to do with natural beef and fries that were potatoes earlier in the day, but just doesn't cut it. Patty was not seasoned. Turning potatoes into french fries is not easy and requires them to be fried twice-->something is wrong with the process. The only thing that is similar to In-N-Out is the nearly one inch of lettuce on the burger
BURGER TEX was OK, but the reasons I did not care for it that much are lost to me. Can't remember why. sorry
PLAYER'S I was visiting Austin in 1998 (?) with a UT grad and she insisted on going here. I can't remember the specifics, but I do remember that I found it to be disgusting. The urge to return has not happened.
and now for the truly great.
PHIL'S ICE HOUSE yes there will be dozens of children running and screaming, but great sweet potato fries. The violet crown was amazing with its blue cheese, sauteed onions, and jalapeno bun (it fits perfectly). I added bacon and the bacon was perfectly crispy. I have had this burger three times and will have it more in the future. My wife has had the mini burger trio each and every time she has gone there. I can deal with the kids if it means I have a burger this good and can have ice cream afterwards.
BILLY'S ON BURNET. Beyond the burger, I love the feel of this place. 60% bar, 40% restaurant. I had the Basic American Burger and was very pleased. Fries were cooked perfectly and seasoned appropriately. The only con was the burger was a little overcooked, but it was 3:30 on a Monday so I gave them a pass.
HILL'S CAFE on south Congress. Both times I have been here the burger has been cooked a PERFECT medium rare. I really do mean perfect. it is really a textbook photo of what medium rare should look like. They were very willing to add whatever toppings I wanted--blue cheese, fried onion. lettuce, jalapeno, and bacon that was perfectly crispy.
A must is the sweet potato fries which are delightfully crisp and hot, BUT they serve this really awful sweet dipping sauce with them. Order the garlic mayo to dip your sweet potato fires in and you will not be disappointed.
Well I know that there are other burger places to be tried (and gone to again), but I have spent almost 30 minutes typing this post and you can guess what I am now craving.