Big Ass Burger at the Twisted Root Burger Company in Dallas

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[Photographs: Kat Robinson]

Twisted Root Burger Company

2615 Commerce St. Dallas, TX 75226 (map); 214-741-7668, twistedrootburgerco.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Fat half-pound patties full of seasoning and salt, dripping with juices on a toasted bun, housemade pickles and ketchup—heck, housemade just about everything.
Price: Basic burger, $4.99; specialty burgers, $6.99, the Big Ass Burger, $8.99; root beer float, $3.99

When I heard that work was taking me to Dallas, I put out a note on various social networking sites, asking for a recommendation for a good burger. Several chains were mentioned, but just one local joint came to the surface: Twisted Root Burger Company. Well, the readers had spoken.

I found myself on a Sunday afternoon with time to go fetch said burger, and headed into Deep Ellum around 2 p.m. I had to park on a meter (there's no free parking right around there) and cross a street, where the burger shack was just a-shinin' in the sun.

I barely made it inside the door. The line was backed up that far, and there were half a dozen people behind me—at two in the afternoon. Every table, every seat was full, and from what I could see every spot on the patio outside was also taken. Where were they going to sit?

I noticed the sign up at the front of the line: "For the love of God, please have your order and money ready." Next to it was one that stated, "Order here then go away." I glanced over the whole menu, taking it all in. There were all sorts of burgers, including buffalo, turkey, and vegan, in addition to beef. There was a mushroom swiss burger; a chipotle, guacamole and cheddar with fried onions; a deep fried hot dog. There was stuff listed under Sissy Food, but I wasn't interested. I barely glanced at the "Fride Ride" (yes, that's the correct spelling): fried sweet potato chips, french fries, sour dill pickle chips, fried onion strings, and fried green beans for $6.99. Tempting? Maybe some other day.

I was here for the Big Ass Burger. And at a pound of meat, I knew there wouldn't be room for much else. The restaurant's website advertises all of their beef burgers as "a 1/2 lb. special blend of chuck and brisket meats served with lettuce, tomato, onions & homemade pickles on the side." With two patties and two big slices of cheddar cheese, I knew the chances of me finishing that burger were slim to none.

But that didn't keep me from ordering a root beer float. When I finally arrived at the register I handed over a $20 as I told the guy, "Big Ass Burger, root beer float."

He punched a couple of buttons on the register and asked, "What side do you want with that?"

I looked at him, raised my eyebrows, and told him, "Do I really need a side?"

He smiled and handed me my receipt, change, and a laminated card with the words "Wilma Flintstone." I grinned and walked away, shoving my change in my pocket and grooving to the mix of hard rock and heavy metal piped in overhead.

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There wasn't really anywhere for me to go while I waited. Being on my own, there'd be no one to save a seat for me when I went to get my food, and I'd be lucky to find a seat in the first place. So I snapped shots over the cook line, probably annoying the tar out of the order caller. He called one name after another as each basket came off the line. "Tiger Woods." "Sean Connery." "Papa Smurf, your Smurfy Shake is ready." "T.O., shut up and play ball." One by one each person assigned to said card would come up and take their basket or shake and return to their table.

20100701-twistedroot-pickles.jpgI went ahead and prepared my pickles. Three sorts are offered—dill, bread and butter, and spicy—and they're all made in-house. I decided on the bread and butter pickles and used the available tongs to fish them out and plop them into a plastic cup.

Finally, somewhere between "Casey Kasem" and "Billy Jean is not my lover," "Wilma Flintstone" was called. I picked up my float first—or, more accurately, my glass half-filled with ice cream.

"This is it?" I asked the girl who slid it across the table at me.

"You make your own float at the drink counter," she told me.

Alongside such normal offerings as Coke and Sprite, the drink machine offered Twisted Root Root Beer and Twisted Root Banana Root Beer. I went for the former. I picked up my burger order and sat at the bar on the far side, under a skylight, ready to observe the monster of a burger in front of me.

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The burger was massive enough in its separate parts. The nicely crusted patties were coated in blankets of cheddar cheese; the patties alone were bigger than the average burger by itself. Next to it were vegetables: a green lettuce leaf, a wide slice of tomato, and a healthy dose of white onions. I'd picked up a packet of mayo on the counter and smeared it on the toasted top bun, a sesame seeded Kaiser roll left off like a cap. With vegetables, pickles, and top bun in place, the burger was nearly as tall as the pint glass my float came in.

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20100701-twistedroot-float.jpgUnless you have a truly big mouth, there's just no way to reasonably take that first bite. The burger patties are far too thick to mash down. On my first bite, the juice ran down my chin and throat. The meat was well seasoned and on the salty side, but not overly so. The burger's crust was almost crunchy but firm, and the cheese soaked into the patty's top. Burgers are cooked medium well unless otherwise requested; I hadn't noticed this, and I missed out on a medium rare burger.

I hadn't planned to eat the whole burger; I was aiming for a third to a half. But it was good, one of the best burgers I've ever had. I got to my third-of-the-way point and stopped, needing a respite.

To the float I turned. And boy, that's a mean float. Twisted Root makes their own root beer and their own soft serve vanilla ice cream, and both are outstanding. The root beer had great earthy tones, a lot of vanilla and notes of licorice and sassafras. The soft serve was the tiniest bit grainy, but that could have been ice crystals formed when the root beer hit it. It was very good soft serve—strong on vanilla and had an air of being a step above crank-processed, home-churn familiar.

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As I drank my float and contemplated my burger, the burger beckoned to me. I swear it was telling me I had to eat every morsel—my stomach hurt just thinking about it (I'm not a competition eater by any means). At that point I noticed the six-pack box containing three labeled bottles. One of these was ketchup, or more precisely Ancho-Chipotle Ketchup. My curiosity piqued, I raised the bun of the remaining portion of burger and squirted a little on. I hesitantly took a small bite... and then another. And then I was opening the burger back up and smearing the whole damn thing with this ketchup. The smoky, tangy ketchup has just enough heat to let you feel its presence, with four or five different strong but complimentary flavors to it. I have to say, it's the best ketchup I ever had in my life. I wanted to take home a case.

In the end, I didn't eat the entire burger, but the little that remained is almost not worth mentioning. I was too full for comfort and was already regretting how far I'd gone with it. But I still had a little ketchup on my fingers that deserved to be licked off, and an empty float glass to boot.

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