Dallas: Smoky Half-pounders Done Right at Kenny's Burger Joint

Editor's Note: Please welcome our newest contributor, Ewan Macdonald, known as UnasBravas on AHT/Serious Eats. He's already contributed a few Dallas-area burger reviews to AHT, but now he'll be filling part of our (shameful) void of regular Texas-based reviews. If there's a place in the Dallas area you want him to review, leave him a comment!

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[Photographs: Ewan Macdonald]

Kenny's Burger Joint

1377 Legacy Dr #120, Frisco TX 75034 (map); 214-618-8001, kennysburgerjoint.com
Cooking Method: Wood grilled
Short Order: Rough, juicy patties sing with smoke flavor to create a burger that justifies the local hype
Want Fries with That? A strange, sweet seasoning spoils the fries, but there are other options like bacon-wrapped jalapeños
Price: Hamburger, $6.49; Bacon & Egg Burger, $8.99; fries, $2.49; fried pickles, $6.99; adult shakes, $6.99
Notes: Full bar, with booze-soaked milkshakes, available; there's also a kids' menu

Is it even possible these days to be a local celebrity chef and not open a burger place? Kenny Bowers, a much-loved fixture on the Dallas dining scene, is one of the latest to do so with his nearly three-year-old Kenny's Burger Joint. But make no mistake: Kenny and the team are not simply hopping on a bandwagon. Or, if they are, they've not so much hopped on as vaulted a horse, executed a Yurchenko 3/2, hit a perfect landing, and then sidled up to the grill. Long story short, this is a burger to delight even the fussiest judge.

Clearly it's caught the imagination of the locals in Frisco, who were two-deep at the bar and waiting upwards of twenty minutes for a table early on a Saturday night. Small children roamed freely around the tiny but well-appointed bar area.

Most of the burgers on the menu come with "L, T, O, P, M"—lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and mayo—by default. The M signifying mayo and not mustard is unusual for Texas, but so too are the toppings: a bacon and egg burger, complete with béarnaise ($8.99), is the most expensive option, while the mushroom burger ($7.99) comes with brie rather than Swiss.

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At almost $13 for my medium-rare cheeseburger with American cheese and side of regular fries with "Kenny's secret seasoning," good size as well as quality was an expectation. Kenny's met the challenge. The eight-ounce burger is beautifully proportioned, rough around the edges, and just thick enough to retain plenty of loosely-packed, deliciously primal, rare meat. Kenny's wood-fired grill could be disastrous in rookies' hands, but Kenny's cooks control the temperature brilliantly, and the smoke flavor in this burger is so thick you could blow rings with it.

The meat was so good I barely noticed it was served on ciabatta. Ciabatta clearly has its advantages for the chef: It toasts well and it's sturdy enough to withstand many of the ludicrous toppings Kenny's offers. But it can often be too chewy, too dense, too pallid for the patty it accompanies. While a regular bun would have been better, this ciabatta was a fine locally-baked specimen that wasn't the intrusion it threatened to be.

The lettuce, tomato, and onion played their roles beautifully. The tomato in particular was Heinz-ad red and deliciously sweet, while the American cheese was just the right side of melted. Only the mayonnaise—slathered on with slightly too much abandon—threatened to steal the show.

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Meanwhile, the fries grew cold in front of me. I couldn't quite put my finger on the special seasoning, and if I did I'd wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. The dominant flavors seemed to be sugar and cinnamon. Fine if you like that sort of thing, but I suspect such people are in a minority. For the rest of us there are plenty of other sides and starters, including bacon-wrapped jalapenos, for future visits.

And future visits there most certainly will be. This patty is one of the best in the area, without question, and the accompanying produce marked out Kenny's Burger Joint as no mere plaything for a bored chef, but rather the product of a perfectionist. The regular cheeseburger was just fantastic, and there's nothing to suggest that the more creative burgers—utilizing chili con queso, guacamole, brie, and more—won't be similarly delicious. Just steer clear of the fries.

About the author: Ewan Macdonald is a soccer writer who will probably die with a hamburger in his mouth. Born in Scotland, he was lured to the Dallas area by cheap beef and a love of 100 degree evenings with 60% relative humidity.

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