Dallas: Angry Dog Serves Rough-Edged Burgers With Some Rough Edges

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[Photographs: Ewan Macdonald]

Angry Dog

2726 Commerce Street, Dallas TX 75226 (map); 214-741-4406; angrydog.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Award-winning burgers have plenty of promise but are overshadowed by inconsistency
Want Fries with That? When done right they're singularly inoffensive—but again prone to kitchen mishaps
Price: Hamburger w/fries, $7.25; grilled jalapeños, + 75¢; bacon, + $1.75; soft drinks, $2.25
Notes: A Deep Ellum favorite most famous for its hot dogs. Dive decor but family-friendly and usually busy. Extensive beer list.

Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood has seen plenty of changes over the years—some for the better, some for the worse. Undoubtedly one of the recent positives is the ready availability of fine hamburgers. Twisted Root grabs plenty of the headlines, but just a bun's throw across the street is Angry Dog, proudly serving up beer, burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs for two decades.

The beer gets the customers through the door, but it's the food that keeps them coming back. This place has won a slew of awards for both its burger and its hot dog over the years. From the description, it's not hard to see why its hamburger is so popular: it's a half-pounder, with fresh toppings and an admirable array of fixins. The menu promises "highest-quality" beef, but the staff wouldn't reveal details, except to confide that it's a 85/15 mix that incorporates the tenderloin: certainly the flavor and texture testifies to a solid product.

Yet there is a snag: The kitchen seems rushed, and mistakes seem commonplace. It's a real shame, because if Angry Dog could get the little details right, this would probably be the best burger in the city.

Belying its rather dark, gloomy appearance, Angry Dog is a friendly, busy place. And what dive bars do you know where you're led to a table by a smiling waitress clutching laminated menus? Still, the balance isn't tipped too far towards civility: This joint is loud, and you'll trade elbow blows with your near-neighbors while inhaling your way table-wards to let the hassled waitstaff get past you.

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After an admirably short wait, given the Saturday afternoon crowds, my cheeseburger with bacon, grilled jalapeños, and fries arrived, and I felt I was in for a treat. Despite the modest 85/15 ratio, the juiciness was readily apparent the second I saw the sturdy, industrial bun, but it was the textural contrast that had me salivating. Obsidian black char on the outside betrayed a light red interior—like a ripe plum—with just-melted cheese and a slathering of yellow mustard promising perfection.

And indeed, it so nearly delivered with its juicy, crisp-crusted patty full of beefy and grassy flavors nicely complemented by the mustard. The shredded cheese didn't cover as much of the burger as a regular slice would, but the juicy patty didn't really need the extra fat to taste good.

So why, if the patty was so good, do I struggle to recommend the Angry Dog without a bunch of caveats? That's because the care on the plate seemed to begin and end with the meat. Yes, that's the most important part—but a burger with pretensions towards being the city's best needs to do more.

The lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion came on the side. There the tomato stayed, as it looked like it had been a bit ill recently. The red onion arrived in such piddling amounts as to suggest sabotage. And the final topping crime: the single lettuce leaf barely covered the burger's circumference, lying awkwardly atop the patty like a tall man's blanket at a cheap motel.

The grilled jalapeños were fine—they're hard to get wrong—but the pile of bacon somehow managed to be strewn in a distracting, uneven way that didn't complement the burger. I surreptitiously smuggled the bulk of it to the side of my wife's plate.

This, at least, prepared me for a similar mission with the fries. It is every fry-lovers nightmare to see a tantalizing, golden rod of salted starch, take that first bite, and find a hollow, brittle, burnt-tasting catastrophe on their taste buds. That is exactly what happened here. If you remember the turkey-carving scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, you're not far off.

Yet from speaking to others and reading online reviews, it appears that these are not so much features as occasional bugs. Thousands love the burger at Angry Dog, fries and all—and they can't all be wrong. Nonetheless, my experience was exactly as I described it, and as such—despite that awesome patty—I'm in no massive hurry to return. Next time I'm in the area, you'll find me across the street at Twisted Root.

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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