2917 Gaston Avenue, Dallas TX 75204 (map); 214-828-1330; stackhouseburgers.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A great concept let down by awful preparation; not worth the price
Want Fries with That? The best that can be said for them is that they're better than the onion rings
Price: Single, $5.95; single burger w/cheese, grilled onions, and fried egg, $9.45; double, $8.95; fries, $2; chips & dip, $2.75; veggie burger, $6.95
Notes: Open seven days; open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Scenic view. Full bar. Outdoor and rooftop seating available
If you go out to eat in Deep Ellum, usually the only view you'll find is that of a darkened bar-room, and probably the back of someone's head. Angry Dog and Twisted Root, for example, are perma-crowded and pleasantly dive-y, meaning you'll emerge blinking, sated, into the harsh Texas sun.
Not so at Stackhouse Burgers. Located on the very fringe of Deep Ellum, the dusky bars could be miles away. That's because Stackhouse is in a charming, two-level cottage house, incongruously dropped between a knife dealership and some new-build apartments. This unique setting boasts patio seating and a roof terrace with an awesome vista of downtown Dallas. Add in a full liquor license and a tightly-focused menu built around homemade, cooked-to-order burgers, and surely things couldn't be better.
Well, actually, they could. In fact not only could they be, but they should be. Because my experience of Stackhouse is one of vast expense for massive disappointment. Indeed, once the novelty of the view has worn off, you'll be wondering what you've let yourself in for.
Take a moment to browse the menu board, which contains the house specialty—homemade burgers—along with a wealth of add-ons, including grilled jalapeños ($1), fried egg ($1.50), and several types of cheese ($1). Above all, choose wisely: do you want your burger pink or non-pink?
My pink burger looked the part in its autopsy shot. In fact it cut a neat figure, with the toppings seemingly in fine balance and the six-ounce patty itself appearing loose, substantial, and typically pubby. Yet that bottom bun betrays a damp secret. There is a line between juicy and absolutely awash with fluid. This burger had merrily swam over that line, and was then promptly swept away by a torrent of juice launched by King Neptune himself. Suffice it to say, this burger was too damn juicy.
And it wasn't just the beef—the whole morass of toppings was in on the joke. The barely melted Swiss cheese was sweating quietly, the slimy and tasteless grilled onions seeped their own goop into the mix, and the fried egg—which would've worked well on another burger with its runny yolk—was increasingly looking like just another unwelcome source of liquid. The killer blow was a single mushroom slice that had inexplicably stowed away. I don't like mushrooms on my burger, I didn't order them, and the last thing I needed was yet another aqueous topping.
In the end I half-heartedly jabbed at this tsunamic mess with a knife and fork, and found that the flavor matched the presentation. This was just weak. The beef was little more than average, the default veggie toppings of lettuce, tomato, and onion were anonymous, and although the top half of the bun was toothsome and tasty, the bottom half was rendered mealy by that surfeit of juice.
There was nothing to recommend in the sides, either. The onion rings—those ultra-thin, pseudo-breaded ones that the chain restaurants can't get enough of—might have been decent but for the fact that they were stone cold and greasy. (The put-upon wait staff, scaling the stairs to the rooftop terrace dozens of times a day, can be quite forgiven the long delivery time, but the food can't handle it.) The fries were also quite a way past their best, and comprised a chilly, mealy chore of a side dish that, much like the onions, was left unfinished.
My wife's veggie burger, meanwhile, wasn't loaded with toppings as was my single patty beef burger, but it was itself far from impressive—and at $6.95 without cheese, that's inexcusable. The upshot was that the best part of the meal was a toothsome pint of Deep Ellum IPA, a citrusy, über-hopped India Pale Ale brewed just a mile away at the Deep Ellum Brewing Company.
Indeed, this reliance on high-quality, preferably-local ingredients could potentially set Stackhouse apart. The concept is a positive one, and their location can't be beat. Yet for $30 the two of us left slightly queasy and wholly unsatisfied. Until they can cook a burger somewhat less reminiscent of the aftermath of a hurricane—and cut their prices significantly—don't eat here. Come for the view, come for a beer, but you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a better, cheaper hamburger in Deep Ellum.
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.