Dallas: Retro Burger Charm at Dairy-Ette
9785 Ferguson Road, Dallas TX 75228 (map); 214-327-9983; dairyette.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Old school burgers and atmosphere. If you're nostalgic for the '50s, get your ass here.
Want Fries With That? Yes, but the onion rings are better
Price: Hamburger, $3.25; cheeseburger, $3.75; fries, $2.50; rings, $2.75
Drive up to the all-caps neon side and pull under the carhop awning across the street from Bishop Lynch High School and you'll find yourself at the Dairy-Ette, a '50s-era burger joint that has changed little in over 50 years of continual service. It's the kind of spot you can imagine Archie and Jughead pulling into in their jalopy. Betty and Veronica might tag a long for the homemade root beer and floats.
If you come at the right time, there's carhop service direct to your window, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice—the interior of the Dairy-Ette is worth taking a look at.
The first thing that greets you in the trailer-sized space is the soda fountain, which serves the typical Texas duo of Coke and Dr. Pepper, along with some excellent homemade root beer. Just spicy enough, with a good acidic bite. For some, it's the main draw, and there's a reason it gets top billing on the sign out front.
Red leather banquettes (recently reupholstered, from the looks of it) line the walls while a wood veneer counter lined with swivel seats bolted to the ground take center stage. Service is fast and friendly—come at the right time of day and you'll have your burger within minutes.
The burger itself is about as classic as it gets. A thin, wide, well-seasoned patty sizzled on a flat-top and served on a soft, squishy generic white bun. Ask for it all the way and you'll get lettuce, tomato, and onion (under the patty where it belongs), along with a squirt of mayo and mustard. The cheese, oddly, comes under the patty as well, leaving it under-melted. I saw a couple of kids order double burgers, which come with the cheese sandwiched in the middle. This seems like the wiser route to take.
It's not the gold standard of all burgers out there—this is a sandwich that's definitely more about the interplay of elements than the quality of beef itself—but it's precisely the kind of burger you'd expect at an institution like this one. A thicker, beefier burger would be out of place.
Fries are cut fresh every day and come out decently crisp. Onion rings are a better option, and if you're a tot-eater, they've got those too.
While there's a full roster of other sandwiches and hot dogs on the menu, in the half hour I was sitting at the counter, I didn't see a single person order anything other than a burger, which is telling.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.