A Hamburger Today

Dallas: Smashingly Good Burgers At Off-Site Kitchen

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Off-Site Kitchen

2226 Irving Boulevard, Dallas TX 75207 (map); 214-741-2226
Cooking Method: Smashed on a griddle
Short Order: A truly great smashed burger: beefy, juicy, a great buttered bun, worth going out of your way for
Want Fries With That? Absolutely, the messier the better
Price: Cheeseburgers start at $3.50

I took my first bite, trying as hard as I could to avoid making a mess, but it was inevitable. Beefy juices dripped down to my chin and onto the picnic table. Perfectly melted cheese oozed out of the edges, coating my fingers in its salty, tangy trap. The bun, soft, shiny, slightly sweet, and perfectly toasted, holds the whole thing together just so, but yields into tender butteriness in your mouth. The state of Texas and the city of Dallas in particular are havens for burger lovers of all shapes and sizes, but despite a week of great burgers and barbecue across the state, this is the one that I still dream about.

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Folks, this burger is the real deal, one of the rare burgers worth making a special trip to get. When I'm on the road doing a multi-stop tasting tour, I have a strict two-bite-per-dish policy. The rule book went out the window for this one—I'd finished it before I even realized what was happening.

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The work of chef/owner Nick Badovinus and chef Dan Riley, Off-Site Kitchen opened its doors this past February and has been busy ever since, despite the tiny dining room (read: 10 seats at a counter), totally inadequate air conditioning, and in-the-Texas-sun outdoor seating. Nick runs the trio of successful Neighborhood Services casual restaurants, where he got the concept for Off-Site by watching "what line cooks eat." It's down and dirty roasted meats, fried foods, and eggs, at cheap, cheap prices, prepared with a level of care you don't expect to find in a roadside greasy spoon.

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Ordering is a bit overwhelming—which burger option do I want? Wait, 48 hour cracked pepper brisket? Do I want the plain fries or the sloppy ones? Is that really a hunk of bologna on that spit roaster back there? I panicked and went with my gut: one Stock Cheeseburger ($3.50), please.

And so enamored was I with the burger that when I went back up for round two, I neglected to order any of the other fine looking meats and sandwiches they offer, all at a reasonable price. Instead I got myself a second burger. And I swear, I never do that.

But that burger, man.

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It starts as a quarter pound ball of house-ground chuck and shoulder clod that gets seasoned and smashed, Shake Shack-style, onto a hot griddle where there's a pile of onions slowly sizzling away and waiting to be scooped onto the meat. A quick flip and a melted slice of American cheese later, it gets perched not-so-daintily on top of a pile of shredded iceberg lettuce—an essential buffer for the incredible amount of juices that pour out of this thing as you bite in.

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Some good pickles and a slice of tomato also get stuffed into the perfectly buttered and toasted bun from Village Baking Co, then it's all wrapped up in wax paper and brought out to your seat.

There are a few upgrades available, like the Do It Murph-Style ($4.95), which comes with a roasted jalapeño and smoked bacon relish tucked underneath the cheese with a swipe of special sauce under the lettuce. Polynesian & Pleasin' ($5.95) pairs the patty with a slice of Teriyaki Spam, caramelized pineapple, and Swiss cheese (which sounds a lot like my own Hot Hawaiian Burger). Really, I see no reason to upgrade on what is near perfection already.

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The fries—fresh cut double-fried russets—are worth ordering, doubly so if you add queso, chili, and salsa to them. Excessive? Certainly. But Off-Site is not the type of place to hold back.

By the way, when you sit outside, make sure to position yourself close to one of these:

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You're gonna need it.

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.

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