Dallas: Big, Fat, Down and Dirty Burgers At Adair's Saloon
2624 Commerce Street Dallas, TX 75226 (map); 214-939-9900; adairssaloon.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Big thick burgers are a little dense, but the atmosphere makes up for it.
Want Fries With That? From the looks of other reviews online, the fries I got were not their normal fries, so I can't comment.
Price: Hamburger, $5; cheeseburger, $6
Sometimes great burger experiences are found at places that specifically aren't burger joints, and precisely because they aren't burger joints. Take the big fat monster served at Adair's Saloon, a dive bar lover's dive bar on Commerce Street in Dallas.
As one of the most venerated live country music venues in Deep Ellumn, Adair's is one of those places that's perpetually saturated with the stale beer smell of thousands of nights before. Sharpie-inflicted graffiti and thousands of band and product stickers are on every available surface—patrons are actually encouraged to add to the, ahem, decor.
It's a stark contrast to the artificially dive-y nature of the Twisted Root Burger Company branch just across the street which feels like a cleaned up, shellacked-over version of a dive.
Also in stark contrast is the burger ordering process. Rather than stressfully working your way through a zillion options, you're limited to two: you can get a hamburger ($5) or a cheeseburger ($6). That's it. Iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle, and raw onion come stuffed into the soft buttery bun if you ask for the burger all the way, along with the standard Texas duo of mustard and mayo (unless you ask for ketchup). The only other accompaniment is a pickled jalapeño affixed to the toothpick that holds the monster together.
The big, fat, half-pound burger is cooked on a flat-top and comes with a deep, dark crust. It's not the juiciest burger you're going to find (you definitely want to add the slice of American cheese for goo-factor) and the meat could stand to be a bit beefier and more loosely packed. But it's well seasoned, and with the fresh crunchy toppings, the whole package works.
I'd heard tales of wonder about the supposedly thick-cut, seasoned fries ($2), but they were nowhere to be found. What I got instead were skinny fries dusted in seasoning that seemed to have been baked or re-heated in an oven more than fried. They were tasty enough, but hardly the gold standard. Did I perhaps come when they'd run out of their normal thick fries?
It's not the best burger I've had, or even the best burger in Texas, but I'd happily stop back in for one any time I'm in the neighborhood. After all, the best seasoning is often atmosphere. (That and the ice cold $2 PBR on the side).
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.