Twisted Root Burger
2615 Commerce St, Dallas TX 75226 (map); 214-741-7668; six other locations listed at twistedrootburgerco.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Decent burgers that aren't worth the headache or abuse
Want Fries With That? Yes, hand-cut, skin-on, perfectly crisp
Price: Burgers, $5.99 to $9.99 (add $4 for game); add-ons, ¢79 to ¢99 each; fries $1.99; shakes, $4.99 to $9.99
"GREAT BURGERS COLD BEER BAD SERVICE," says the sign hand-painted into the window at the Deep Ellum branch of Twisted Root Burger Company. I'll never understand the appeal of restaurants that purposely treat you like dirt, whether it's in a wink-and-a-nod tongue-in-cheek kind of way or not. Whether it's a person, a band, or a restaurant, forced attitude and unnecessary bad-assness on the surface are usually a veil for the shallow waters underneath—if you've got good food, there's no need for the façade.
So I didn't expect much when I pulled up under the sign that said "order here then go away" (funny, right?) and got lost in the overwhelmingly large menu. There are burgers made from your choice of 11 different types of meat, plus a veggie burger. Three different buns. 23 different add-ons. Five types of fried. Nine shakes. Three salads with your choice of four dressings (under the oh-so-clever heading of "sissy food"), and a dozen other odds and ends.
Paralyzed by choice, I finally
had my order forcefully removed from my throat placed my order with the bitchy delightfully off-color counter-lady. I was pleasantly surprised by the house-made pickles while I waited for my burger. The straight-up tart guys beat the pants off of any store-bought pickles by a mile. Not so with the house-made root beer, which reminded me of Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
From what I understand, Twisted Root has plenty of fans. The Triple-D crowd have followed Guy Fieri there, and it seems the lines are there to stay. Heck, even our own Kat Robinson declared it as one of the best burgers she's ever had back in 2010. I didn't find it to be as good as that, but it was a surprisingly decent burger.
The half pound brisket and chuck-based burgers are pattied wide and thin, come with a hefty, dark sear, and plenty of salt. A slice of orange cheese that's called cheddar but may as well be American is nicely melted on top, the corners oozing over the edges of the patty, as form-fitting as a latex jumpsuit. The green leaf lettuce and average tomato are not remarkable, but those punchy pickles are excellent with the beef.
I'm not sure what it is about them, but somehow the combination of fatty beef, pickles, and onions, along with the slightly sweet, sesame-seeded bun made this burger a near taste-alike to a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese, albeit much, much better. Close your eyes, get rid of the attitude, and bite into a burger and you'd swear that Ronald had just upped his burger game.
The fries were also outstanding specimens—crisp and crunchy with flavor-packed skins and plenty of salt.
Would I go back to a Twisted Root? Personally, no. I can't stand that kind of faux, tacked-on personality. So much that it distracts from what, under other circumstances, might be a great burger experience. Fortunately for them, I seem to be in the minority here, as they have no problem packing in the crowds.
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.