As many culinary leaps and bounds Fort Worth has made over the past several years, the city's heart still beats for beef.
In particular, hamburgers. Our town has an insatiable appetite for them, whether it's the bulletproof popularity of veteran burger joints like Kincaids, Charlie's, and Tommy's, or the new ones coming, like the Chop House Burgers opening downtown. Burgers have even turned up on fine-dining menus, like the terrific one featured by Clay Pigeon (Monday nights only).
Debating the merits of our burgers is a Fort Worth pastime. In alphabetical order, we've compiled a list of our six favorites — some served on fine china, others out of a brown paper bag. Either way, they're among the burgers that make Fort Worth a great burger town.
Fred's Texas Cafe: Diablo
Having a burger at Fred's Texas Cafe, Fort Worth chef Terry Chandler's 30-year-old-plus dive, is one of our city's culinary traditions. The go-to burger is and shall always be the Diablo, a jaw-stretching tower of a half-pound patty, chopped chipotles, grilled onions, melted Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, and good ol' fashion mustard. Longtime Fort Worth burger lovers claim it's the best in the city.
Love Shack: Dirty Love
Celebrity chef Tim Love was way ahead of the curve on the gourmet burger front, developing nearly a decade ago a now-common brisket and prime tenderloin blend patty for his signature burger at this walk-up stand in the Stockyards.
Melted American cheese, planks of bacon, and a zingy "love sauce" are piled on, sometimes sloppily, sometimes neatly, along with leafy lettuce and fat slices of tomato. All come crowned with a sunny side up quail egg. Love was doing the egg-on-a-burger thing a long time ago too.
Lucile's Stateside Bistro: Juicy Lucy
For a chargrilled burger, look to this meaty half-pounder at Lucille's on the west side. Chef George Castillo stuffs the patty with diced jalapeno and American cheese, then dresses it with housemade spicy ketchup and pretty ribbons of sautéed red bell peppers.
All play supporting roles, however, to the burger's main star: a deeply flavorful, half-pound Angus patty, imbued with smoke from a hickory wood-fired grill. Remarkably, the meat stays juicy and pink under a beautifully charred crust.
Quick Pick: Cheeseburger
Better known as Quickway Shopping, which is what its outdated sign says, Quick Pick is one of one Fort Worth's best-kept burger secrets. The store opened nearly 60 years ago (the property dates back even further, to 1938) and its cooks still use the original grill.
Maybe time and grease are what make these simple, thin-patty cheeseburgers taste so great. There are no fancy toppings, just pickles, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo or mustard, and American cheese, still melting when you bite into it. Burgers are wrapped in foil and stuffed into brown paper bags. Regulars sit at bright yellow booths, tearing into those bags like kids on Christmas morning.
Rodeo Goat: Chaca Oaxaca
This West 7th burger and craft beer joint, opened three years ago by North Texas restaurateur Shannon Wynne and his son Sam, is known for chef-inspired burgers whose offbeat toppings — grilled peaches, blackberry compote — might not make sense until your first bite.
The best example of this weird cohesion is the Chaca Oaxaca, whose patty blends house-ground beef with spicy pork chorizo. Its Tex-Mex accoutrements include crunchy pico, crumbles of queso fresco, housemade Tabasco mayo, and slices of avocado, all topped with a fried egg whose runny yolk always seems to have a date with your chin.
Swiss Pastry Shop: Dirty Redneck
The 40-year-old Swiss Pastry Shop has found a new audience, thanks to chef/owner Hans Peter Muller getting in on the local burger game. His are priced higher than many but he uses a higher grade of beef — Texas Akaushi — and he goes to the trouble and expense of making his own buns, a rich, firm brioche dotted with sesame seeds.
He sometimes tops burgers with barbecue brisket from Heim or Lockhart. But his own, smoked over pecan, is excellent too, as evidenced by the Dirty Redneck Burger. This is one big meat party: five ounces of brisket draped over a half-pound patty, plus a helping of applewood-smoked bacon. In there somewhere are grilled onions and melted cheddar.
You may have to get that slice of Black Forest cake to go, for later. Much, much later.