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Saturday’s BurgerFest in Deep Ellum was Well-Done

Cook Hall's bacon-glazed short rib slider & BBQ meatball slider (photography by Leah Clausen)
Cook Hall’s bacon-glazed short rib slider & BBQ meatball slider (photography by Leah Clausen)

At Dallas’ first-ever BurgerFest on Saturday, the air was pungent with the smell of meat. To the left of Deep Ellum’s 2800 block down Main Street was a row of busy cooks, busting out burgers for the throngs of patty patrons. To the right, colored tents housed a variety of art and homemade items.

Rich Vana, the man behind the BurgerFest, said he reached out to each particular burger joint because they were a “good representation” of North Texas. Rich of Entree Dallas and his cohort Jose Ralat-Maldonado of Taco Trail had previously teamed up to erect the great North Texas Taco Festival back in April. Now it was Vana’s turn to orchestrate this event.

And it was just as good as you’d expect it.

Maple & Motor's grilled bun, grilled hamburger, grilled onions, and housemade cheese whiz
Maple & Motor’s grilled bun, grilled hamburger, grilled onions, and housemade cheese whiz
Chef Jack Perkins (right)
Chef Jack Perkins on the right

Maple & Motor’s burger was a home run. There was a lot happening here. The beef/chorizo combo was great, but I’m a chorizo fanatic, so that was an easy pitch. Onions are also pretty much an automatic thumbs up by me, so right off the bat they had a head start. The only wild card was the house-made cheese whiz I kept hearing about. It was rich and creamy. The bun was a little crumbly, but I decided to let that slide. Sorry for all of the baseball puns just now.

Lex Prewer of Ten Bells Tavern called his classic American slider “happiness between two buns.” I tend to agree with him. There wasn’t too much to this tiny burger, just a tasty patty with tomato and cheese. The sweet bread and butter pickle was also excellent.

The chicken fried burger from Haystack Burgers and Barley was an odd one. It’s like they cooked up a Southern meal and shrunk it into a sandwich. I wasn’t a fan of the bacon, but the gravy was good, especially with kick from the jalapeno. My favorite part was definitely the bun. It tasted like homemade Thanksgiving dressing, y’all. That’s the only thing I could compare it to.

Whiskey Cake General Manager Benjamin Woodring (left); Cook Hall Chef De Cuisine Douglas Wagenhauser (right)
Whiskey Cake General Manager Benjamin Woodring (left); Cook Hall Chef De Cuisine Douglas Wagenhauser (right)
Whiskey Cake's Bahn mi burger with pulled pork, pickled veggies, brisket patty and Asian BBQ
Whiskey Cake’s Bahn mi burger with pulled pork, pickled veggies, brisket patty and Asian BBQ

Whiskey Cake’s BBQ “banh mi” burger was definitely a highlight of my afternoon. It had roasted pork, a mix of tangy veggies, cilantro, and Asian barbecue sandwiched (burgered?) between buns. This burger was not created for haters of heat. I enjoyed the spiciness, and the carrots were a good ballast for the hot pepper. I liked the bun, too. It was soft but firm. It tore away nice and easy, but kept all of the spicy goodness together.

The BBQ Meatball slider from Cook Hall came with smoked cheddar and a pickled pepper marmalade. The meatball was a little cold when I got it, but it was good nonetheless. The bun was dry, which was pretty disappointing. But the cheese was what saved it for me. It was melty and creamy. I enjoyed that bit.

Burgerfest 2013
Burgerfest 2013
Garden Cafe's veggie burger with a housemade lentil-cumin patty and garden remoulade
Garden Cafe’s veggie burger with a housemade lentil-cumin patty and garden remoulade
Max's Wine Dive General Manager Jeff Solomon and Executive Chef Patrick Russell
Max’s Wine Dive General Manager Jeff Solomon and Executive Chef Patrick Russell
Chop House Burger - A Mixture of Jalapeno, Habanero, Anaheim, Mexico de Arbol,  Green Bell, Poblano, Ancho, Crushed Red Peppers, and Topped with Pepper Jack Cheese and Tabasco Mayo
Chop House Burger – A Mixture of Jalapeno, Habanero, Anaheim, Mexico de Arbol, Green Bell, Poblano, Ancho, Crushed Red Peppers, and Topped with Pepper Jack Cheese and Tabasco Mayo
Mixed Up Burgers' owner Kyle Bryson
Mixed Up Burgers’ owner Kyle Bryson

The Jethro from Mixed Up Burgers was made up of a beef patty, blue cheese, crumbled bacon, onions and Cajun spices. I really liked the onions and the blue cheese together, but the bun was a bit mushy.

Twisted Root Burger Co. - Goat on Goat Slider - Goat Meat, Goat Cheese, Honey Pepper Bacon & Chipotle Sauce
Twisted Root Burger Co. – Goat on Goat Slider – Goat Meat, Goat Cheese, Honey Pepper Bacon & Chipotle Sauce

Vana is excited about future prospects, and he was quick to reassure me of his desire to keep the BurgerFests coming. In November, Ralat-Maldonado will put together another taco festival, this time in Fort Worth. If next year is a repeat of everything these guys have done/will do in 2013, I will be a fat, happy little camper.

Jacob Austin Medina is a D Magazine intern and a journalism major at the University of North Texas. His Instagram feed alternates between selfies and pictures of his dog.