Mastering the Fort Worth Burgers Trail

Ali Khan | Texas Highways

As you might’ve guessed from its nickname, beef is a big part of Cowtown’s identity. From the post-Civil War stockyard days all the way to the annual Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival—which has a full day dedicated to burgers (Burgers, Blues and Brews) —the folks of Fort Worth are fanatical about their bovine. I got a firsthand taste of this back in 2022 when I was invited to judge the first annual Cowtown Burger Showdown at the River Ranch Stockyards, where 100 chefs vied for the title of North Texas’ best burger purveyor. That brief glimpse was enough to incite some overdue revisits. Today, I can confidently say that Fort Worth is the biggest sleeper burger destination in all of Texas. Here, just a sampling of sizzling standouts to get you started.

Dayne’s Craft Barbecue
100 South Front St., Aledo
817-913-0986; daynescraftbarbecue.com

Asked why he only serves his doubles smashed burgers on Thursday, pitmaster Dayne Weaver says: “They would turn me into a burger joint if I let them.” The “them” in question refers to the hordes of beef-loving Texans who show up every week to indulge in the Creekstone Farm sourced specimens crafted entirely from brisket trim.
The 65/35 blend is easily the most indulgent burger blend I have ever come across. Seasoned like his barbecue (more pepper than salt), each 3.5-ounce patty is lightly smashed and shrouded with American cheese, red onion, and Weaver’s version of a Raising Cane’s sauce—ketchup, sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, chili powder, paprika, garlic and onion powder.
While smashed burgers are all the rage, this one is thicker than most. Weaver shows restraint when it comes to toppings—solely a tangy sauce kissed with a hint of heat and the bite of raw red onion. Although the pitmaster makes some mean bacon brisket and jalapeno-havarti links, it’s probably wise he reserves his burger mastery to a single day. Otherwise, it’d be a real shame to have to delete that “barbecue” out of its name for something, say, between a bun.

Pearl Snap
4006 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth
817-233-8899; pskolaches.com

“Most people focus on the protein in a burger. The bun is a missed opportunity,” Pearl Snap co-owner Wade Chappell says. Developed by chef Ben Merrit, an alum of the award-winning Tim Love, the yeast dough buns took over a year to develop. Slightly less sweet than a Hawaiian roll, less buttery than a brioche, Pearl Snap’s kolache bun requires a painstaking two-day process—whereas standard kolache dough takes no more than a few hours. That rich, semisweet flavor profile works especially well on the restaurant’s signature jalapeño popper burger, which comes stacked with grilled jalapeños, two strips of country-style bacon, and a creamy spread made from shredded colby, bacon bits, cream cheese, and even more fiery diced peppers.

Charley’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers
4616 Granbury Road, Fort Worth
817-924-8611; facebook.com/CharleysOldFashionedHamburgers/

What started out in a flea market in nearby Grapevine back in 1987 is still very much a family affair. The converted mobile home with a vintage burger-stand exterior is helmed by owner Deborah Bell, who has employed the help of her late husband, children and grandchildren at its current digs (home since 1991).
On the near-dozen burgers on its timeless menu, the “Gosh Almighty” might be its most eye-catching and unique. Yes, the 6-ounce Angus patty, American cheese, shredded green leaf lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo are all familiar flourishes. But what sets it apart are the addition of red beans and the fried yellow pancakes that serve as a burger bun. As Bell explains, the dish is modeled after hot water cornbread, a Southern staple with deep roots dating back to Native Americans and African American culinary traditions.
A doughy revelation suggested to her by a loyal customer, the combination elicited the flabbergasted reaction: “Gosh almighty that’s good!” Hence its name. Fair warning though, the unorthodox offering is a seasonal specialty, so make sure to head to Charley’s sometime during the fall or winter.

Fuego Burger
4400 Benbrook Blvd. Suite 108, Fort Worth
682-250-5600; fuego-burger.square.site

Chef Carlos Rodriguez asks a question of every customer that I wish came up more in our burger discourse: “Do you like it pink in the middle?” At this modest strip mall eatery in West Fort Worth, there’s even a sign alerting guests that they cook all patties medium with “lots of pink in the middle”—unless requested otherwise. With a half-pound Angus example like you see here, “well done” shouldn’t even be an option. Placed on a sourdough bun from Sweet Mesquite Bakery out of Houston, the behemoth burgers are then topped with a copious amount of cheddar and monterrey jack. As the cheese melts, a ring of fried cheese forms on the flattop grill, engulfing the whole towering creation like Saturn’s rings.
Fuego’s signature cheese skirt might get all the Instagram buzz, but what really entices the palate are roasted green chiles Rodriguez imports from Chihuahua. That hint of heat that burns through the richness of the cheese is reminiscent of New Mexico’s Hatch chile cheeseburgers. That is very intentional, as the chef’s early years were spent in West Texas, where that chile-forward style of cooking is omnipresent. “It was a little bit of New Mexico style cuisine and Northern Mexican cuisine tied together,” he says.

Kincaid’s Hamburgers
4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
kincaidshamburgers.com

If you aren’t schooled in Texas burger history, just know that Kincaid’s is a living legend. Founded in 1946 as a grocery store, it served burgers made from the steak trimmings from its in-house butcher shop. Today, the burger icon is run by founder Charles Kincaid’s grandsons, Jonathan and Christian Gentry. In addition to the original location off Camp Bowie Boulevard, there are four others, including outposts in nearby Southlake and Arlington.
Here, a simple Mrs. Baird’s bun cradles an 8-ounce Black Angus chuck blend. The patty is seasoned simply with sea salt—not even pepper. As far as toppings go, expect shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, raw yellow onion, Best Maid dill pickles, American cheese, and yellow mustard. It all works extremely well with Kincaid’s decadent blend of salted Black Angus. Like good brisket at your favorite barbecue joint, you don’t want to take anything away from the beef at play. And that’s really the real magic of an old-school spot like Kincaid’s: They know when to keep it simple and let the collective whole shine through.

M&O Station Grill & Cocktails
200 Carroll St. Suite 110, Fort Worth
817-882-8020; bestburgersfortworthtx.com

To enter this downtown restaurant is to be inundated with history concerning one of Fort Worth’s most generous and influential families. The Leonards’ eponymous, groundbreaking department store supplied the city for nearly five decades. An impactful community presence, the Leonard’s offered credits during the Great Depression and pioneered desegregation in their stores, well before the Civil Rights Act would be passed.
They also gave M&O a home when they were facing closure.
Originally a diner called 7th Street Station Grille, chef Daniel Badillo and his wife Rose poured their energies into the venture until their landlord informed them about his intention to sell. That’s when Marty Leonard stepped in and offered them a new location next door to the Leonard’s Department store museum in downtown Fort Worth.
Lucky for us, because Badillo’s new menu is outstanding. This is especially true of M&O’s double 5-ounce, grass-fed specialty burgers like the Toluca, which layers on house-made beef chorizo, a fried egg, roasted jalapeño, white cheddar, and salsa verde. There’s also a Greek-inspired iteration that revels in the unconventional—think, sun-dried tomatoes, a balsamic reduction, and emulsified feta. It’s essentially taking all the best parts of a Greek salad and adding a burger on top. Like all chef-driven burgers, the secret sauce is simply the extent of one cook’s imagination. And Badillo’s is vast and completely unique.