Dallas-Fort Worth residents might be delighted to hear that Grumps Burgers in tiny Granbury, Texas, was the nation's No. 4 burger, according to a list compiled by TripAdvisor. I was not delighted. I was puzzled. How'd I miss this one?
A road trip was the only way to figure out why a restaurant in my part of the Lone Star State was listed not only in TripAdvisor's top five, but as the only burger joint in Texas in the list of 10. And one of two in the south. Three, if you call Naples, Florida, "the south."
So I did as the Hood County residents do, and I made the drive to the original Grumps in Granbury. The restaurant group has spawned three more burger joints under the same name in Burleson, Cleburne and Stephenville, but it was the OG Grumps that TripAdvisor's reviewers rated 4.5 out of 5 from over 300 reviews.
And now I get it: It's impossible to dislike Grumps.
When the sign outside the Granbury institution informed me the Soup of the Day was "cold beer," we were already off to a good start.
Inside, the friendly staff greeted regulars by name. They had to be wondering what a woman wearing heels and business attire was doing at their burger joint, alone, on a hot afternoon among families and retired folks, about half of whom were wearing cowboy hats indoors and telling long, funny stories.
I ordered the Queso Burger, the menu item TripAdvisor calls Grumps' signature. The burger came dripping in liquid cheese: Under a bun slathered with mustard was a beef patty, shredded lettuce, tomato and pickles. The next few minutes were a blur, but I ate every bite of that burger, dipping the last bites into the remaining pools of queso in a way that would make my mother embarrassed. The zing of the yellow mustard, the crunch of the shredded lettuce, the "Jimmy Buffett for President" T-shirt hanging on the ceiling: This place felt like a small-town Texas burger joint from a movie.
I couldn't help but watch a little Fox News and eavesdrop while two staffers came by separately to make sure I liked my burger. I did.
Who knows if Grumps Burgers is the best burger joint in the south, or in Texas, or even in North Texas. I haven't been to all of the burger joints in all of those areas, and we leave the restaurant critiquing to our new restaurant critic, Michalene Busico. But this one's delicious, and delightfully out of the way.
As I pulled out onto U.S Route 377 for the long drive back to Dallas, I glanced down at the wheel as I made a hard right turn. A little blob of queso on my thumb somehow escaped the five-napkin job I just finished. I wiped my cheeks in case I'd missed any more. It's that kind of place.