Hoo, Chow, Baby is glad that for once it looked around before it leapt. Last week it was all set to proclaim that the cheeseburger it’d had at Miller’s Bar while vacationing in beautiful Dearborn, Mich., was the best it had ever had – In. Its. En. Tire. Life, to use the punctuation reserved for such reverent occasions.

What made this burger so good was its juiciness, and what made it so juicy is the scary part: Miller’s cooks its burgers medium-rare. Now, Chow, Baby is a survivor of the E. coli wars of the 1980s and ’90s, and it’s read most of Fast Food Nation, and it saw that Frontline investigation of the U.S. meat industry a couple of years back. So yes, Chow, Baby knows better than to eat burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked. But maybe a medium-rare burger is like blowfish: In the hands of a properly trained chef, odds are it won’t kill you. Chow, Baby had a second Millerburger for dessert.

Upon Chow, Baby’s return to Texas, however, its chauvinism resurfaced. Excuse me, like any place in the world can do beef better than Cowtown? First stop, since Chow, Baby had to pay a condolence call there anyway, was Rick’s on the Bricks. Rick was closing down later that week after 17 years on Camp Bowie Boulevard (to become a new pub in the Ginger Man chain), so to misquote from Rick’s favorite movie, Casablanca: “Feed me, feed me as if it were the last time.” Surprise: The answer to Chow, Baby’s “Can I get that medium-rare, please,” was “Sure.” Didn’t have to sign a waiver or anything. And boy, was that a great burger: flavorful and very, very juicy. Chow, Baby was definitely onto something.

Next test site: Star Café (111 W. Exchange Ave.), noted for its choice and prime meat. Same question, same nonjudgmental “Sure,” and within minutes Chow, Baby was chowing down on an incredible half-pound cheeseburger ($4.25), medium-rare and amazingly juicy, the flavorful ground sirloin shown to its best advantage by not being burnt to a crisp. Star Café’s burger was a cut above because of the Stockyards-quality meat, but Chow, Baby’s new “Take the Dare, Cook It Medium-Rare” crusade even works at a quick-serve place like Gabby’s Burgers and More (3996 Denton Hwy.). Here it took the assembly-line workers a couple of tries to make a burger still pink in the middle, but they were very nice about it. And once again, the cheeseburger (1/3 lb., $3.50) was all the better for the juice.


Final test, and the big one: Yes, Chow, Baby was ready to put the Miller’s Bar burger against its beloved Fredburger ($6.75) at Fred’s Café (915 Currie St.). The Fredburger would be a little crimped by not having those award-winning french fries alongside (it was probably the fry machine that sparked what a witness reported as “the best-smelling grease fire ever” a couple of months ago). But outdoor dining is a plus – chef Terry Chandler is serving on the breezy patio while the kitchen is going through rehab, and for an extra bonus Chow, Baby’s burger was medium-rared by its favorite garage poet, William Bryan Massey III, who occasionally takes over the chuckwagon. Sassy and succulent, tender and tasty, the Masseyburger outjuiced even the Michigan titleholder. Chow, Baby, who is never going well-done again, had a second one for dessert.

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