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Liberty Burger is giving Dallas a good name. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Liberty Burger, 8917 N Fwy Service Rd E, Ste 119, FW. 817-847-7771. 11am-9pm Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

We Fort Worthians grew up with stories about ol’ Amon Carter, the Cowtown newspaper mogul who would carry a sack lunch with him religiously whenever he went to Dallas on business, just to keep his money clean. It’s rare to see that kind of overt hostility directed toward the Big D these days, but residents of Fort Worth retain, with just cause, a healthy sense of self-esteem when it comes to our culinary culture in particular. Outside of the West 7th area, few are the Dallas restaurants that have successfully colonized Tarrant County. Those that have tried are often met with polite indifference. After all, we go to Dallas to shop, not to eat.

There are exceptions of course, and certain Dallas dining institutions like Campisi’s and Avanti have settled into their new Fort Worth locations like they’ve been here forever.

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It’s too soon to tell whether Liberty Burger will join the survivor list, but the place has an encouraging pedigree. The young Dallas-based chain, from the family that brought us the original Black-eyed Pea and Good Eats restaurants, is out to imbue the classic Americana combo of burgers, fries, and shakes with social purpose and civic responsibility. From grass-fed, never-frozen beef to locally sourced baked goods, Liberty is on a mission to raise the standard for corporate citizenship while dishing up a pretty good menu of gourmet burgers and milkshakes laced with booze.

Liberty’s newest location, in North Fort Worth (orbiting a Costco on the low-rent side of I-35, across from Alliance Town Center) may seem an unlikely spot for a fast-casual concept with locavore sensibilities, but, with a soothing lime-green interior and Guided By Voices on the Pandora, it was a welcome refuge from the concrete blight that stretched around it in every direction.

Counter service was enthusiastic and friendly, and the staff was happy to help me sift through a detailed menu in which nearly every item looked like it would be worth a try. They were especially keen on a Liberty “Torch,” a fried jalapeño stuffed with bacon and cheese. The kitchen earned presentation points when the plump pepper arrived at the table, skewered with a steak knife atop the golden bun of a “Chillerno” burger. Awkwardly named, and a bit awkward to eat, the Chillerno featured a juicy, roasted poblano pepper doused with queso blanco and chipotle barbecue sauce over a thick slab of ground beef. It was a delicious mess, and the combined heat made me grateful for the extra-wide straw in my mocha milkshake.

Veggie burgers remain, all too often, a grudging formality at hamburger joints. Liberty’s Woodstock burger was anything but a perfunctory effort — a thick patty of ground grains, chickpeas, and roasted vegetables which held together like a chop steak. Generously topped with Swiss cheese, avocado, and basil aioli, it could have used a little more acidic pep to cut through all that fat, but at least it ate like a meal.

A grilled cheese sandwich on dark brown bakery bread was remarkably personable, with three kinds of cheese melted around crisp, tangy pickles. The ruby red slices of tomato served alongside were as good as any I’ve had.

Onion rings billed as “steakhouse style” were cut a bit too thick to be any fun, so heavy as to crumble their delicate cornstarch casings under their own weight. They were nicely spiced with plenty of pepper and a hint of cumin, but you’ll want to eat them right away before they get soggy and limp.

The sweet potato fries were cooked nicely with a golden brown crunch, but the flavor missed the mark. The kitchen had hoped to augment the natural sweetness of the tuber with a dusting of brown sugar, but the fries ended up with the cloying, candied taste of a yam casserole at a church potluck. The regular old “skinny” French-fried potatoes were the best side dish, matchstick thin and crunchy to the last.

In addition to a selection of regular non-alcoholic milkshakes, the Fort Worth location offers specialty treats for grown-ups, like a classic mudslide and a frozen White Russian custard called, of course, the Lebowski. Local and craft beers are available on tap.

Liberty Burger may be from the Big D, but the place is shaping up to be a welcome addition to the Cowtown scene, even if it’s a bit off the beaten path. It sure as hell beats a sack lunch.

Liberty Burger
Chillerno burger ……………………………………..$7
Woodstock veggie burger ……………………….$7.50
Grilled cheese ……………………………………….$5
Onion rings ……………………………………………$5.50
Sweet potato fries…………………………………. $5
Skinny fries ……………………………………………$2.50
Liberty Torch ………………………………………….$2
Mocha shake …………………………………………$5

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