The first time I visited downtown Richardson (the area just east of 75, where Main Street, a.k.a. Belt Line, and Greenville meet), I was enthralled by the number of ethnic restaurants. Indian, Korean, Italian, and Ethiopian restaurants dot every intersection, and Richardson’s version of Chinatown is practically the next block over.
Nestled in that melting pot of restaurants, though, is a diner that sells food as American as it gets, and it just keeps me coming back for more. That establishment, Del’s Charcoal Burgers located just south of Main Street on McKinney, serves some of the best hamburgers and hotdogs I’ve had in the Dallas area.
Just as the name implies, the burgers and dogs are genuinely flame broiled, so they have that smoky, homemade flavor that can only be found at a backyard barbecue party.
The hamburgers can come with the standard variety of toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc.), but I prefer the specialty burgers from the chalkboard by the cash register for their more unusual flavors, such as the Guacamole and Swiss and the Texas Burger, which has hickory sauce, bacon, and jalapenos.
The hotdogs are unique because they are butterflied twice to form a Jacob’s Ladder of hotdog quarters and then served on a hamburger bun. Topped with chili, cheese, onions, or hickory sauce, they retain the familiar flavor every hotdog deserves but spice things up with their novel, albeit slightly messy, presentation.
Although the menu seems small, every item I’ve ordered has been top-notch: Quality over quantity is definitely the name of the game at Del’s. They have a great chicken-fried steak sandwich; add cheese and mustard, and I’d recommend them as highly as the burgers.
If you’re not crazy about beef, try out the chicken sandwich. Several side items and desserts round out the menu. The corn dog is decent, but the french fries, onion rings, and curly fries truly shine (and they taste even better with the Cajun seasoning provided at every table).
They also have fried pies, and even fried Twinkies, but I’ve yet to try either because every meal I’ve had at Del’s more than satisfied my appetite before I could even think about getting dessert.
Del’s Charcoal Burgers also offers the usual selection of Coca-Cola products, but honestly I don’t know why — you’d be crazy to order any soda other than Del’s very own homemade root beer. They serve it in a frosted mug so cold that your root beer starts to freeze along the sides of the mug halfway through your meal. It’s sweet, chilly, and absolutely refreshing.
The only complaint I have about the root beer is that it costs 50 cents to get a refill, but I always end up going back for more anyway because it’s unquestionably worth it.
I’m addicted to the food and root beer at Del’s, so my biggest qualm with the restaurant is its hours. Monday through Wednesday, its only open for lunch from 10:30 to 3:00. Luckily, it stays open longer Thursday through Saturday (until 9:00 PM), but it’s closed all day on Sunday, to give the small staff a much needed break, I’m sure.
Del’s Charcoal Burgers has been around for more than 50 years now, and it looks it — in a good way. Despite its age, it has been maintained really well for a half-century-old mom-and-pop burger joint.
That’s not to say it’s lost any old-school charm along the way, though: James Dean, Babe Ruth, Marilyn Monroe, a Red Ryder BB gun, and pictures of 50s-era Dallas adorn the walls. Each of the Dallas Cowboys teams through the decades is enshrined everywhere, as are some local high schools and the state of Texas itself. The walls are so covered with Americana and kitsch that I can’t even remember what color the paint is.
The roves of people that crowd into the tiny joint are as eclectic as the décor. Though I don’t recommend going right at noon because the lunch crowd is often larger than the tiny building itself; if you did you’d see businessmen in suits, high school students in jeans, regulars in sweats, and everything in between.
With their great prices – hamburgers and hotdogs around $4, combo meals for less than $8 – everyone can enjoy Del’s.