My unplanned detour off Northwest Highway onto the oil-stained parking slick fronting Keller’s Drive-In prompted a most peculiar of culinary quandaries. Namely — should I risk my life for a hamburger?
From the rusty dangling carports taunting wide-eyed anxiety of an imminent collapse….to the dreary landscape beguiling a knife fight between rival gangs….a pit stop at this East Dallas hamburger haven demands a divine leap of gargantuan faith, garnished with an intriguing sense of unease.
Keller’s Drive-In has been around since before I was born — which is to say when all the Kennedys were still alive. Growing up in Dallas, I fondly remember Keller’s Drive-In as that last great American hamburger joint before the microwaved abomination of corporate fast-food chains conspired to destroy the world and all but obliterated these genuine small-time monuments to food art and guilty decadence.
All I can say is — thank fucking god this awful place is still around and remains so marvelously defiant.
While we’re now in the midst of a trendy faux-renaissance of the good old-fashioned era of the greasy burger, unfortunately, most of the forgers financed by quinoa-nibbling waifs charge at least quadruple the price of the most expensive menu item at Keller’s — and still aren’t even half as tasty. Fuck them. Fuck them with triple patty sideways.
See, Keller’s is the raw real deal. Taste buds never lie. Where else in this compromised day and age of mass copy-cat conformity can you wolf down a piping hot guilty pleasure and guzzle a cold beer in the front seat of your car (ALL LEGALLY!) for less than ten bucks? Indeed, Keller’s isn’t just a teary throwback to bygone authenticity given that its days are probably numbered, memories destined to be bulldozed into an Applebee’s next to Chevron. It’s a cenotaph to anti-political correctness. Let me put it this way: If Jesus ever did return and was an auto mechanic instead of a carpenter, and he wanted to re-do The Last Supper, he’d host it at Keller’s.
On this day, I didn’t plan on eating at Keller’s. Hell, I wasn’t even hungry. I was full, even. But you only live once according to my spiritual leanings and if my time has indeed come to keel over from a heart attack or a switchblade thrust into the abdomen by the newest inductee into the Banditos — then so be it. My friends, this is precisely how I want to go out — with a scrumptiously sinful artery blocker in one fist and some kind of alcoholic beverage in the other palm, all while mutinously singing The Internationale.
Here. Check out the menu. Look at these prices! “The Best” Hamburger clocks in at $2.35. Throw in some greasy fresh-cut fries for a buck fifty-five. Then, kill those intestines with a hearty milkshake for $2.25 (not the corn syrup garbage served elsewhere, but the real dairy product where you can taste the cream). You can also add a cold beer for $1.75. Holy shit! I need to rent an apartment next to this joint! Or, be buried here.
The best burger, plus fries, plus a milkshake, plus a cold beer comes to — cha -ding! — a grand total of $8.90!
Allow me to become a bit philosophical.
Food is the most obvious revelation and the ultimate confirmation, that above all else, egalitarianism rules. Screw everything else. Fact: We all want to eat well. Food is the magnet that makes snooty rich people drive into shitty neighborhoods for no other pursuit than that uniquely scrumptious meal you simply can’t get anyplace else in the city, or the universe for that matter. Food is the epicenter our most inherent of social and commercial bonds, often between the most disparate tribes.
My rental car pulled up next to a Tesla. Across the breezeway was a lowrider, which looked to be a ’66 Chevy Impala, though I’m not a car guy (thanks Google). To my left was a soccer mom with her too many kids in a Toyota SUV. Behind me was an old paintless pickup truck with a bunch of lawnmowers in the back — presumably all “rapists and murderers” doing their part of keep Dallas green and beautiful. See, lots more cunts live in Highland Park than Oak Cliff.
Where else but Keller’s Drive-In would I witness a solo visitor from Las Vegas parked right next to an asshole driving a $100,000 car, next to suburban soccer mom, next to a Cheech and Chong wannabee, next to illegal aliens on lunchbreak — all eating pretty much exactly the same incredible meal for the same price? If that’s not egalitarian awesomeness, then nothing is.
Note, however. Badass bikers have recently been banned. [READ “EATER DALLAS” STORY HERE]
Not often does one accurately describe a popular eating establishment as a total shithole, yet also give it a glowing recommendation. Well, here you go. Keller’s Drive-In is a total shithole with fabulous food at ridiculously cheap prices.
Which now brings me to the close. The culinary encore of this review can be expressed in either one word or perhaps two words. I’m not sure which. That word or those words are — POPPYSEEDS. Ersatz POPPY SEEDS. I’d crawl over broken glass to devour those poppy seeds. They’re sewn into every bun at Keller’s Drive-In. My new sick fetish is poppy seeds.
I’m not sure what exactly is the best thing about Keller’s Drive-In, but the poppy seeds in the bun are right there next to the free knife fight. Then, there’s the burger. The burger is so messy, napkins aren’t adequate. More like you need a beach towel, and perhaps a shower.
Keller’s Drive-In reminds us all of what we once used to be and what can still be, given the will of taste over convenience, the popular demands of quality over quantity, and the indubitable love of great food over mass production.
This is badass greatness on a poppyseed bun slathered in a special sauce. Blow your dick off perfection with a heart attack in your hand all washed down with a cold brew.
Keller’s Drive-In is absolute magnificence.