In Dallas, there are a scarce few restaurants that can boast that they've been around for six decades. Trendy burger joints come and go, and only a few are able to stick around long enough to make a real impression on the Dallas dining landscape. Open since 1951, Snider Plaza institution Burger House is just as good today as it was when founder Jack Koustabardis first opened the doors 64 years ago.
The SMU-adjacent hot spot — which now has three locations, including Lakewood and Addison — was purchased by business partners Steve Canellos and Angelo Chantillis in the 1980s, and these days their sons are running the show. Eater caught up with current co-owner Chris Canellos, who first started working at Burger House as a soda jerk in high school, to talk about how the place has managed to stay true to itself all these years later.
"A lot of these burger places are talking about fresh ingredients, but that's what we've been doing since 1951."
Has the burger recipe or cooking style evolved at all over the years? You don't have to divulge any secrets, but a look into the process would be cool.
To be completely honest with you, no. A lot of these burger places are talking about fresh ingredients, but that's what we've been doing since 1951. Our patties are delivered six days a week, our buns are delivered six days a week. There's not much that has changed. Our back office and marketing is where you've seen the biggest change in our business. It's gone from handing out flyers to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
How did you handle transitioning a 64-year-old restaurant into the digital age?
It's a huge transition and we're still kind of working our way through it. We're all a little older, my dad and his partner Angelo are in their eighties, Angelo Jr. and I are in our forties and fifties. It's been a challenge for us to embrace the digital age, but we've done our best with it. Angelo's wife Teresa handles the social media, so she's the one tweeting and Facebooking and Instagramming every day.
How about your regulars? Do you see people coming in as kids and then bringing their kids when they grow up?
Especially at the original Snider Plaza store. We've had third and fourth generations there. If you go on Saturday, you'll have grandfather, father, and son all at the bar. Grandfather started going there when he was at SMU and it's been their favorite joint ever since. Our customers are really loyal at all our locations. We have diehards. People who eat here two or three times a week. If they've moved out of town, they come here from the airport before they go home. It's nice to have a place that's been a part of Dallas for so long, that's hard to find.
"Jason Garrett swears it's the best chicken sandwich he's ever had in his life."
Are there any lesser-known items on the menu that people should know about? Things that are as good as the burgers?
One of the best things that I think we do is the sandwich we named after Angelo's mother, Zoe's Chicken Supreme. Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett swears it's the best chicken sandwich he's ever had in his life — it's got grilled onions, swiss, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo. You'd be doing yourself a favor if you tried it.
What about that famous seasoning that goes into just about everything on the menu? Where does the recipe for that come from?
Jack came up with the original recipe with his brother Jerry. They've been using it since 1951, and when we bought the restaurant, he taught me how to make it. It's been the same ever since. We sell it at our three locations and merchants around town, like Kuby's. I've shipped out orders this week to Maine, Florida, California. We've also shipped some to Iraq and Afghanistan.
How do you order your burger?
Mustard, lettuce, onion, and jalapenos. No tomatoes, no pickles. Definitely cheese. We're old-fashioned so our burger is a little smaller, which means that I have to get a double.
"If you serve a good old-fashioned burger that sparks a memory, you'll always have a place in the market."
Do you ever stray and eat burgers elsewhere?
Absolutely. You've gotta know what else is going on. My partner Angelo Jr. eats more hamburgers [than I do]. Now that I'm older, I have to watch what I eat a little more. It's funny to see how the nature of the burger has changed now that bigger is better, and everything is gourmet. It's almost that the burger is secondary and what you put on it is the shiny stuff. It's cyclical though, like everything else. What's new and trendy is always changing, everything comes around. If you serve a good old-fashioned classic American hamburger that sparks a memory, I think you'll always have a place in the market.