Words: Craig Connolly
Photography: George Voronov
This is one of the first food features on CHAR. If you’re unacquainted, we would like to welcome you with open and slightly grease-covered arms. What we’ve set out to do with CHAR is to capture contemporary Irish food culture and examine the things in eating (but not necessarily dining) in Ireland that have started a culinary revolution. It’s an exciting time to be a perpetually hungry fucker on the island and that’s very much where we come in.
What we wanted to steer clear of was the hyperbolic stance whenever a new spot opens in Dublin city. All of that being said, Dash makes an absolutely phenomenal burger. We weren’t expecting to get that lucky but as fate would have it Barry Wallace at Dash HQ made us the ultimate smash burger. We want to caveat all of this by saying that we completely understand why you might be a Bunsen or a BuJo Stan, there’s a lot of good burger spots dotted around the city. It was a close call for us too but Barry’s stuff is the real deal.
It takes a brave man to open any new food spot around the Camden St. area, let alone a burger joint. Bunsen, Bobo’s, Wowburger are all within Double Cheeseburger flinging distance of his shop
but Barry spotted the smash-burger boom happening in the US and took his chance with Dash.
By now you either think we’re blithering idiots or you want to know what makes Dash so special. The answer is a fanatical attention to every delicious detail. Barry forensically analysed what makes the perfect smash burger, from the meat blend for the patty to the Martin’s style potato rolls that have been a staple at Shake Shack since day one. Getting as close to his Stateside counterparts was always the mandate. With all of that in mind, we ventured up to his Pop-Up restaurant early last week to wrap our paws around one of his new creations and find out more about the genesis of Dash Burger.
Well I knew people would love smash burgers, I just didn’t know there would be a frenzyBarry Wallace, Dash Burger
The patties are generous in size but not OTT, they hit a scorching hot chrome grill before being topped with wafer thin onions which are immediately smashed using a meat pestle that wouldn’t look out of place as a murder weapon in Cluedo. The smashing of the patty and onion perfectly sears the meat and creates a crust around the perimeter of the burger, providing an umami flavour we’ve never experienced with another burger in the city. With the meat and onions nicely acquainted Barry adds slices of OG American cheese before taking his nifty butter roller and liberally applying melted butter to his potato rolls before adding them to the grill to toast.
The finishing process is akin to what you’d expect from most burger spots; ketchup and mustard on both buns before being topped with pickles and freshly diced onion. Et voila, a top tier smash burger for you to salivate over until you make your way up to Kevin Street to get your hands on your own.
After satisfyingly stuffing my face we sat down with Barry to find out the genesis of Dash:
“I was getting various different burger blends made over the course of maybe 6-8 weeks. During lockdown I was testing with some high quality beef at home. I was going to my local butcher asking for different blends. I studied a guy in New York called Pat LaFrieda. Pat is the burger scientist who supplies Shake Shack, Minetta Tavern and Burger Republic. He is just the top, top burger-blend guy in the whole of the States.”
I studied a guy in New York called Pat LaFrieda. Pat is the burger scientist who supplies Shake Shack, Minetta Tavern and Burger Republic. He is just the top, top burger-blend guy in the whole of the States.Barry Wallace, Dash Burger
At this stage, I’d like to point out that during our thirty minute conversation I only got to open my mouth four times such was Barry’s enthusiasm for talking about his new burger baby. Either he had become a man possessed or unbeknownst to us he was trying to break a world record for bovine-inspired filibustering. It was a strangely relaxing and enjoyable experience having him tell us every minute detail of how his burger was engineered. It also allowed me ample time to stuff my little face. Anyway, back to you Barry:
“I watched about twenty videos of [Pat LaFrieda], I read about twenty articles and took notes. I went to my local butcher and asked for cuts of whole rib, I asked for brisket, I did loads of different blends. My butcher was really annoyed with me at the end of it, like here’s your man again.
One of the blends I thought had a strange flavour to it and then I realised that short rib has a very similar flavour to shin. You know when you get Pho in Vietnam it has a very deep beef flavour. I think for a lot of Irish people that don’t eat shin they think it’s a fake flavour. But it’s so concentrated, kind of an oxtail style.
Once I got the beef blend right I wanted to Americanise the rest of the burger. With the smash technique, emulating the LA pop-ups. There’s also a nod to the Oklahoma Onion Burger in the ‘50s. I just wanted to make it so much more like Shake Shack or places like that. You get that kind of nostalgia. When I tasted the potato bun first you get that “where have I tasted that before, it’s real old-school”.
How important was it to get the American style cheese and the potato rolls?
“It was really important because the American cheese melts like nothing else. You can put cheddar on there or Gruyere, all of those cheeses are good in their own format. But some of them are very strong, some of them aren’t so strong. It had to be American Cheese to steam the burgers and to melt into a gooey hot mess.
That’s what I wanted, a crispy, craggy smash burger, piping hot, gooey cheese all together with steamed onions. Those onions are sliced on a butcher slicer so they’re paper thin. They cook really quickly. Once you smash them down and flip them they’re cooked in record time. Some of them get crispy on the edges, some get juicy.
That’s what I wanted, a crispy, craggy smash burger, piping hot, gooey cheese all together with steamed onions.Barry Wallace, Dash Burger
So the whole smash technique was something that wasn’t in Ireland. When we were in lockdown, I knew people were starting to talk about smash burgers more online, I knew I had to flip my business into something for the night time and the weekend.
It was [burger expert] George Motz who inspired the concept, and Kenji Lopez [an American chef and food writer] who got me on to them a few years ago. That was when I made the first one at home. I made one for my nephew and the two of us were just like “this is crazy”.
Food waste and ethical eating is incredibly important to you…
Yeah it’s really important. One of the heart breaking things about Pang (Barry’s previous endeavour, delicious Bahn Mi’s and Rice Paper rolls) was the amount of food waste from making the rice paper rolls which were a very hard thing to predict how much to make. You can’t really make them to order, if you were to make them to order your queue can’t be too large. So making them en-masse is really difficult, you make 16 or 18 at one time. By the time you get to the last rice paper, the first one is ready to roll. So you have to project manage the rolling of the rice paper rolls.
Novelty food is an insult to anyone in poverty. We’re very very lucky to be able to cook with such good produce, for people to be making gigantic burgers that no one can finish and 90% of it is going in the bin, just to get a bit of micro-fame on Instagram. I think it’s actually quite disrespectfulBarry Wallace, Dash Burger
Food waste is a big issue for me, we’re very lucky with where we are, where we grew up. We have access to all this food but there’s people out there who will never taste food like we have. You see people just throwing it away. You see that when people make gigantic pizzas, huge burgers that no ones going to eat.
Novelty food is an insult to anyone in poverty. We’re very very lucky to be able to cook with such good produce, for people to be making gigantic burgers that no one can finish and 90% of it is going in the bin, just to get a bit of micro-fame on Instagram. I think it’s actually quite disrespectful, Anthony Bourdain was really against it.
There’s no way people eat those gigantic burgers like in Man v Food. In America, produce is very cheap. There’s huge amounts of beef being produced there, I do find all of that very indulgent. It worries me that real people who are hungry aren’t eating these things [novelty gigantic food].
So with the Smash burgers I’ve designed it with minimal waste. We order in a certain amount of beef, we’re open until we sell out and we’ve sold out 5 times in 10 days. This concept is much more environmentally friendly. Wasting food really goes against what I believe in.
Did you anticipate Dash to be as successful as it is and if so did you expect it to happen this quickly?
“Well I knew people would love smash burgers, I just didn’t know there’d be a frenzy and chaotic demand for it which is incredible! I’m very lucky.
The dream scenario would be to take it to another site, maybe have a sit-down restaurant. And to have that as a flagship to bring in some investors or partners that might see the potential in me or the restaurant and want to keep to its core values and grow.
Like I said, it’s a very simple concept to manage, we do forensic cost analysis, forensically look into everything that was difficult with previous restaurants like Pang. I found a lot of the suppliers were inconsistent with the order especially with Asian products which alters the consistency.
The order sheet was tiny for Dash, it’s actually easier to manage. I really wanted to make sure it’s something I can manage properly and not get dragged down. It’s a really simple business model and the product is killer.
What to order:
Double cheeseburger smash
House salt seasoned fries