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Mar 26, 2009 09:14 AM

Durham, NC OnlyBurger Truck Rides Again

Having moved back to the Triangle only a few months back, I was intrigued when one of my friends mentioned that some really phenomenal Durham-based chefs decided to buy a lunch truck and drive around Durham serving old-school diner burgers. Knowing my predilection for finding great eats at lunch carts and taco stands, they knew I would be all for chasing down the burger truck and seeing what they've got to offer.

But, then...the truck was taken out of service due to a traffic accident, resulting in no burgers for us.

Until last night, when OnlyBurger re-launched their lunch truck at Wine Authorities' "Burger Speakasy." Now, cutsie event name aside, the line was long and somewhat slow...but there was an enomatic machine keeping me happily supplied with wine as I queued to the back door of the shop to order our food. We ordered two doubles with cheese and bacon with everything (no mayo), a double cheeseburger, and two single cheeseburgers. This was a large order, but we were compensating for the fact that they ran out of fries before we got there. Having no place to sit and eat our burgers, we bought a couple of bottles of wine and headed back to my friends' place to eat, about a 10 minute drive.

Now, these are diner-style burgers - dense and greasy with a soft, butter toasted bun and all the fixins. By the time we unwrapped them, the cheese had melted into both the burger patties, bacon, and onions, resulting in a single mass of, IMHO, heavenly burgerdom. The patties were seasoned well, cooked to perfection (sort of crusty on the outside and a little bit of pink on the inside), and really flavorful. We could tell they use high quality ground meat, and the patties were quite thick, so you get a lot of it. There was sufficient bacon and it was crisp and wonderful. Each patty had it's own slice of American cheese, creating those little bundles of melted cheese to pick off the foil wrapper, yet leaving plenty for the burger itself. The pickles on the burger were flavorful and thinly sliced, which meant I could bite through them and have some pickle with every bite, as opposed to pulling the entire slice out on my first taste. The only flaw - I hate iceberg lettuce and there was a lot of it on there, but next time I'll order it without.

As we sat having our dinner, we discussed the general quality of the burgers in relation to other burger joints in the area (Five Guys, Char-grill, Cookout, any restaurant burger). I am a Five Guys fan, and think these burgers are closer in style to that, but executed at a higher level. Overall, the quality and flavor of the OnlyBurger burgers are higher (they are also, however, more expensive) than other places, but don't expect a "gourmet" experience - it's fun, classic, well-prepared American fare. And I can't wait to go back and try another burger and their fries.

You can find out where their truck is daily by going to their website: or signing up for their "tweets" on Twitter. You can also call your order in ahead of time, if you dont' have time to wait - which I think is a nice service as well. Oh, and they take cash AND credit card.

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  1. Thanks - great review! You made me hungry. :-)

    1. My only beef (pun not intended) with Only Burger is that it seemed they were only on Duke's campus most of the time. It's dang good though.

      4 Replies
      1. re: LBD

        True dat. It's so difficult to get to if you're not a Duke undergrad. They set up shop in places where there's no parking for the general public. They should switch it up more - if they want to be at Duke daily, at least find an alternative location for at least part of the day (like if evenings at Duke, then lunch somewhere else in the community).

        (I'm only complaining because I think their burgers are the best. Otherwise I'd just go to Wimpy's or Five Guys).

        1. re: mikeh

          That's actually a pretty common complaint about them, that they seem to hover around Duke Campus a lot (which I agree would be a pain). I was doing a little research before we left to get our burgers, and apparently they were thinking about adding an additional truck to their fleet - one for Duke and another for the rest of Durham. This idea may have been put on hold due to the accident.

          On the upside, I believe they are willing to come to you if you have enough people willing to give them business (I think I read somewhere that they have to have a $250 minimum tab to show up in your preferred location).

          1. re: jazzy77

            I got my second OnlyBurger fix last week when the truck was parked behind Wine Authorities. It seems that a fair percentage of Durham must have heard about the truck's location because the line snaking through WA was longer than when I took my place in the line.

            It is a complete pain that the truck spends most of its time on the Duke campus. That severely limits the number of customers.

            I also think the burger meat is fantastic and I have worked out the source.

            1. re: Chow Penguin

              A chat with one of the managers last week revealed that they intend to split their time better between Duke and "in the community" locations. They're still scoping out good places around town to park and will switching it up a lot initially.

              Duke will remain an important gig for them though because it's a sure-fire revenue stream any time they are on campus.

      2. After more reflection and another experience there I think their prices are a bit out of hand. Got a double bacon cheeseburger (with all the toppings) + fries + drink today, and it cost me $10.14. I'm sorry, but that is borderline outrageous. You can get the exact same meal at a place like Wimpy's or Five Guys for about half that price. You can get a huge pork + stew platter from Allen & Son where the guy is out at 2:30 a.m. every morning smoking the pig for the same price.

        Further, their website is misleading about credit card purchases. According to the webpage, "Duke Points accepted on campus. Credit cards accepted." An unambiguous "credit cards accepted." Yet today when I stopped by to pick up my order, having already called it in ahead of time, they told me that credit cards aren't accepted on campus. The guy didn't say anything else and I was kind of left in the lurch. They had already prepared my order, so I needed to go through with purchasing it (unless he of course offered it to me as a courtesy because of their explicitly misleading website, which he acknowledged it was). Instead I had to waste 30 minutes driving to an ATM and driving back, pick up my order, drive home to eat it - by that time, the burger had completely fallen apart and the fries were hard and cold.

        His explanation was that they have someone else design the website and aren't communicating properly. But there's a lot more they can do - they give twitter updates a few times a day embedded in the website - would it be so difficult to mention "@ x location on campus today, please note credit cards not accepted." or, mention it over the phone just to cover their bases. Point is - there's a lot of customer service they could have extended to avoid placing the hassle on the completely innocent customer, but failed to do so.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mikeh

          I haven't tried them yet but if Wimpy's or Five Guys-- both of which I have tried several times-- is the reference standard for them then I'm not as enthusiatic about giving them a try. I was thinking their reference standard was Dain's Place or Federal. Compared to those two places $10.14 for a double with everything, fries, and drink is reasonalbe considering you don't ahve to pay tip.

          1. re: bbqme

            Agreed. To me it doesn't reach the quality of those "gourmet burger" places where the marinade/seasoning is succulent and incredible.

            1. re: mikeh

              mikeh, i agree with everything you've said. the prices are a bit much, and sometimes the customer service can be downright bad. twice i've had to wait nearly half an hour for my burger/fries, which were cold/falling-apart because they forgot to call my number and it was sitting on the counter. no apologies or offers to make it right.

          2. re: mikeh

            Sorry that was such a hassle! It sounds like both a misleading website AND a lack of customer service on their part. I thought when I first heard of the burger truck that you might be paying primarily for the novelty factor, and it seems that very well may be the case based on the reviews here.

          3. Since we don't live in Durham and I work near Capital Blvd., we haven't gotten a chance to try it again, but what a dissapointment hearing the rest of the reviews! I do have to say that the burger that I had in my original review was far, far better than the ones I've had at Five Guys since and it's sad to hear they haven't maintained the same quality.

            I don't mind shelling out the money if the food is better than the average burger joint, but I'd have a problem waiting the 30 mins. outside of the truck for my order...unless they were in the parking lot of the Duke Gardens or something equally enjoyable.