I was in Indianapolis earlier this year and I was talking with one of my dealers telling him I was going from there to St. Louis. "Oh, man," he exclaimed. "We delivered some stuff to a customer over on the far west side of St. Louis a couple years ago and there's a place out there that has the best burgers in the world!" He couldn't remember the name of the place, so he called to one of his colleagues in the back and asked what the name was of the great burger place over in St. Louis they had eaten at weeks before. "Daddy Ray Burgers," is what I heard from the backroom. Immediately putting that on my "Restaurants to Visit" list on Google Maps, it turned out that I wasn't far from Daddy Ray Burgers when I finished a recent Friday morning meeting with a dealer on the far west side of St. Louis.
The "Daddy Ray" behind Daddy Ray Burgers was the fun-loving Ray Morris who came up with a secret blend of beef and spices to make his burgers for family and friends starting back in the early 1960's. Ray Morris had grown up in St. Louis, the son of a factory watchman who didn't make a lot of money during the height of the Great Depression. Ray eventually made it through a technical high school and graduated from Washington University before joining the armed forces as a radio operator during World War II.
After the war, Morris answered an ad for a company who was looking for someone who was "good with numbers" and he joined the Pet Milk Company in St. Louis and in a few short weeks was named the company's advertising product manager. Morris rose through the ranks at Pet eventually becoming President of Pet's Grocery Group. In 1984, Morris was named the CEO of Pet following a hostile takeover by the conglomerate ICI Corporation (whose name later was changed to the Whitman Corp. which later became PepsiCo) and was in charge of some selling off some of Pet's properties and making acquisitions such as Progresso soups. Pet expanded internationally under Morris' watch until he retired in 1989.
When Ray Morris passed away in 2010, he passed along his burger recipe to his family to use however they wished. His grandson, Jason Boergadine, had restaurant experience as his mother and step-father owned an upscale restaurant in the Lake of the Ozarks region while he was growing up, then the family owned a dueling piano bar/restaurant in California about 10 to 12 years ago. With his grandfather's secret burger recipe in hand, Boergadine opened Daddy Ray Burgers in what was a former custard stand along Veterans Memorial Parkway in O'Fallon, MO in September 2012.
The original Daddy Ray Burgers was a carry-out only establishment with a drive-up window and a couple three picnic tables in front of the building. Boergadine did a delivery business for Daddy Ray's during this time period. But business suffered when the cold months came around and Boergadine went looking for a new spot for Daddy Ray Burgers that had indoor seating. He found a spot next to a Mobil gas station in Dardenne Prairie on the far western side of St. Louis in the summer of 2015. He opened his new location along the South Outer Road along Missouri Highway 364 at the Bryan Road exit in September 2015. (see map)
Daddy Ray Burgers was a nice little space, well-lit and bright with red and yellow accents. The whimsical logo of Ray Morris was prominent on the east wall of the place. The chairs and tables gave the place a 50's diner feeling. The kitchen is in the far back with plexiglas windows between the grill and the dining area. There's a pick-up lane for phone-ahead orders on the side of the building and it seemed to getting a lot of use going unto the noon hour. Walking from my car to the front door, I could easily smell the smoky beef aroma of burgers getting grilled.
The menu at Daddy Ray Burgers hangs from a corner above the order counter. It's a basic menu consisting of burgers, chicken sandwiches, a BLT, hot dogs, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a turkey burger for the health conscious. Sides include fries, onion straws, chili cheese nachos, sweet potato waffle fries and a family recipe cole slaw.
The burgers all start out with 5 ounce patties - with the exception of the "Classic" burger which features a thicker 9 ounce beef patty - and you can add a second or third patty to make it a nearly 1 pound burger. For the adventuresome, Daddy Ray's will make you a burger consisting of four - 9 ounce patties with all the toppings. Seven different types of cheese are available as well as a number of free toppings including lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo or ranch dressing. For an upcharge, items such as bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fried jalapeños, and onion straws can be added.
I ended up a double Daddy Ray burger topped with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onion slices, pickles, ketchup and yellow mustard. Daddy Ray Burgers get their fresh-baked buns from Fazio's Bakery, one of the oldest in St. Louis. All burgers are made to order and it took about 10 to 15 minutes to have my burger made.
The burger was served on a piece of wax paper in a basket. It stood tall and majestic in the basket with a split-top bun on top. The burger patties were char-grilled over a gas-grill and crispy on the outside. The burger turned out to be good, juicy and flavorful. I prefer a flat-grilled burger over a char-grilled burger, mainly because most char-grilled burgers are over-cooked. But the burger patties had a bit of pink in the middle and the only thing charred on the burger were the outer shells of the patties. About the only quibble I had was that the bun wasn't toasted. It held together all right, but it seemed a little dry and lifeless.
The burger at Daddy Ray Burgers was good, as in above-average good. I can't call it the best burger I ever had, but it was good enough. I can see where some people really like the burgers at Daddy Ray Burgers, but it didn't really trip my trigger like it did the guys who told me - and raved - about the place. It's much better than fast food burgers, but Daddy Ray's is just a step or two above average in my book.