There are many things that define Rockwall. The Harbor, the Square and the lake are all icons of this county. On par with the big three is, a burger joint. This may seem shocking to some, but Boots Burgers has been around since 1968 and for 40-plus years people from all over Texas have trekked to the house style restaurant for a classic taste.
The Mooney family started the business after losing their jobs at a factory in Dallas. Since that time the joint has been family run. Boots Burgers is located close to downtown Rockwall on Austin Street, but it‘s easy to miss, as it is both a restaurant and a residence.
Currently Russell Mooney – the nephew of the owner – is in charge of cooking the greasy delights and although he realizes how popular the burgers are he said there is nothing special his family does to add flavor.
Everything is old fashioned according to Mooney. Bun warmers are nowhere to be found, but a big heavy flat top grill is as obvious as the great taste.
“The grease comes directly from the meat,” Mooney said. “If you are a vegetarian, you’re out of luck down here.”
The name comes from Mooney’s grandfather whose nickname was Boots. It’s that simple according to Mooney, no other reason for the name.
Longtime Rockwall residents like District Clerk Kay McDaniel make it a point to indulge in the burgers as much as possible.
“I don’t know what they do to the burgers, but they are the best,” she said.
McDaniel, a patron since 1969, said Boots transcends stereotypes attracting all kinds to its off-the-map location.
“You will see pickups and Cadillacs,” she said. “People I know that know about Boots love it and it has always been right here.”
From Tuesday to Saturday Boots Burgers is almost constantly busy from 11 a.m. to when the meat, or Mooney’s patience, runs out.
‘It is common to wait 45 minutes for a hamburger up here on a Saturday,” Mooney said.
Although the restaurant has been open since the late 60s, Mooney said his family has been in Rockwall since the late 1800s.
“My great grandfather was the county clerk back in the teens,” Mooney said. “I have seen pictures of him standing in front of the old red courthouse in The Square with a gun belt on.”
Rockwall has changed quite a bit over the last century and although Mooney prefers a small town feeling he has no intentions of leaving Rockwall.
“This is our home town,” he said. “Where else are we going to go?”
Despite its popularity – even garnering the attention of burger tours, franchisers and television shows – Mooney said he and his family have no intention of changing anything about Boots.
“We’ve had offers to buy the name, but we like to keep it simple,” he said. “It feels good to be respected though.”
Residents that have left Rockwall miss the burgers too. Doug Davidson is one such resident who after returning to Rockwall after 30 years was overjoyed to see the place still open and going strong.
“I have been back a month and I live 45 miles away,” he said. “Whenever I am working close to Rockwall I try to make it a point to be around between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.”
Even as a child, Davidson has fond memories of the greasy delicacies.
“I remember riding my bike up here when I was a kid and by the time I got home the bag was greasy. Even my handle bars were greasy,” he said. “They are just good greasy burgers.”
Aside from being known for great taste, Boots is also known for low prices. Spending more than $5 could be difficult for most, but Mooney is dedicated to keeping the price low.
“We hear from a lot of people that we should raise the prices,” he said. “We agreed that we want to keep people coming in and saying this is a good burger and it is cheap.”
The future may not be too bright for the landmark unfortunately. Mooney said his generation will probably be the last to cook the burgers, but regardless they plan to keep their integrity and keep providing the iconic beef patties to the public for as long as possible.
“We do not want to become that corporate monster like McDonalds, or In and Out Burger,” he said. “Places like that used to make good burgers until they lost their identity and we don’t want to lose ours.”