By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Three Burger Joint Burgers
The independent burger joint was long ago eclipsed in popularity by the chains and the fast food franchises. The ones that still survive offer a burger you can't find anywhere else.
710 11th Street, Huntsville, 936-291-0571
There is no car service at this half-century-old hamburger drive-in, so you have to order at the window. Mr. Hamburger's "killer burger" -- which features two hefty handmade burger patties with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mustard and mayo with jalapeños -- is not only a favorite of Sam Houston State students, it's a Texas burger classic. Look for the scary clown sign.
Stamps Super Burger
7590 West Bellfort, 713-771-5077
The original Stamps was opened in 1970 on Dalton Drive near Jackson State University in the Mississippi capital by a Methodist minister named Algernon Stamps. The Bellfort location is owned by the Mississippi minister's Houston relatives. Stamps's legendary SuperBurger features 12 ounces of freshly ground beef, hand-formed into a patty, griddle-fried and dressed with fresh produce. Call your order in beforehand, or suffer a wait that can be as long as an hour at busy times. And be prepared to eat at the back counter (there are no tables). The burger is so juicy, it's difficult to get it home in one piece -- the bottom bun turns to mush on the drive.
5815 Westheimer, 713-975-6082
A clean, well-lit place for quality burgers in the Galleria area, Pappas Burger is a modern burger joint that also serves beer. The meat is first-rate; they start with never-been-frozen beef, ground fresh daily next door at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. Then they make a half-pound patty and griddle-cook it. You choose from a wide variety of configurations and order at the counter. The blue cheese burger is the local favorite.
Honorable mention: Miller's Cafe, Champ Burger
Three Bar and Grill Burgers
Nothing tastes better with a big juicy burger than a cold beer. And that gives the neighborhood bar and grill a decided edge in any discussion of where to go eat burgers.
Goode's Armadillo Palace
5015 Kirby Drive, 713-526-9700
They call it the Michael Berry Burger, after the city councilman. It features a half-pound of fresh-ground USDA Choice sirloin served on a puffy golden bun with lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo. The substantial buns help hold the burger together perfectly, even though the meat is extremely juicy. I've never been fond of the burgers across the street at the Goode Co. burger and taco joint, but this one is in an entirely different class.
2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521
At its greasy best when ordered with bacon and cheese, Rudz's burger arrives on a china plate with its top bun askew. Alongside it, a slice of tomato, another of purple onion and a chunk of iceberg lettuce are neatly stacked, waiting for audience participation. Mayonnaise is already slathered on the lower bun beneath the meat. The patty is thick and pink inside, generously seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper. The fresh bakery bun is shiny on the top, with a porous egg-bread interior. The burger is so moist that juice tends to run between your fingers while you eat it.
318 Gray, 713-523-6404
Order it medium-rare and your half-pound of char-grilled Black Angus comes to the table bright red, smothered with melting Gorgonzola and topped with a pile of wispy batter-fried onions, on a honey wheat hamburger bun bottom. Three black lines across the top bun attest to its recent toasting on the grill. The spring greens come on the side as well as your choice of spreads. Tomato by request.
Honorable mention: Bar at Cafe Annie, Blanco Cafe, Cahill's on Durham, Kenneally's, Market Square Bar & Grill
Three Offbeat Burgers
The burger is a blank canvas upon which Texans express their eccentricities. Don't be surprised if you fall in love with some of these barbecue burgers, bean burgers and bigger-than-a-pound monstrosities.
1202 Bayport Boulevard, Seabrook, 281-474-3444
Tookie's best burger is the "squealer." It's sort of like a bacon cheeseburger, but instead of frying the bacon separately so the grease can be drained off, they grind up the smoked pork with the beef. The genius of this concept is that the bacon fat bastes the patty while it cooks. The result is a salty, greasy burger that stays juicy even when well done. Tookie's also serves a salsa-accented "bean burger" that's better than most of the ones you get in San Antonio.
Mel's Country Cafe
24814 Stanolind, Tomball, 281-255-6357
There are normal burgers on the menu, and then there's the "Mel's burger," a pound of ground meat with bacon and three slices of American cheese. The pound comprises three individual patties, and they're available cooked medium well -- don't ask for medium, because they won't do it. If you're really hungry, try a "mega Mel." It's a pound and a half of meat, a pound of bacon and a quarter-pound of cheese. Eat it in under two hours and get your name on the Wall of Fame. Nine minutes is the current record.
Guy's Meat Market
3106 Old Spanish Trail, 713-747-6800