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Texas Burger Binge

Our food critic reports on the state of the Texas burger -- and recommends 18 you need to try immediately

Three Soul Food Burgers

Adventurous burger-lovers will want to hunt down these Fifth Ward soul food shacks. They serve three of the most incredible hamburgers in the city.

Burger judge Amanda Stewart samples the winner at 
the Uncle Fletch's Hamburger Cook-off.
Robb Walsh
Burger judge Amanda Stewart samples the winner at the Uncle Fletch's Hamburger Cook-off.
Arnold's Texas burger is served on an iconic bun.
Robb Walsh
Arnold's Texas burger is served on an iconic bun.

Lockwood Malt Shop
5410 Mulvey, 713-671-2706

Perfection on a buttered bun. They call it an old-fashioned burger. It's cooked on a hot griddle, so there are lots of dark, crinkly, crunchy edges and yet it's still fat and juicy in the middle. Half a pound? Five-eighths of a pound? Who knows. They just grab a big handful of ground meat and make a burger out of it. The meat comes from a nearby meat market, fresh-ground every morning. The tomatoes taste homegrown. "All the way" means tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, mayo, onion and pickles. When you get it to go, they wrap it up in wax paper. Now that's old-fashioned! The malt shop doesn't sell malts, but they go through gallons of Kool-Aid every day. There is no sign and no way to tell the address. Look for the seemingly abandoned red building on the southwest corner of Lockwood and Mulvey, and push hard on the screen door.

Adrian's Burger Bar
5311 Sonora Street, 713-674-1488

A hamburger at Adrian's is a mess waiting to happen. The honking one-pound hand-formed meat patty is cooked so that the meat remains extremely juicy and a little loose. It's topped with a sloppy mountain of lettuce, tomatoes, onion and pickles. The burgers are fried to order, so they're piping hot. Cutting the sandwich in half makes it less likely the whole mess will explode and run down the front of your shirt when you bite it. The food there is beautiful, but the dining room is ugly. Oh, and if a pound of ground meat isn't enough to satisfy your appetite, ask Adrian for a double. He sells lots of them.

J&J Lounge
3303 Lee Street, 713-222-7104

There's the regular hamburger on the menu at the J&J Lounge, and then there's the old-fashioned burger. The regular burger is made with a skinny frozen patty à la Mickey D's. The old-fashioned burger is a half-pound hand-formed patty served on two slices of toasted Wonder Bread with chopped lettuce, chopped onion, tomato, mustard and mayo. This is probably the closest thing to Fletcher Davis's original hamburger that you will find in the state of Texas. But be forewarned that this ramshackle pool room and beer joint in the Fifth Ward is not a place for small children, old ladies or the faint of heart.

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.

Mr. Hamburger
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.

Pappas Burger
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.

Rudyard's
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.

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