Houston is under invasion by gourmet hamburger chains from other regions at the moment. Along with Florida's Cheeburger Cheeburger and Denver's Smashburger, Houston recently has also seen the opening of 5 Guys Burgers and Fries out of Washington D.C. and Mooyah Burger from Dallas. So why us?

According to George Motz, author of Hamburger America, Houston and L.A. are America's top hamburger cities because of the automobile. "Driving cities like L.A. and Houston are burger cities," Motz told me. Besides, Chicago has hot dogs, New Haven has pizza, Cincinnati has chili, but neither L.A. or Houston has an nationally known iconic food item other than the burger, Motz said.

"Houston has an excellent mix of demographics, a stronger economy than many in the country right now, a predisposition to eating beef and a very open mind-set to trying 'the latest and greatest,'" says Joe Hodas, a press spokesman for Smashburger. The Houston Smashburger is already doing bigger numbers than most of the chain's Denver locations.

Cheeburgers come in five sizes and nine varieties of cheese.
Troy Fields
Cheeburgers come in five sizes and nine varieties of cheese.

Location Info


Cheeburger Cheeburger

106 Vintage Park Blvd.
Houston, TX 77070

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Jersey Village


Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Half-pound burger: $7

Seven-ounce burger: $6

Fries and rings basket: $4

Chocolate malt: $3.29

Pepsi: $2

106 Vintage Park Blvd., 281-320-1212.

"We, like I'm sure our competitors did, saw that there was no strong better-burger player in this market of 6 million people," says Hodas. "And by strong, I don't mean that a local chain like Beck's Prime or one-off like Christian's Totem doesn't make a great burger. I just mean that they haven't necessarily tapped out the market potential there for burger lovers."

Of the new arrivals, I suspect Smashburger is doing the best due to its Medical Center location. The others are well outside of town. 5 Guys Burgers and Fries is in Rosenberg; Mooyah Burger is down near NASA; and Cheeburger Cheeburger is most of the way to Tomball. That real estate strategy backfired when the economy slowed down suburban expansion. The Vintage Park shopping center where Cheeburger Cheeburger is located is a carbon copy of Uptown Park. Except most of the stores are empty. It looks like an upscale ghost town.

Cheeburger Cheeburger is the only one of the new burger joints that isn't sparsely furnished and noisy. Most of these gourmet burger franchises seem to be designed to encourage you to turn the table over quickly. Cheeburger Cheeburger, on the other hand, is trying to be a family restaurant and hangout. While we ate our burgers, the Happy Days atmosphere grew on me. The malt shop look, the 1960s rock and roll on the sound system, the Elvis posters and kid-friendly touches were also drawing a decent crowd of families with children.

If you go, be sure and have a malt. And tell them to lay off the spatula whacking and bring you a burger that's pink and juicy.

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