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Burgers and Nostalgia at Lankford Grocery

Lankford Grocery embraces the new, hangs onto the classic and keeps customers waiting in line for more.

The people eating breakfast there range from the bespectacled hipsters who now live in nearby fourplexes to old-timers who've taken their eggs and bacon there each morning for decades. (The yuppies who live in the new townhomes across the way tend to take their breakfasts on Saturdays, which is when Lankford is at its busiest.) And it's during breakfast when you really get a feel for the family that's held the place together for more than seven decades.

Lankford Grocery started out its life as just that: a grocery store, begun in 1938 by Nona and Aubrey Lankford. You can still get bacon and eggs there these days, it's just that now they're cooked for you first. And you can still grab beers — Lankford offers everything from Lone Star to Shiner Wild Hare — but you'll need to drink them there instead of taking them home. The burgers, on the other hand, weren't added to Lankford's repertoire until the 1970s. Before that, the little store specialized in deli sandwiches.
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It's hard to believe that today, so popular are its huge, greasy burger masterpieces. The restaurant — now run by a new generation of Lankford family members under the loving guidance of matriarch Eydie Prior, whose parents first opened the store — addresses this in its own mission statement, summing it up in its first sentence: "We have nothing small, nothing healthy and nothing fast."

The Grim Burger is topped with macaroni and cheese, bacon, jalapeños and a fried egg.
Troy Fields
The Grim Burger is topped with macaroni and cheese, bacon, jalapeños and a fried egg.

The Old Fashion burger is still all of these things. It's a towering cheeseburger on a soft sesame seed bun, with fixings that are the standards in any roadside burger joint: iceberg lettuce, occasionally mealy tomatoes, crunchy onions and dill pickles. Mayonnaise and mustard also come standard — not ketchup; this is Texas, after all. The cheese itself is nothing special — just a slice of plain American — and the burger can sometimes be overcooked. But there's still nothing quite like it, perhaps in part due to the city's shared nostalgia for the place.

Better are its more updated selections: the aforementioned Grim Burger, for example, or the new Frito Pie burger that sees its standard burger disappear under a flood of thick chili, cheese and corn chips. And while the french fries have never been anything special either, the tater tots and onion rings (while also frozen, like the fries) are still excellent examples of the genre. You may be tempted to order the Tex-Mex mix, but you shouldn't: It's just a collection of cast-off, fried-up end bits of jalapeños and onions that are unappealing on their own and would be better suited as a burger topping.

And if burgers aren't your bag (although that's hard to imagine in Houston), you'll be pleased to know that Lankford does something else even better than burgers — but only on Wednesdays. That's when the beef enchiladas are served at lunch, along with a bowl of stewed beans and a basket of freshly fried chips with bright green salsa. The exact same enchiladas have been served on this day of the week for almost as long as I've been alive, and I imagine they have tasted as excellent each Wednesday for the past 30 years.

Wrapping strings of cheddar cheese around the enchilada on your fork is an altogether brilliant way to pass the afternoon outside at a picnic table, remembering the Montrose and the Fourth Ward of days past and reconciling yourself to the fact that although Houston itself isn't terribly interested in preserving its history, at least Lankford Grocery is.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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14 comments
The moron
The moron

Such quality grammar, punctuation, who is the real moron? The random fool who spews wholly unwarranted negativity,or someone with a real opinion who actually uses punctuation and proper English?

pritikina
pritikina

I loved this place till I found out about HubCap Grill. Now that's a burger and fries joint. What I most disliked about Lankford was their inconsistency. It was the buns mainly. Sometimes it would last the meal but more often than not, it would disintegrate halfway thru the burger. Bun, beef, and condiments should make it every bite or try to at least.

Number Guy
Number Guy

I'm no rocket scientist, but picture #15 says that Lankford opened in 1937. That was 75 years ago. But your article says it's been open for 73 years. ???

Moomy
Moomy

Their chicken fried steak special is the best CFS in town I've had.

Jenny Tull
Jenny Tull

We saw DD&D segment on Food Channe and 6 of us loaded up and drove from Bear Creek to this place. I just didn't get all the nois and fanfare. It was a burger...just a hamburger. Wasn't bad, but was not worth a 45 minute drive across Harris County to get it.

offbeet
offbeet

I always go there for the burger but alway get whatever the special is and have never been disapointed. Best Enchaladas on Wednesdays and tacos on Fridays. I can't remember the last time I had the burger.

MR.F
MR.F

Great review -- this place endures for what it is and we are lucky to have it in Houston.

Dennis H.
Dennis H.

It's been awhile since I've been to Lankford's, but doesn't Eydie still offer CFS as a Thursday lunch special? Hope so. It's pretty good.

Corey
Corey

Augh thanks now I'll be relegated to sweating my tail off outside under an umbrella on Saturday mornings. Great review, but food network already did enough damage with the suburbs invading most Saturday's now. I guess it couldn't last, or was just too good of a target for a review to pass up..

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I'm not as taken with the regular hamburgers there as I am the more "modern" ones like the Grim Burger. And I go more often for the lunch specials or for breakfast than I do for burgers -- there's more to Lankford than that. :)

Corey
Corey

Try one more time, I promise you won't regret it. No one's perfect.. Or don't I'll gladly take your seat in the air conditioned inside... :)

Corey
Corey

You can also get CFS and eggs on Saturday.. I hate telling people that though.. haha.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Yes, sir - every Thursday. (Fridays are still Super Taco days, too.)

 
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