Bring 'Em Back

The 5 fast-food sides we miss most.

Even the Cherry Pie, which had no discernible cherries inside, was delicious once deep-fried.

Luckily, fried-pie fanatics like Serious Eats have come up with at-home solutions (e.g., sticking the baked apple pie into a vat of oil), while others set out to discover locations that still sell the full-fat version (mainly Walmart, which makes sense).


A study in excess: the Hangover Burger.
Katharine Shilcutt
A study in excess: the Hangover Burger.
Jus' Mac's crown jewel: the Hangover Mac and Cheese.
Katharine Shilcutt
Jus' Mac's crown jewel: the Hangover Mac and Cheese.

How to spot a genuine Tex-Mex restaurant.

Assistant Music Editor Craig Hlavaty recently purchased a 1981 edition of The Genuine Texas Handbook, a guide to all things Texan. It's an often-tongue-in-cheek look at the people, places, outfits, songs, foods and more that made someone Texan 31 years ago. The book contains — as you would guess — many nifty how-to lists. Among those in "From Chuck Wagon to Cocina," the food section of the handbook, are lists on how to spot genuine barbecue joints, Tex-Mex restaurants and chicken-fried steak spots.

All of those how-to guides include "fly swatters" on the lists of things to look for in a legit establishment. But that's not all...

According to Kent, these are the necessary items you should find inside any Tex-Mex joint worth its fajitas:

• One or two serapes draped on chairs

• Paintings on velvet of bullfighters, sequined sombreros, on the walls

• Hot sauce and fresh tortilla chips brought to the table with the menu

• Dishes named "Combination," "Regular," "Fiesta" or for a city or state in Mexico: "Saltillo," for instance

• Mexican beers on the menu

• Inexpensive prices

• Cactus collection

• Pralines wrapped in wax paper at the end of the meal

• Shell no-pest strip

• Red plastic roses and red plaster bulls

• Fly swatter

While it's tough to argue with most of the items on the list (especially the dishes named after a city or state in Mexico), you could definitely argue that these definitive items are among the reasons most Texans — and certainly Houstonians — are so tough-minded in their rigid definitions of what Tex-Mex (and, by our curious logic, Mexican food on the whole) should be now and forever.

The book is 30 years old, and almost all of these items — sans the no-pest strips and fly swatters, thanks to rampant a/c — hold true, although you generally have to pay for your pralines at the end of the meal now. We fear change when it comes to our Tex-Mex food.

In fact, the only things I'd add to the list today would be:

• Murals of Aztec scenes or cityscapes from places like Monterrey (if the mural is of Monterrey, it must include at least one soccer stadium)

• Margaritas on the menu

• Sizzling comals of meat and/or shrimp on at least half the occupied tables

• Tiny abuelitas making tortillas (whether visible from the dining room or not)

• Strolling mariachis playing "Guantanamera" for the 12th time that night even though it's a Cuban song

• Bottles of Tapatio and/or Valentina hot sauce on the table

Do these things always have to define a good Tex-Mex restaurant? Absolutely not, nor should you judge a place by how many serapes it has hanging from the walls. But that doesn't mean most of us aren't doing it anyway. By Katharine Shilcutt


The Day After
Hubcap Grill's Hangover Burger vs. Jus' Mac's Hangover Mac & Cheese.

The much-touted, often dubious "Hangover Cure" has existed for almost as long as the hangover itself. In fact, the first hangover cure is said to date to the mid-17th century, when two frat boys at The Sorbonne tried eating salted honey, plum rinds and tree bark to get rid of a vicious Natty Bo hangover. From medicines to old wives' tales, for as long as man has been overdoing it, he has sought a way to mitigate the effects of the dreaded hangover.

In Houston, at least two local eateries feature a "Hangover" menu item: Jus' Mac with its "Hangover Mac and Cheese" and Hubcap Grill's 19th Street location with its "Hangover Burger."

Both are fat-filled items aimed at sating that rolling stomach and calming the pounding skull. I decided to pack up my road-weary liver and poor life choices and set out to put both "cures" to the test.

The Hangover Burger from Hubcap Grill

I hope you are at least starting to sober up at this point, because even fitting this giant burger in your face is a task. You probably still have last night's 3 a.m. Taco Bell on your shirt; let's not make it worse.

The burger itself is a study in excess brought to you by a burger place that takes self-indulgence to Tarantino-esque levels. Since adding just one pork product to a hamburger is at this point passé, Hubcap offers up a thick beef patty covered in crispy, blackened bacon that is itself topped with a palm-size hunk of grilled ham. Topping that monstrosity of meat is a good quarter order of Hubcap's fries and cream gravy. You might as well add a fried egg on top for an extra buck.

Suffice to say the burger is excellent. I would have liked some heat from, say, Sriracha, but being subjective, I am an advocate of the use of Sriracha in everything from baked goods to foreplay, so my bias here is clear. Some acidity, like tomatoes or pickles, in the monster burger couldn't have hurt, either, but adding veggies to this beast borders on heresy so I'll let that slide as well.

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