Hearsay’s Byrd on the Square

Market Square spot gets its cocktails, and some of its dishes, just right.

Check out the downtown setting of Hearsay in our slideshow.

Downtown's revitalized Market Square on a Friday night has never been better than it is lately. Niko Niko's in Market Square Park draws a crowd in the evenings with its open-air patio that keeps patrons cool with gentle misting fans, while families with kids sprawl out on the grass and downtown residents let their dogs run free in the adjacent dog park. On the Travis side of the square, Warren's and Char Bar promise cheap but strong drinks and entirely unique atmospheres — Char Bar is still a tailor by day, after all, and Warren's still has an inexplicable indoor gazebo.

On the north side of the square, La Carafe still holds court as Houston's oldest wine bar (and, possibly, the oldest bar in the city, period), its occupants spilling out onto the crooked sidewalk in plastic lawn chairs. And right next door, Hearsay — which calls itself a gastro-lounge, clinging to that description years after it's gone out of style — boasts one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city.

The Byrd is a glorious wreck of a burger.
Troy Fields
The Byrd is a glorious wreck of a burger.

Location Info


Hearsay Gastro Lounge

218 Travis
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Niko Niko's Market Square

301 Milam St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Greek

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Warren's Inn

307 Travis
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Char Bar

305 Travis
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

La Carafe

813 Congress
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


218 Travis, 713-225-8079. Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays, noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays
Macaroni and cheese $5
Beer-battered asparagus $6
Hearsay hamburger $12
Fish tacos $14
The Byrd $15
Potato-crusted salmon $20

SLIDESHOW: Hearsay: At Home on Market Square
BLOG POST: The High Price of Hearsay

Inside the historic W.L. Foley building, which was designed and constructed in 1899 by Eugene T. Heiner, the man who built courthouses in more than a dozen Texas counties, Hearsay serves a slightly upscale pub menu and cocktails both classic and creative. And although some businesses have opened and closed quickly on this side of the square — ERA and Convey Sushi, to name a couple — Hearsay has been going strong since opening in late 2009.

The Byrd is Hearsay's signature dish, whether the gastro-lounge realizes it or not. It's what people come here for, and it's what I wish I could order every time I visit — my doctor's increasingly stern threats against my cholesterol and blood pressure be damned.

An eggy, just-sweet-enough bun surrounds an Angus beef patty and nearly every burger topping you can imagine: bacon, two kinds of cheese (cheddar and mozzarella), onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard and mayo — along with plush slices of avocado and a runny, messy fried egg. It's a feat to even fit the burger past your lips, and my compliments to you if you manage to finish the beast without resorting to a fork and knife. It's such a glorious wreck of a burger that the mess only makes it more fun.

The fact that it's served with a deep, wide-mouthed ramekin of Hearsay's smoky, creamy macaroni and cheese in lieu of french fries only makes The Byrd that much better. Because trust me, you don't want to eat the fries here. They're frozen, lifeless things that Hearsay misguidedly attempts to jazz up with outdated parmesan and rosemary — it's like putting lipstick on a corpse. No, best stick with the macaroni and cheese, which is not only one of Hearsay's best dishes but also one of its most consistent. (And avoid the risotto entirely, which has a too-hard texture and is so sweet — at least the butternut squash version — that I immediately disposed of my bite into a napkin).

Likewise, although the Saint Arnold beer-battered asparagus is consistently good, the other appetizers should be given a wide berth: Tiny smoked salmon crostini are a rip-off at $8, spring rolls taste of a walk-in, and crawfish-stuffed mushrooms carry no hint of crawfish at all.

Oddly, although it's only $3 less than The Byrd, the standard bacon-and-cheddar-topped Hearsay Hamburger with its barely-there smear of chipotle mayonnaise tastes as if it came out of a different kitchen entirely. The tomatoes are mealy, the greens are odd and skimpy (I found frisee on top of mine recently), and the patty itself is unseasoned and as lifeless as the fries that accompany it. Strangely, this is the same patty that tops The Byrd. I'm not sure if the great toppings on The Byrd hide the bland meat, or if the meat in The Byrd is seasoned more aggressively. All I know is that the $12 Hearsay Hamburger is the overpriced bargain-basement version of an otherwise excellent burger.

On the other hand, a dish that I was sure would be limp and bland — Hearsay's mahi-mahi fish tacos — was quite good. I ordered them on a recent evening in an attempt to be healthy and then watched with annoyance and jealousy as my friend across the table ordered The Byrd.

I was surprised to find myself enjoying the fish tacos nearly as much as he enjoyed his burger, though. Served on serviceable corn tortillas and filled with plump, nicely seasoned chunks of fish in a mild habanero marinade (not a "spicy habeñero" sauce, as the menu reads), the tacos exceeded my expectations. A creamy mango coleslaw on the side was too sweet on its own, but added a nice crunch and counterbalance to the tacos when added in.

In fact, the only bad thing about that evening was the fact that Hearsay was playing the most overrated songs of the 1980s so loudly and with such passion — "Livin' on a Prayer" segueing right into "Jessie's Girl" and so on and so forth — that I could have sworn for a moment I was back in 1986.

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My Voice Nation Help

katherine...the burger itself looks quite pale/ there any char on there at all?


"...a chicken caesar wrap at lunch, Tuscan pasta or a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes at dinner....". Yeah, that is a little bordering-on-Bennigan's weird. Agree with hit and miss nature of the food. Space is great. Drinks are good, but pricey. Think you nailed it Katharine.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Mainly because I haven't been impressed with Hearsay, I'll just make a note of your music comment.  In 1986, you never heard "Jessie's girl" on any radio station in Houston.  In fact, it pretty much disappeared after 1982.  It only got a reprisal in 1997, for whatever reason, when '80's hits started popping up again.

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @stgeorge Yeah, it looks pretty wan up there huh? To be honest, the appeal of The Byrd is - to me - more about its sweet bun and its toppings than the actual meat itself. Some days the patty is nicely charred, other days it looks like that.

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @FattyFatBastard Heh. Okay, to be fair I was only 5 years old in 1986. All I know for certain in this world is that I the ladies' water aerobics class that I lifeguarded for twice a week for two years played "Jessie's Girl" at the beginning of every damn class to warm up and that now I will loathe that song for the rest of my life.