By Katharine Shilcutt
By Jeremy Parzen
By Molly Dunn
By Joanna O'Leary
By Katharine Shilcutt
By Katharine Shilcutt
By Brooke Viggiano
By Katharine Shilcutt
Editor's clarification: Kathy Green says she was not forced to close Mytiburger, but chose to do so.
2211 W. 43rd St.
Houston, TX 77018
Region: Outer Loop - NE
Take a trip behind the 46-year-old grills at Mytiburger in our slideshow.
The small dining room at Mytiburger is laid out in intricate fashion, maximizing every bit of black-and-white-checkered floor space to fit 20 diners into a handful of persimmon-colored booths and one old-fashioned soda fountain table near the register. On a Monday afternoon at lunchtime, every one of those booths is full.
A woman's voice crackles over the intercom that conveys orders from Mytiburger's drive-thru, but most people who dine at this 46-year-old burger joint in Garden Oaks prefer to come inside. That's because all of the ladies behind the counter — each of whom looks as if she sprouted organically from beneath Mytiburger's white Formica counters at various stages in the restaurant's history, springing forth fully-formed complete with red-and-blue caps and aprons — welcome you like family.
"See you tomorrow, Mr. Dale," cries out one of the ladies with a jolly laugh. "Same bat time, same bat channel!" A gentlemen who looks to be in his 80s has just finished slowly chewing his way through a classic double-meat Mytiburger, watching the slow stream of traffic on 43rd Street through the restaurant's plate-glass windows. He smiles and waves as he leaves, nodding in agreement: "See you tomorrow."
"I know Dale," says Shawn Salyers, the new owner of Mytiburger, when I ask him about the regular customers who pass through Mytiburger every day. "He's a friend of ours. Comes in nearly every day and always gets the same thing."
Salyers is just getting to know the regulars who have been coming to the burger joint since long before he bought it from former owner Kathy Green, who'd owned it since 1988. When she was forced to close Mytiburger last year, it was Salyers who saved the burger stand and who's now busy bringing the old joint back to life. Salyers, who owns a Baskin-Robbins franchise nine blocks away and was a Mytiburger regular himself, says he wasn't about to let the burger stand close.
"I always liked hole-in-the-wall places and older diners," Salyers says. "I started coming here when I opened the Baskin-Robbins and got hooked on it." Salyers, who's been in the restaurant business in one way or another most of his life, is now serving up the same classic Texas roadside-style burgers that Mytiburger has served since 1967 — the same kind of burgers he was flipping as a 16-year-old at his first job in a Whataburger.
Inside a standard Mytiburger, cold, crispy vegetables jostle against two thin patties and a slice of gooey American cheese (you have to request this last ingredient, but it's highly recommended that you do). It's all snapped into place with a vigorous spread of mustard, tucked into a square of white butcher paper and passed across the counter to you by the same person who likely took your order, cooked it and is now ringing you up.
It's these classic Mytiburgers that I love best and the ones I'm happiest that Salyers has saved. Roadside Texas burgers are an increasingly rare species in the days of over-the-top, foie gras-slathered, fried-egg-covered behemoths that require a knife and fork to eat. Comparatively petite, thin-pattied burgers like the ones served at Cream Burger on Elgin, Burger Park on Martin Luther King or Champ Burger on Samson are becoming relics.
Yet I still champion them, because they — to me — represent the ideal of a Texas burger, one that can be purchased inexpensively and consumed without self-conscious regard for how you'll fit it into your suddenly far-too-small mouth. These classic burgers are beefy enough to tide you over for an afternoon but won't weigh you down. Their allure lies in the textural pleasures of cool, crispy lettuce and salty pickles and raw white onions snapping against warm, tender meat and a blanket of gooey cheese. Their finery is limited to a fervent swipe of neon yellow mustard, and mayo if you must. Ketchup is reserved solely for french fries.
These are the burgers that Mytiburger specializes in, although Salyers has added a few concessions to time.
"We've added some ingredients to the burgers," he says. "Fried eggs, refried beans, mushrooms — some of the things you expect these days." They don't necessarily detract from the burgers, but they don't add to them, either.
The fried eggs I've tried have usually been fried all the way through and are missing that burst of yolk that new-school burger fans crave. I tried the refried beans on a Mexican burger that was recently added to the menu and found myself thinking the burger would be better without them. The cheese, pickled jalapeños and salsa on top were a nice touch, however, and they hewed closely — albeit in a totally different way — to that Texas arithmetic of snappy vegetables plus meat plus melting cheese equals good.
The one new ingredient I have found at Mytiburger that works perfectly are the plush, fat slices of avocado which give the burger an additional creamy dimension that a single slice of cheese cannot. I've ordered avocados twice now, and felt a little funny adding them to such an old-school burger — but it's paid off each time.
Since I've been trying to eat lighter recently, I've been getting two little burgers with mustard at the typical fast food joints for lunch. (no fries and just water.) Not only is it typically only 3-4 bucks, but it is definitely filling enough for lunch and is usually right around 500 calories.
Not only are these little burgers good, they're pretty good for you. Just an FYI to any dieters out there.
I was going to say how much I appreciate the sensible portions at Mytiburger. You get a large fries, and you're so used to the mountain of starch you get at places like Five Guys that you think you're getting ripped off, but in fact it's the perfect portion. I can have a meal at Mytiburger, fries and all, without feeling the need for a nap afterward.
there's another in Spring Branch at the corner of Kempwood and Blalock. thanks HP, you've got my mouth watering now! i think i might head over there in a minute
Tosshi, try the Spring Branch location. We love it there. It's not gourmet. The parking lot is a nightmare. But the people are friendly and the burgers and fries are just fine. Also good coffee in the mornings, served in actual coffee mugs. You always see a cool cross-section of Spring Branch in there. It's a comfort spot.
What's the story with the Mytiburger in Spring Branch? It's right around the corner from my house, so I've been tempted to try it due to enjoying the original location but, to put it kindly, the Spring Branch location looks like a bit of a dump.
I grew up eating at this place. It's like home for my family. We still go there frequently, even though we've moved a little farther from the area. I'll miss Kathy. She has always been very good to my famly and others in the neighborhood. I'm thrilled to see the new owner has plans to keep the place open and vital. It's still my favorite place to get a burger in Houston.
Nice job capturing the spirit of the place. It's in Oak Forest, though... not Garden Oaks. (I just went through the Oaks learning curve.)
@aguilar.charlotte I am honestly still confused as to the delineation between the two and I've lived here my whole life. Can you help me out?
@kshilcutt @aguilar.charlotte Ella is the recognized border between the neighborhoods. Ella runs north/south.
@OakForestNeighbor Don't forget Magnum Manor that begins west of Mangum on 43rd. lol - not Oak Forest there.
Marcy's right, the short version is that Oak Forest runs from Ella west to 290, and Garden Oaks runs from Ella east to Shepherd.
Very excited to hear that Mytiburger might be adding breakfast, I've been hoping they would for ages. And agreed with the other commenter touting the chili cheese dogs with mustard and onions!
Yeah I think Lebron is a bit confused...but I do not consider the neighborhood north of 43rd and west of Ella to be Garden Oaks; that area around Candlelight Park is Oak Forest, is it not? Then again, east of Ella is not all Garden Oaks, either; you've got Shepherd Park Plaza nestled in there, and that is definitely not Garden Oaks--at least that's how I see it. I thought Garden Oaks was the upscale neighborhood east of Ella and west of Shepherd, straddling 43rd for a couple of blocks in either direction, with more of it south than north...but am I wrong? Oh these questions are of such supreme importance...
@jdmkid77 It might be Houston but Oak Forest is
I've always meant to go there, so I'm going to try and make an effort to hit them soon. Thanks for the review!
Try 2 chili dogs with cheese and raw onions, all the way (w/ mustard) with a side of tater tots. Best meal for less than ten dollars in the neighborhood in my opinion.
What a great story! Your "Yet I still champion them..." paragraph is poetry, perfectly suitable for framing.
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