It broke my heart when I got back to Texas after being overseas for two years and discovering Johnny Rockets in The Woodlands had closed. Small chain, but great burgers.
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
Best of Houston
Our Best of Houston® 2013 issue is here, and in many cases picking the best item in many of the categories was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we'll be rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
Speaking of no easy task, on to burgers.
When you search "burgers" on our blog, you get 2,615 entries. That's how much we love burgers. We write about them alllll the time. There are a lot of them in this town, too — far more than ten — but this list is composed of the ten very best burgers around, from the plain Jane to the totally out there.
I may have complained about gourmet burgers in the past, but that was before I encountered all that Houston has to offer burger-wise. This city is a veritable playground for the wondrous and the whimsical in burger-making.
So, without further ado, these are our top ten favorites from around Houston. We know you have your favorites, too. So come on, let us have it in the comments.
10. Little Bigs
Yes, the beefy treats here are sliders, not full-on burgers, but there's something to be said for a slider that gets it so right that even the most ardent burger fanatics will come around when they taste it. The hamburger slider (Little Bigs offers a number of other sliders as well, like pulled pork or black bean) is the picture of simple perfection. A three-ounce, fresh-ground beef patty (never frozen) that's owner Bryan Caswell's own recipe is perched on a light, yeasty roll, then topped with caramelized onions. If you want anything else on your slider, there's a condiment and topping bar with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, sriracha and the like. But I doubt you'll even remember it's there once you bite into that juicy little slider.
9. Del Frisco's Grille
I know it's a chain, but hear me out. The Grille Prime Cheeseburger is far better than the average steakhouse chain offering. It's not what I'd call a gourmet burger, though, for the simple fact that there's nothing on it that you wouldn't find on a fast-food burger. It's two thin and crispy (but juicy in the middle) beef patties made with steak trimmings and ground prime brisket. Each USDA prime burger is topped with an oozy yellow cheese blend, lettuce, tomatoes and a homemade "sloppy sauce" reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing. I always thought that barbecue was the best thing one could do with brisket. Friends, I was so wrong. This is brisket at its best.
8. Down House
As a food writer, I sometimes have to eat multiple lunches or dinners in one day, and I've learned that such an endeavor is impossible unless I merely taste the food everywhere I go rather than cleaning my plate. Down House totally threw off my game when I ordered the Lone Star Burger on a recent visit. It's a big ol' hunk of grass-fed beef that's ground in-house and cooked over a fire for a texture that's seared and crispy on the outside and still gloriously juicy on the inside. A very generous helping of Vermont Cabot cheddar cheese is melted all over the patty to the point that it covers the entire thing. I was most pleasantly surprised by the house mustard and aioli that were hiding beneath other ingredients until I got into the middle of the burger and found the zesty, garlicky condiments. Oh yeah, and then I ate the whole thing when I knew full well I had more eating left to do that afternoon. Damn you, Down House. Damn you and your delicious burger!
Though some of the previous burgers on this list are large and in charge, the Cottonwood burgers are the first ones so far that I'd label "gourmet." I give the gourmet distinction to burgers that feature ingredients not readily available at the average burger joint, like blue cheese, bacon jam and peppery shoestring onion rings. Cottonwood makes two stellar burgers: the blue cheese-stuffed and the "Squirrel Master Burger" (the winner of the No. 7 spot on this list), which is stuffed with chopped poblano peppers, then covered in pepper jack cheese and a fried egg with bits of bright green jalapeño sprinkled on top. This burger doesn't need a single other ingredient. Forget the ketchup. Forget the mustard. Forget my beloved sriracha and Tabasco. The Squirrel Master is a complex work of art, and it is perfect just as it is.
6. Bernie's Burger Bus
Bernie's burgers are so good that I will literally drive around in circles looking for the distinctive yellow buses parked in apartment complexes, then climb over remote-controlled fences at said apartment complexes to reach them. This exact scenario has happened on more than one occasion. Chef and owner Justin Turner grinds the fatty Black Angus beef in-house (or rather, in-bus), and he even makes his own condiments. Admittedly, Bernie's burgers and fries never make it all the way home in my car because I've been known to pull over and devour them in some random parking lot in between the bus and my apartment. The best Bernie's burger, the Detention, features two applewood-smoked bacon grilled cheese sandwiches as buns. Need I say more?