A Bunch of Good Beers, One Great Burger at The Hay Merchant
My buddy's version, with bacon and a fried egg.
Photo by James Lawrence Porter
On the website for The Hay Merchant, the burger is advertised as "the cheeseburger we'd give you at our house."
I want to live in that house.
The Hay Merchant would stand on its own two feet for any number of the awesome things it offers: great service, a fan-fuckin-tastic beer selection, prime location and excellent food. All together, it's everything you want in a place to go have a drink and a bite.
The burger is exceptional. When I asked our server what cuts of meat were in the burger, he gave me a somewhat flippant response of, "well, we grind it daily in house, and they just sort of throw a bunch in there."
Good enough for me.
The burger, though cooked all the way through to an almost dim brown, was one of the richest, beefiest and most delicately-textured patties of meat I've ever crammed down my craw.
The cheese comes standard, but my buddy Jimbo and I both added bacon, and he opted for a fried egg. The egg was lightly breaded and browned to a crisp, with just the right consistency to get a solid, even mash down, giving him excellent egg-to-bun ratio.
My one complaint is the noise -- I'm a 65-year-old woman when it comes to noise in restaurants. I like my dining experiences quiet and peaceful, and The Hay Merchant, at least when we went, was pretty slammed, so it was anything but. Considering the location, hipness and quality of the place, though, this isn't going to change. Nor should it.
But all of that melted away when I dug into the burger. I don't really want to know the fat content of the meat, but it wasn't like any 90/10 or even 80/20 experience I'd ever had. The meat was so soft and juicy that it stopped just short of falling apart upon first chew. It was a trifle on the small side, to be sure, but the richness, excellent bun, cheese and bacon on top should be plenty of meal for even the heartiest of appetites. Add on the crispy, salt-and-peppery fries and a couple pints of hoppy IPA to offset the fat, and, baby, you've got yourself a stew goin'. You'll also ingest enough calories to power an entire Inuit village through seal season.
Truly, this is a unique burger experience -- it's quite unlike any other burger I've had, and in a somewhat over-saturated market, that's saying a lot. You have to respect a place that takes the time and concern to hand-grind their meat every day, as well as a place that has enough beer options to satisfy even your most liver-scorching, desirous thirsts.
As it says on the menu: "Just straight up delicious."
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.