Everybody Loves Raymond Peña's Donut Heaven & Grill
A blissfully simple cheeseburger at Peña's Donut Heaven & Grill.
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Well, at least Alison Cook and I seem to. In a funny bit of overlap, the Houston Chronicle's food critic visited Peña's Donut Heaven & Grill during the same general time frame last week -- she for one of her Burger Friday posts, and I for this week's cafe review -- and we both came away very impressed with Raymond Peña's burgers. At a donut shop.
I'm a little jealous that I didn't order the Ole Burger that Cook did: She reports that it came with "queso, pico de gallo and pickled jalapeños -- along with some chipotle mayo for good measure," all the ingredients for a terrific Tex-Mex burger. She gave the burger an A minus in her write-up. I struck out with a Frito pie burger by comparison, but salvaged the meal by having one of the best cheeseburgers I've eaten in a long time.
Double patties sandwiched with cheese, crisp produce and a sweet, eggy bun all made the basic cheeseburger stand out -- especially when eaten with some of the long, skin-on fries that are seasoned almost to the brink of overkill, but manage to restrain themselves.
Peña's outstanding burgers and excellent kolaches and donuts aren't necessarily worth the drive to Pearland, until you factor in the chorizo-and-egg kolaches.
While the queso-topped Ole Burger is an uncanny pairing of classic Texana and classic Tex-Mex, the chorizo kolache the culmination of two of Houston's favorite breakfast standards: the breakfast taco and the klobasnek, which we now collectively refer to as a kolache. (Food nerd sidebar: A klobasnek is a meat-stuffed breakfast pastry, like this. A kolache is a fruit-topped breakfast pastry, like this.)
It never occurred to me to combine the two, which is why Raymond Peña runs a successful restaurant and I do not. But my God, the unstoppable power of the two things combined? Made me drive to Pearland three times in two days.
And just like a few of the better Shipley's in town, Peña's makes boudin kolaches. They're not as good as Shipley's -- they contain cheese, which is just baffling to me -- but they're still fine specimens of the Czech-Tex-Cajun fusion genre.
But I believe that Raymond Peña's claim to fame in Houston will be those chorizo kolaches. And -- if you're willing to make the drive for them -- so will his damn fine burgers.
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