What's Your Burger Bag?
When I was in middle school, my mother put me on a bus to the East Coast. (This is a long story.) The bus stopped in Kentucky at one point, and we all got off to eat lunch. We'd stopped in a McDonald's parking lot, and I walked inside, a bit dazed from traveling. Without looking at the menu, I ordered a Texas Homestyle Burger. The employee behind the counter stared at me like I'd sprouted wings.
It turns out that they didn't have Texas Homestyle Burgers at the McDonald's locations in Kentucky -- imagine that! -- and I was relegated to ordering a quarter pounder with cheese.
I've always preferred my burgers with plenty of cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce and mustard. In other words, a Texas Homestyle Burger. It's that swipe of mustard that most typically identifies a true "Texas" burger. Although I love ketchup and mayonnaise, they're not traditionally accepted condiments for your burger here in the Lone Star State. You'll even catch older folks referring to a burger with ketchup on it as a "sissy burger" or a "Yankee burger."
But I don't think it's the preference for mustard or mayonnaise that really defines burger connoisseurs in Texas these days; I think it's the preference for a thin, crispy patty versus a thick, juicy patty that requires two hands to hold.
A Cream Burger cheeseburger in all its skinny glory.
At Cream Burger a few weeks ago, I happily munched through my cheeseburger with its thin patty, which had soaked up the cheese on one side and the mustard on the other, needing only one hand to accomplish the feat. I prefer a thin patty for these reasons and more. I also like being able to taste all of the burger in one bite, each mouthful containing equal parts meat, cheese, sharp onions, sour pickles, tangy mustard and soft bun.
I find this much more difficult to do with a big, beefy burger. You tackle it from all sides, all ends, trying to grab a bite of patty at the same time as you do a bite of tomato or pickle, but it never quite happens.
Before you know it, the giant burger has started to slide apart and is separating into two distinct halves: the half with the patty and cheese, and the half with all the fixings and condiments. You're left with a miserable mess of a burger in the bottom of your basket or all over your plate, juices sliding uncontrollably down your fingers and hands, a jaw that's come nearly unhinged in the process.
Of course, I realize that for some people, the scenario I've described above is heaven -- everything that a fat, juicy burger should aspire to be. And neither burger -- the thin patty or the thick patty -- is wrong. But it's definitely the dividing line between burger fans and something to keep in mind when a friend recommends a burger stand to you. Do you know what kind of burger they prefer? It's important to ask to make sure you aren't disappointed when you show up to find a compact, simple cheeseburger when you had your mouth set for a Juicy Lucy.
What kind of burger do you prefer, readers? And are you prepared to defend your burger choice in the comments section?
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.