This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.
My dad was recently in town for a visit, and after eating fairly healthy food on the first several days of his trip, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We hadn't yet given in to our normal father/daughter dining whims, which tend to include a lot of carbs and a lot of ice cream. I was trying to figure out where to take him next when he stood up from the sofa across from me and uttered a shocking proclamation:
"I want a burger. Like, a big, crazy burger with everything on it. A big, meaty, over-the-top burger."
At first I was confused, and I assumed he was kidding.
"OK, OK, hang on," I said, rolling my eyes. "Give me a second. I'm trying to think of a really good salad place."
"No," he said, his eyes widening in anticipation. "I mean it. I want a big, sloppy burger."
"Well, then," I said. "If you're sure ... I know just the place."
Which brings us to Pistolero's and the badass hambur-torta, a tower of meat, cheese and just about everything else the chef keeps stocked in the kitchen. When the waitress placed the 6-inch tall burger in front of my father, he smiled, then laughed, then thanked me for taking him to this magical place.
The hambur-torta is not something you eat with your hands, like you might a regular ol' Whataburger. This is like burger Jenga -- one false move and the whole thing comes tumbling down. Might as well just dig in with a fork and the massive serrated steak knife that impales the burger to give it structural integrity.
Of course, if you can't pick it up and eat it with your hands, is it still a burger? My father and I discussed this while he first dissected and then inhaled the pile of food before him. It has a burger patty, yes, and a great one at that. It's grilled to medium-rare, and it gets a nice charred sear on the outside to hold in all the juices. This patty is sandwiched between a brioche bun that has itself been lightly grilled or toasted then smeared with chili aioli. There are some pickles in there, too. So far, sounds like a burger.
But then things get crazy. In addition to the beef patty and the pickles, there are sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers; thick, juicy bacon; a sliced avocado; a fried egg; slices of cheese and liquid orange queso; and finally, a few chili cumin fries tucked between everything else, just for good measure.
Is this, then, still a burger, or has it evolved into something more, something better, something greater than the sum of its many parts?
I don't know, but it's delicious. It's a tad overwhelming, sure, but when you're in the mood for a big-ass, bad-ass, son-of-a-b*tch of a burger, this is your poison.
The list so far: No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi
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