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. Just as Katharine Shilcutt did before her, and Robb Walsh before that, Kaitlin will eat and learn as she goes, compiling a list of the 100 dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in Houston. It's a list of her 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 food-scape. It's a list to drool over.
I caught a lot of flack last week for complaining about the gourmet burger trend. I wrote that I think a burger should be good enough to stand alone without all the bells and whistles that make a gourmet burger, well, gourmet. I wrote that I want the quality of the ingredients, rather than the showmanship of the chef, to do all the talking on my plate. And I stand by that.
That said, I definitely don't dislike gourmet burgers. Some restaurants do only gourmet burgers, and that's awesome. I just think the trend of every menu needing a burger that tops all the other burgers in town with its inventiveness is a little stale.
To prove to you (and myself) that I can get down on a great, funky burger, I hit up Bernie's Burger Bus earlier this week. And by hit up, I mean I practically broke into Bayou Park Apartments where Bernie's was stationed in order to get at them mean burgers. By the time I was able to squeeze through the gate on foot and wander through the labyrinthine rows of buildings to the fitness center area, the bright yellow Bernie's bus gleamed like an oasis for a hungry traveler.
Rather than go totally nuts with one of the seasonal burgers topped with pork belly or guacamole (both of which sounded delish), I decided upon the Homeroom, a juicy, medium-rare, inch-high masterpiece of fresh-ground Black Angus beef topped with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, "tipsy onions," chipotle aioli and a fried egg, all sandwiched between freshly baked, fluffy buns.
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I also got a side of truffled parmesan and green onion fries, which are some of the most perfectly crisped shoestring, skin-on fries I've encountered in Houston yet. Only half of them lasted through the car ride from Bernie's to my apartment, which I regretted as soon as I got home and tasted Bernie's sweet and zingy homemade ketchup.
So there I was with a gourmet burger, bacon, a fried egg and truffle oil all in one meal. Four food trends working together in glorious harmony mocking me for ever having written anything negative about food trends. The burger didn't look super fancy by the time I got home with it, but I immediately went to town on that hunk of cow, allowing the juices from the burger, aioli, onions and egg to run down my elbows and drip on the floor where my happy cat was waiting eagerly.
I told myself the same thing I've been telling myself in order to maintain my girlish figure since I started this job: taste, don't inhale. You don't need to eat the whole thing.
I did eat the whole thing though, and all of the fries, and afterward, instead of feeling guilty, I just felt really, really content. I was in a gourmet burger coma. And I was officially converted.