See more photos from Guru Burgers' bustling dining room and colorful kitchen in our slideshow.
Guru Burgers & Crepes has almost zero obligation to be good. Out here in Sugar Land, two types of restaurants thrive: big chains and tiny ethnic spots. There's very little in between that's noteworthy, but Guru Burgers is aiming to change that with an impressive and thorough devotion to its food and service that's rarely seen even in Houston proper.
That the little family-run place in Sugar Land Town Square is thriving is even more impressive considering how it could easily be quite terrible. Guru Burgers specializes in three items that are almost painfully trendy at the moment: gourmet burgers, craft beer and crepes. And any of these three could quickly go off the rails, but Guru Burgers' commitment to coming up with clever burger combinations and tracking down interesting craft beers from across the country instead makes it a destination much in the same way that burger fanatics make the trek down Westheimer to visit The Burger Guys.
Making the nearly 30-minute drive to Guru Burgers is worth it for me, because I know that I'll always have an excellent burger, an excellent beer and excellent service. And if I don't hang around Guru Burgers' cozy, subway-tiled bar and grab a growler of beer to go, I'll walk across the street to the Flying Saucer in Sugar Land Town Square. There's no other spot in the greater Houston area that has two such great beer bars in such close proximity to one another. Consider that before dismissing the area off-hand especially those beer nerds among you.
I'm not generally that huge a fan of crepes unless done with ninja-level precision (as demonstrated ably at Melange Creperie), so the crepe portion of the menu at Guru Burgers usually goes ignored in favor of its burgers and side items, all of which are unique without being off-putting.
My recent favorite is the King Burger, a special that I'm hoping will be added to the menu if I order it enough: A juicy Akaushi beef patty (the standard for all beef here) is topped with salty, sticky peanut butter in a nod to Elvis Presley's favored peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, while the bananas are subbed out in favor of more substantial and more deeply flavored plantains, caramelized and sweet, which are themselves a nod to Guru Burgers' sister restaurant, Japaneiro's.
Also situated in Town Square, Japaneiros is a "sushi bistro and Latin grill" that often incorporates items such as plantains and chimichurri into its sushi preparations. In fact, the Japaneiro burger at Guru Burgers sees both of those ingredients tossed on top of a thick mound of beef along with caramelized onions and cilantro that give the burger a sweet, herbal lift.
But if, for some reason, beef isn't your bag, you can pick from a selection of other burgers made with proteins that range from turkey and chicken to lamb and salmon. Gluten-free? Guru Burger offers both gluten-free hamburger buns and crepe batter. Don't want a whole burger? Anything can be made into a slider. Want a side of fries? Choose the type of vegetable potato, sweet potato, yucca or beet and then choose from four different toppings. The possibilities for customizing your meal here are endless, and none of them are half-assed, which gives Guru Burger another niche into which it can tuck itself nicely: a place where foodies and picky eaters can co-exist in glorious harmony.
In keeping with its quirky jumble of a menu, Guru Burgers & Crepes has the kind of dining room that drives design nerds like myself crazy — in a good way. The build-out is a triumph of overcoming a corporate, sterile location — Sugar Land Town Square itself — and applying subtle touches that make Guru Burgers look and feel as if it's existed for years.
Rough, exposed brick walls wrap around two sides of the dining room, painted a bright white that blends almost seamlessly into gleaming white subway tiles and various earth tones that are scattered throughout: bare pine benches along one wall, darker pine above it, routered bamboo lining the entrance to the tidy bathrooms. The mix of textures rough and smooth gives the dining room depth and soul, and I didn't disagree with a recent dining companion who said that it rivaled some of the best new restaurants in the city in terms of design places such as Uchi, L'Olivier, Oxheart and The Pass & Provisions, where untold amounts of money were undoubtedly spent on their plush interiors.
Without trying to seem too breathless, I'd also hold Guru Burgers' service up there with those places, too. In my three visits, I've never had a server over the age of 21 years old yet each one has been effortlessly friendly, highly attentive and incredibly knowledgeable about every item on the menu, whether it's beer or food. I knew absolutely nothing about beer when I was 21 except that it came in cans or bottles. For these kids to have such intimate knowledge of the craft beer that Guru Burgers serves shows a fierce commitment to educating and training its staff -- something that I think should be celebrated wherever it's found.
On my last visit, I asked our young server what was on tap and he immediately responded with a thorough explanation of the Six Point brews that were the night's special with all of the proceeds going to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims in Six Point's hometown of Brooklyn, New York, as well as a detailed account of some of the other brews: a cask of Karbach's Christmas ale, Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, and a chocolate-laced Russian Imperial Stout from Brooklyn Brewery that cost a measly $4.50 and could have been marked up at least $1.50 more. But that's just not Guru's game.
Guru's game is simply making good food, like the completely addictive beet chips that I order every time I go. It's well-established, I think, that I love beets more than a normal person loves chocolate or puppies or watching Law & Order: SVU when no one else is around. They have long been my favorite food, but I'll admit to being wary when I first saw them on Guru Burger's menu. I imagined dehydrated slices that sapped all the earthy sweetness from the root vegetable, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
Instead, the beet chips just like the regular fries, the sweet potato fries and the fried yucca sticks have a perfect texture that's all their own, neither bland and dry nor soggy and overcooked. They have all the crunch of a well-turned kettle-style potato chip but with all of the beet's signature sugary depth and beg to be ordered over any of the other chips or fries, simply because you can't find anything else like them in the city.
Likewise, the Weisse Guy and the Guru Sticks appetizers are almost too good to get away from the Weisse Guy with its Karbach Weisse-Versa beer-battered green beans and spinach (yes, you can fry spinach and yes, it's amazing) topped with lump crab meat, the Guru Sticks turning the old mozzarella sticks trope on its ear by sticking queso fresco inside wonton wrappers before frying although you can attempt to keep it healthier by ordering edamame or one of four salads (all of which come in two convenient sizes, large or small).
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The crepes are served with a side salad, too, although the health benefits of the mixed greens are somewhat negated when your Three Cheese crepe is oozing across your plate or the BLT crepe you ordered is positively spilling over with bacon and goat cheese. The batter on these crepes is okay, but it doesn't achieve the fine, slightly crispy consistency that I crave. That said, the ingredients, as with the burgers, are all fine, fresh stuff, so my complaints here are fairly limited.
In any case, it's the burgers that I'm ordering here anyway, pairing up an 1836 Copper Ale from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. with an Astrodome Burger (picture a Frito pie-hamburger hybrid, the summation of all your childhood fever dreams growing up in Texas) or a Southern Star Bombshell Blonde with a gloriously messy Ukulele Burger topped with grilled pineapple and a fried egg, a trio of meat juices, fruit juices and bright yellow yolk utterly glazing your fingers as you eat. And although you can certainly end your meal with a banana-and-Nutella-stuffed crepe (helpfully divided into four small, shareable crepes), I always end mine with a growler full of a cask ale special at Guru Burger's bar or a to-go bottle of some rare find like Karbach's Bodacious that I can add to our cellar collection back home.
To me, that's sweeter than a powdered sugar-topped crepe any day.