Seems like every year about this time there's a flurry of blog posts and buzz about an "undiscovered" burger joint called Stanton's City Bites (1420 Edwards St.). Of course, Stanton's has been around forever, but it seems to keep a relatively low profile in the ongoing Houston burger wars. Hardcore Houston burger fanatics swear by it, and it always seems to place well in the Best of Houston® awards (this year it won the Reader's Choice award for Best Burger).
Stanton's consistent placing in the Best of Houston® awards may explain its yearly blast of publicity. I'd never been there so I decided to check in and see how the highly regarded Stanton's bacon cheeseburger ($3.99!) stacked up to the competition.
Stanton's environs are well-documented - it's probably the shabbiest burger joint in Houston, with little parking and no tables, but a friendly and accommodating owner behind the counter. The first time I try a new burger I always get it "dry," i.e. no mayo or mustard. I want to get an uncontaminated taste of the burger meat and bun.
The Stanton's burger patty was distinctive in two ways -- a finer texture and a noticeable lack of seasoning allowed a very intense meaty/fatty flavor to come through. Based on the texture, I'd guess they're using a leaner ground meat, maybe ground round rather than ground chuck. This makes the intense meat flavor even more surprising -- you'd expect leaner meat to have less flavor. Not the case here. I didn't miss the lack of seasoning, because the natural flavor of the ground meat was wonderful. There was a nice char on the surface to add some depth of flavor. It was very moist and juicy. It had a "smashed" appearance, with the melting cheese oozing into the crevasses of the ragged outer edge.
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The toppings -- cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato -- were all fresh and tasty. The major drawback to this burger was the store-bought, sesame seed bun. It was fresh and toasted and certainly acceptable, but burger bun quality in Houston has taken a giant leap forward over the years with the likes of Hubcap Grill making fresh, homemade buns. All in all, Stanton's makes a very good burger, but it would be hard for me to drive past Hubcap or Lankford just to go there.