When I stopped into Smashburger on Buffalo Speedway I was only looking for a little snack -- some fried pickles, or some veggie frites to tide me over until dinner. Unfortunately, the line was quite long, giving me ample time to peruse the short-but-tempting menu, and when I got to the register I simply couldn't resist the siren song of the Texas Smashburger ($4.99): mustard, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on an egg bun.
I've been fascinated by this "Texans don't put ketchup on their hamburgers" thing for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore what all the fuss is about. After all, I gag when I see someone douse a hot dog in ketchup; you guys could be on to something with this thing. I needed to know whether "mustard-only" was a superior hamburger condiment position, or just a lot of nonsense.
On one hand it's not surprising that I loved the Texas Smashburger, because I love Smashburgers period. They are always fresh, hot, and juicy, and the egg buns are just plain delicious. Before digging in I truly believed I would miss the ketchup -- not only do I put ketchup on my burgers, I often use some on the side as a dipping sauce too. (I realize that admission is potentially gag-worthy, but bear with me.)
Not only did I not miss the
mustardketchup, I am willing to go so far as to admit that this burger is superior without it. And I do mean, specifically, this burger -- a less-juicy burger would surely suffer from a lack of ketchup.
Smashburger serves up sandwiches that are dripping with grease, and so the ample schmear of mustard added the perfect amount of flavor and moisture. More important is what the mustard did not add -- specifically, an overwhelming taste that would obscure the flavor of the beef itself.
The Texas Smashburger made me realize that what makes ketchup great on a mediocre burger -- its moisture and flavor -- takes a lot away when you get a really good burger. Without the ketchup I could taste every layer -- beef, tomato, onion, lettuce, and pickle -- all offset by the salty tang of the yellow mustard.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Needless to say, this is something of a revelation.
I can't say I've given up ketchup on all hamburgers across the board -- and I certainly encourage all of you to stop putting it on hot dogs, starting immediately -- but the Texas Smashburger is a step in that direction.