Restaurant News

Thursday is National Burger Day: We Got the Beef (and Lamb)

Eugene's Burger cozies up to some onion rings.
Eugene's Burger cozies up to some onion rings. Photo by Bill Maxy
Most everyone loves a juicy burger. However, tastes vary when it comes to toppings, temperature and even grinds of meat. In Houston, there is no shortage of burger joints, roadside shacks, fast food spots and high end steakhouses at which to satisfy the craving for a hamburger sandwich. National Burger Day is May 28 and we have a starter list of places to celebrate one of America's most iconic foods.

Hamburgers actually started out in Germany as Hamburg steaks from the city of Hamburg. With all of the German immigrants that made their way to the United States, and especially Texas, in the 1800s, it's no surprise that the Hamburg steak would make the ride as well. There is very little consensus, however, among food historians regarding the moment that the Hamburg steak became the hamburger. Most agree that it probably became a sandwich in order to make it more portable for the German sailors and workers along the docks in New York City. When it first became a patty between two buns is open for debate but Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut boasts that it is the home of the first American hamburger served in 1900. The Library of Congress recognizes it as such, so who are we to argue?

This past Memorial Day, many Americans were breaking out the charcoal briquettes or propane and grilling their own burgers, so eating burgers twice in one week may seem a bit excessive. However, we deserve to treat ourselves during this current crisis. Besides, these burger experts will probably put those over-cooked hockey pucks served on paper plates to shame.

click to enlarge Go for double meat at Bubba's Texas Burger Shack. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW MCCRACKEN
Go for double meat at Bubba's Texas Burger Shack.
Photo by Matthew McCracken

Bubba's Texas Burger Shack
5320 Westpark

This former icehouse has been serving its burgers and potato salad in the shadow of a Houston freeway for more than 30 years. It claims to be the first burger joint to sell bison burgers in Houston, terming itself Home of the Buffalo Burger. Diners have a choice of beef or bison. The burgers come with mayo, mustard, and trimmings. There are add-ons like bacon, avocado, mushrooms, chili and fried egg for additional costs.

With the ease of dine-in restrictions, the wooden shack has opened its two dog-friendly patios so that guests can enjoy one of its burgers and a cold (and cheap) beer in picnic style. All picnics need a potato salad and Bubba's offers a jalapeno version. Unfortunately, the lack of a deep fryer means the lack of french fries, but customers can munch on potato chips instead.

There's also a black bean burger for vegetarians and a Frito Pie burger for junk food junkies. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and offers $2 domestics and $3 imports. That's a much-needed bargain during this crisis.

click to enlarge Cleburne Cafeteria - PHOTO BY RAMON CORDOVA
Cleburne Cafeteria
Photo by Ramon Cordova

Cleburne Cafeteria

3606 Bissonet

This cafeteria-style restaurant has been around since 1941 and operated by the Mickelis family for nearly six decades. The family's Greek heritage inspired the burger offering for National Burger Day. Instead of the typical bun, Cleburne's Greek Lamb Burger ($10.95) is served on a warm pita. Made with organic, free-range lamb, the patty is topped with traditional Greek ingredients such as Kalamata olives, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce plus butter lettuce, cucumber and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil. Add a cold bottle of Mythos Greek Beer for $2.

Eugene's Gulf Coast Cuisine
1985 Welch

Eugene's is known for its fresh Gulf seafood, gumbo and steaks but its burger deal is one of the best going this week. Normally $15.95, the burger deal is available this Thursday through Sunday for just $11.95 in honor of the burger holiday. It comes with a choice of one side like onion rings, french fries, okra and tomatoes, twice-baked potato and more. Looking at the onion rings in the photo at the start of this article, we know what we are choosing.

Flip 'n Patties
800 Capitol, 832-582-6178
1809 Eldridge Parkway, 832-243-5061

This Filipino-American casual restaurant uses Akaushi beef for its patties. Some of its burgers have a Filipino twist like the Puet Burger with pecan smoked pork butt and the Brekpas burger with Spam and a fried egg. Its Flip 'n Patties Burger has an Akaushi beef patty with bacon and cheddar plus a fried panko cheese-stuffed porto bello mushroom. Guests can build their own burger as well.

The downtown location is open for 50 percent capacity and take-out. The Eldridge location is only open for take-out as they prepare the dining area for reopening safely. There will be burger specials and an off menu burger that we were told would most likely be in the patty melt realm.

Frank's Americana
Photo by Erika Rubalcava

Frank's Americana Revival

3726 Westheimer

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Frank's will offer its Lone Star Burger with hand-cut fries and a cold draft beer for $20 for National Burger Day. The deal is normally $24. The burger is a half pound of Texas Akaushi beef with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles on a brioche bun. Guests can add on American cheese, cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, sauteed mushrooms, bacon or avocado for an additional cost.

The dining room is open for reservations. Curbside pick up and delivery options are available.

click to enlarge The Cease and Desist Burger is a regular favorite at The Hay Merchant. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
The Cease and Desist Burger is a regular favorite at The Hay Merchant.
Photo by Julie Soefer

The Hay Merchant
1100 Westheimer

Chris Shepherd opened two of his restaurants last week, but The Hay Merchant remains closed for dine and drink-in service while Shepherd and his team use the dining room for setting up the Take and Bake items that are sold at H-E-B and from the to-go menu. However, The Hay Merchant still continues to turn out much of its menu for curbside pick-up including the Cease and Desist Burger ($12). It's a double patty burger with two beef patties from 44 Farms, two slices of cheese, lettuce, locally-grown tomato slices and housemade pickles. It's served with tater tots.

There's online ordering available through the website and curbside customers can add beer or wine to the food orders.

click to enlarge The Hotline Burger is a mess of smashed goodness. - PHOTO BY PHILLIP KIM
The Hotline Burger is a mess of smashed goodness.
Photo by Phillip Kim
Hotline Burger at The Underground Hall
1010 Prairie

This burger place opened at Underground Hall in early March, a move owner Phillip Kim called "absolutely fantastic timing, I must say" in reference to the coronavirus pandemic. Hotline Burger is located in Underground Hall downtown which features several other food vendors plus a beer garden and bar.

Kim is also the owner of Breaking Bao, a food truck that was so popular in Houston that he decided to open the concept as a vendor at Politan Row, a chef-driven food hall. During Breaking Bao's transition from food truck to brick and mortar, Kim decided to do burger pop ups at bars and breweries. The feedback from customers at places like Axelrad, Eureka Heights Brewing and Baileson Brewing Co. was very positive and Kim decided that it would be another project that he could get behind.

Kim has purposely kept the menu small and focused at Hotline Burger in order to keep a consistent quality product. The Hotline Burger itself is of the smashed variety. It's 100 percent Angus beef on a buttered Hawaiian roll with melty American cheese, sizzling onions, pickles and the Hotline signature sauce. There is also a patty melt and grilled cheese. Add-ons include bacon, fried egg and more.

Hubcap Grill has a hangover cure in burger form. - PHOTO BY CHUCK COOK PHOTOGRAPHY
Hubcap Grill has a hangover cure in burger form.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Hubcap Grill
Bush International Airport, Terminal A, 281-359-9959
1918 NASA Parkway, 281-339-7116
2021 Strand, 409-220-3351
1133 W. 19th, 713-862-0555

Hubcap Grill has been around since 2008 and owner Ricky Craig's burgers can be over the top calorie-wise, if one so chooses. And guests might choose to go for the BBQ Burger, The Chili Burger or even go out on a limb and try the Muffaletta Burger with olive salad. However, for some real belt-busting goodness, there's The Hubcap Hangover, sure to soak up any excess alcohol from the night before. It's got a fresh chuck patty, grilled ham, bacon, American cheese, french fries and cream gravy. Every Texan knows that french fries and cream gravy are a sinfully good couple. Customers can add a fried egg to the Hangover for that little "I don't know what I was thinking last night" extra.

The patties are fresh-formed, 100 percent ground chuck and served on homemade toasted buns. The twice-fried french fries can be enjoyed as is or topped with chili and cheese or other toppings. There are plenty of craft brews available. The Galveston location has a full bar.

The Heights location was broken into May 18 so show the restaurant a little love this National Burger Day.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Loch Bar
4444 Westheimer

The sister bar to Ouzo Bay next door has a burger which can be perfectly paired with a classic craft cocktail or one of the many whiskies on offer.  It's a prime dry-aged Angus beef patty topped with white cheddar, bread and butter pickle and a red onion Churchill sauce. It comes with either a spring salad or hand-cut french fries. Damage: $17.

click to enlarge Fried onions and jalapenos make this burger a beast. - PHOTO BY ASIYA NOURETDINOVA
Fried onions and jalapenos make this burger a beast.
Photo by Asiya Nouretdinova

M&M Grill
6921 Almeda Road

The Mediterranean meets Mexico at this little restaurant with items ranging from chicken shawarma to beef chimichangas. Everything on the menu is halal including its delicious burgers. The biggest seller is the Loaded Double Cheeseburger ($10.95) which includes two beef patties, topped with batter-fried onion and jalapeno slices. It's a mighty big burger, so smaller appetites might prefer the Single Loaded ($8.45)

For those who consider themselves pepper-heads, there are two dangerously spicy burgers like the Mango Habanero Burger ($8.45) and the Ghost Pepper Melt ($11.45). Fries are sold by the basket and serve two to three people. There's also a Breakfast Burger made with two patties, turkey bacon and a fried egg ($12).

The dine-in area is open for 50 percent capacity and there's to-go and DoorDash delivery options, too.

click to enlarge Get thee to the Greek with a lamb burger at Ouzo Bay. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
Get thee to the Greek with a lamb burger at Ouzo Bay.
Photo by Michael Anthony

Ouzo Bay
4444 Westheimer

This restaurant is inspired by the Greek islands and its Lamb Kofta Burger is a more exotic version of the typical hamburger. The lamb patty is the base for beefsteak tomato, baby gem lettuce, cucumbers, scallions, pickled red onion, feta crumbles and tzatziki sauce. That's a lot of flavor going on for $17. Guests can choose either mixed greens or Greek fries as an accompaniment.

click to enlarge Relish has a classic deal on its Classic Burger. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Relish has a classic deal on its Classic Burger.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Relish Restaurant and Bar
2810 Westheimer

The River Oaks eatery is offering its Classic Burger for a budget-friendly $10 for National Burger Day compared to its usual $15. The Classic is made with in-house ground beef, cheddar, coriander onions, aioli, Relish pickles, lettuce and tomato served on a toasted bun.  The early bird gets the booze if guests make it out between 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for happy hour pricing on beer and wine. Dining room seating is limited and reservations are recommended for dinner. There is also plenty of patio seating and curbside pick up.

click to enlarge The Hicksburger piles it on. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
The Hicksburger piles it on.
Photo by Julie Soefer

State Fare
947 Gessner

In tribute to National Burger Day, State Fare is offering one of its original burgers from its first menu in 2016. The Hicksburger is a beef patty topped with pastrami, gruyere cheese, sauteed onions and chicken fried fries drizzled with State Fare's signature sauce. Yes, it will lighten the wallet at $18 but the addition of chicken fried fries and gruyere makes it worth the money. It comes with a side of french fries or a salad.

click to enlarge Quarantine isn't so bad if there are burgers around. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Quarantine isn't so bad if there are burgers around.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Burgers at Home

Ground beef has become a hot commodity in the grocery world due to the pandemic. Those with a line to a small rancher might have an in, but it comes at a cost. Though ground beef has become a cheap meat over the years (think Hamburger Helper), shoppers now want decent quality meat and that comes at a price.

click to enlarge Try Grass Run Farms beef burgers at home. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Try Grass Run Farms beef burgers at home.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

We have seen grass-fed or organic ground beef range from $3.99 at Sprouts to $9.95 at the Houston farmers markets, per pound. This writer sometimes orders from Paidom meats near Amarillo. Still, ordering from a small producer can be expensive. While a family of four can get enough thin burger patties from a pound of beef, some prefer a little more heft to their burger. Grass Run Farms has a two pound package of  six one-third pound pre-formed frozen patties for $10.99 at H-E-B. That's a pretty good deal. With good buns, cheese slices, fresh salad trimmings and condiments, it equals out to about $2.75 a burger. The patties can be cooked from frozen which means an easily made meal on the fly. And adding some homemade twice-fried french fries makes it a memorable meal.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.