What's bright yellow, has four wheels and could be mistaken for a school bus at a quick glance? In Houston, that would be the ultra-gourmet burger joint by the name of Bernie's Burger Bus. And if you haven't yet tried it, you're seriously missing out.
I'd heard great things about Bernie's, but what really got my attention was the fact that it took the top spot as this year's Houston Press Burger Bracket winner. (Which led to their recent invitation to participate in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.) Still, it took me several months of hearing about Bernie's before I decided to chase it down, mainly because I was too lazy to figure out where I could find it.
That's the tough thing about food trucks. If you're one of those people who get cravings and follow those whims, like me, it's not as easy as going directly to a specific brick-and-mortar location whenever the craving hits you. If you don't know a particular food truck's schedule, you have to find them on Twitter, Facebook or their Web page and figure out exactly where the truck is parked.
For Inner Loopers, there are several locations where food trucks usually park: Bo Concept, Inversion Coffee on Montrose, Soundwaves, MFAH, the new H-E-B on Dunlavy and West Alabama, Agora Coffee House, Grand Prize Bar (inside the kitchen). The problem is, the trucks rotate locations, so just because you saw it parked in one spot on one day doesn't mean it will be parked there the next.
Luckily for me, on the night that I was craving burgers, I checked Twitter, then their Web site, www.berniesburgerbus.com, to find them parked at Inversion Coffee House. Inversion is convenient because there's usually ample parking, and you can eat inside the coffeehouse (and benefit from the air conditioning) or sit at one of the tables outside.
Bernie's Menu is fun and catchy. Each burger has a school-themed name. The Principal is their classic American burger with all the trimmings. The Substitute has blue cheese, bacon, mushrooms and caramelized onions. The Bully is a big one, with two signature patties and all the trimmings, and so on.
It was a tough decision, but eventually I opted for the Homeroom, a single-patty burger topped with applewood bacon, cheddar, caramelized onions, chipotle aioli and a fried egg. My friend got the Substitute, sans blue cheese. We got a side order of truffle fries to share.
They said it would take about ten minutes for us to get the burgers, so we headed inside to get some coffee drinks, and came back outside to pick up our burgers.
I don't know what I expected when I unwrapped my burger, but I have to tell you that the glistening, fluffy bun and thick, heavy patty were a sight to behold, worthy of most sit-down restaurants and putting many to shame.
The patty looked to be about a half pound or more, and the toppings were applied generously. My friend's mushrooms oozed out of her burger as she took a bite. My egg- and bacon-topped burger was also bursting at the seams.
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The very generous portion of truffle fries was also excellent. The thin-cut fries were crispy, the truffle oil applied with restraint so that the aroma was not overpowering.
As I got to the second half of the burger, it started to fall apart in my hands. The bun broke apart, the meat and insides were falling apart everywhere. My hands were a gooey mess of whatever condiments had been applied coupled with juice that had oozed from the patty -- and I couldn't have been happier. If only all burgers were that delicious.