In a previous post about taco burgers, I mentioned I had struck up a conversation with Ricky Craig, owner of Hubcap Grill, and offered my services as a taste-tester for any new burgers he might be working on. This week I got the call. Craig invited me and several other Houston food adventurers to join him for a complimentary sampling of his newest burger creations.
If you are not familiar with Hubcap Grill, it's a hole-in-the-wall burger joint right in the middle of downtown at 1111 Prairie. I'd say most Houston burger lovers have it listed as one of their top three burgers in Houston. It's garnered a lot of accolades and good press. I currently have it as my top Houston burger.
Even with his current success, Craig is not resting on his laurels. He'll be opening a new location on South Main in a few weeks with a bigger dining room and later hours. And he is constantly experimenting with new items to add to an already eclectic menu that includes muffaletta burgers, Greek burgers, and the infamous Quadruple Bypass burger.
On a recent Saturday, our group sampled four new creations from the mad scientist of Houston burger makers. The burgers are described below. Note that they're not on the menu...yet.
Frito pie burger. This burger concept seems so obvious, I did a quick Google search to see who else is doing it. Surprisingly, not a lot of Frito pie burgers are out there. This version included the traditional Frito pie ingredients: canned chili, melted Velveeta cheese, and Fritos right out of the bag. This was easily the best burger of the day. It doesn't need further development and could be added to the menu immediately. The chili and cheese are traditional burger toppings, but when combined with the crunchy Fritos, it's like a Little League baseball game broke out in your mouth. Add some chopped onions and fresh jalapeños on the side, and this could be Hubcap's signature burger.
Tamale burger. This burger looks good on paper: Toppings include whole chunks of tamales, grilled onions, black beans and enchilada sauce. However, we all agreed that it was the least successful of the burgers. The textures and flavors were muddled; nothing really "snapped." Jay Francis recommended frying the tamales first to provide some textural differentiation. This burger still has potential, but more experimentation is required.
Sticky burger. The toppings for this burger were crunchy peanut butter and bacon. Sandwiches made from peanut butter and bacon are quite common. Of course, Elvis Presley made the peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich famous. Opinions on this burger varied: Some loved it, some thought it was okay, some (like me) liked it better the more we ate it. In the end we agreed that there should be less peanut butter to let the flavor of the bacon come forward. We also suggested that a sweet flavor be added -- jalapeño jelly being one candidate. No one recommended adding bananas.
Summer sausage burger. Summertime. Backyard barbecue. Grillin' burgers and sausage. Condiments include spicy mustard, pickles and onions. That's the essence of this burger. You really can't go wrong with these ingredients, and this is another burger that could go on the menu immediately. Our only recommendations were to go lighter on the spicy mustard and to slice the sausage on the diagonal rather than lengthwise.