Texas Burger Binge

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Will foodie philosophers point to the Japanese-Texan Kobe burger as a symbol of the free flow of culture (and genetics) in our increasingly globalized world? I don't know. All I can say for sure is that they taste damned good.

I'm thinking of entering one in next year's Uncle Fletch's Hamburger Cook-off.

Eighteen Greater Houston Hamburgers You Need to Try Right Now

"Anybody who doesn't think that the best hamburger place in the world is in his home town is a sissy." -- Calvin Trillin

Here's a "must try" list of Houston-area burgers. Where else but Space City could you find so many fancy new burgers, time-honored classics and dinosaurs on a bun? It's not a single burger but the staggering array of choices that makes our city a burger-eaters' paradise. I dare any other city in the world to submit a list of burgers that can top these.

Three Grocery Store Burgers

Some of the most famous burgers in Texas are served in old convenience stores and groceries. These are Houston's three best examples of the genre.

Stanton's Super Market
1420 Edwards Street, 713-227-4893

This shabby convenience store and grill has been in business since 1961. The plainest burger on the menu is a giant bacon cheeseburger with a half-pound hand-formed patty on an oversize well-toasted sesame seed bun topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard and red onions. "All the way" burgers come with two strips of bacon and an ample amount of American cheese, and upgrades include the "Rio jalapeño burger" (add pickled peppers), the "BBQ blues burger" (with barbecue sauce) and the "Tex-Mex burger" (with salsa). The patty melt is a plain cheeseburger served on Texas toast. Burgers are "to go" only, so have a plan for where to eat it.

Lankford Grocery & Market
88 Dennis Street, 713-522-9555

Juicy, loose-packed homemade hamburger patties on greasy toasted rolls have been the specialty here for half a century. Lankford's was a grocery when owner and head cook Eydie Prior was growing up there. Her parents opened the store in 1939, but it was the old-fashioned hamburgers that brought in the crowds. And so Lankford's became a restaurant. And it may be the homiest one in the city. Eydie's grandkids often sit at the bar and watch cartoons while her daughter waits tables.

Christian's Tailgate Grill & Bar
7340 Washington Avenue, 713-864-9744

Once there was a very old convenience store with the wonderfully cryptic name Christian's Totem. The place was famous for its awesome jalapeño cheeseburgers. Unfortunately, the owner, Steve Christian, didn't have the sense to preserve his family's heritage. He removed the convenience store shelves, expanded and renamed the place Christian's Tailgate Grill & Bar. (A religious sports bar?) Luckily, Christian hasn't screwed up the jalapeño cheeseburger. (Yet.) You get your choice of Swiss or standard American singles on a hand-formed patty of never-been-frozen freshly ground beef served with crunchy Cajun Chef pickled jalapeños. It's served on a perfectly toasted bun with just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, all wrapped in tissue paper and balanced on the edge of a red plastic basket full of fries.

Three Soul Food Burgers

Adventurous burger-lovers will want to hunt down these Fifth Ward soul food shacks. They serve three of the most incredible hamburgers in the city.

Lockwood Malt Shop
5410 Mulvey, 713-671-2706

Perfection on a buttered bun. They call it an old-fashioned burger. It's cooked on a hot griddle, so there are lots of dark, crinkly, crunchy edges and yet it's still fat and juicy in the middle. Half a pound? Five-eighths of a pound? Who knows. They just grab a big handful of ground meat and make a burger out of it. The meat comes from a nearby meat market, fresh-ground every morning. The tomatoes taste homegrown. "All the way" means tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, mayo, onion and pickles. When you get it to go, they wrap it up in wax paper. Now that's old-fashioned! The malt shop doesn't sell malts, but they go through gallons of Kool-Aid every day. There is no sign and no way to tell the address. Look for the seemingly abandoned red building on the southwest corner of Lockwood and Mulvey, and push hard on the screen door.

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Robb Walsh
Contact: Robb Walsh