9. Champ Burger 304 Sampson
The burgers are great at this little stand in the East End, but -- randomly -- so is the chicken-fried steak. Braving Sampson -- which is absolutely the most horrible, pothole-ridden street in Houston -- only makes your burger that much better. Stand in the shade while you wait for your order and savor the slow pace of life along the street, reflecting on the busy shadows of downtown Houston to one side and the hyper-caffeinated Maxwell House plant to the other.
8. Christian's Tailgate 7340 Washington Avenue
Located on the north side of I-10 -- not the part of Washington Avenue you're thinking about -- the old Christian's "Totem" has spiffed itself up some, but lost a lot of charm in the process (adding a Midtown location didn't help their reputation). Nevertheless, the parking lot at lunch is busier than ever and the burgers haven't suffered. They're still drippy, juicy, wonderfully huge things that will satisfy even the largest appetite.
7. The French Press Cafe 1201 N. Post Oak
A newcomer to this pack, The French Press Cafe deserves some attention for its splendid signature burger: Shallots sauteed in bacon fat are mixed into the meat, which is marinated overnight in Shiner Black Lager and then cooked to perfection on the griddle. Don't forget to try the cafe's bread pudding, too, but leave your pretension at the door. This is a solidly homey, blue collar place that simply serves great food.
6. Bubba's Texas Burger Shack 5230 Westpark
Bubba's is where I believe many of our trolls congregate. Not because it serves fairy or unicorn burgers, but because it's located under a bridge. Squatting in the shadows of the Highway 59 overpass between Rice and Chimney Rock, Bubba's is actually a great joint -- no trolls, just good burgers. Unlike a lot of places that serve buffalo meat, Bubba's buffalo burgers are actually juicy and rich -- just like the rest of the burgers it serves. Even better? It also has a solid selection of beers.