The most underrated hamburgers in Houston: A National Burger Day guide
National Burger Month headed toward a close with one big blowout day — Tuesday's National Burger Day.
Everyone has their own idea of what the “best burger” is and I have no intention of persuading anyone against their old stand-by (Christian’s Tailgate, Hubcap Grill, Lankford Grocery, Burger Guys, Bernie’s Burger Bus, Little Bitty Burger Barn, Beck’s Prime, etc . . . ). But why not take this opportunity to blow it out with a burger you might not try otherwise?
Feeling up for an adventure? Here are some great under-the-radar burger picks.
I had a major burger revelation at Houston Texans Grille recently where I fell in love with a turkey burger for the first time in my life.
Chef Shannen Tune came from the Driskill Hotel in Austin to launch a new restaurant concept at Hotel Derek in the fall. Until then, he’s tweaking the existing menu at the hotel's Valentino VIN Bar, which now includes a whole line of gourmet burgers (featuring uncommon yet tasty ground meats such as alligator, wild boar and buffalo). But the star is the Hangover Burger (more than a little legendary from Tune's days in Austin) featuring 10 ounces of black Angus beef, cheddar cheese, brown sugar and chili rubbed bacon, crispy potato hash, and a sunny side up egg — all on a toasted honey wheat bun. This burger rocks.
Another under-the-radar star is Hugo Ortega's burger at Backstreet Cafe featuring a brioche bun, house-ground tenderloin scraps, chiles toreados (marinated chiles and onions), avocado, tomato and chipotle mayo. The meat is sublime and the chiles provide an unexpected kick. It’s a new offering and it’s marvelous.
Haven came up with their Big H Burger — a “bitch slap to the Big Mac” last year. It includes two Akaushi beef patties, secret sauce (made from chef Randy Evan’s Avery Island dressing — which originates with Tabasco “mash” he gets straight from the plant in Louisiana), lettuce, cheese, housemade pickles and onions and an optional fried egg on a housemade bun. It’s served with Evan's housemade tater tots which are a fabulous dish all by themselves.
An “oldie but goodie” you might remember from the Cafe Annie days, chef Robert Del Grande’s RDG Burger (now at RDG + Bar Annie) is a USDA prime patty served with smoked cheddar sauce and a side of impeccable fries. I think it's best enjoyed on the beautiful terrace overlooking Post Oak.
I had a major burger revelation at Houston Texans Grille recently where I fell in love with a turkey burger for the first time in my life. Chef Jason Bessent was involved in a major menu revamp last fall, which included an emphasis on creating some truly fantastic half-pound burgers. Ninety percent lean turkey becomes juicy and delicious via a soy/ranch marinade and a superb sear, but the major flavor kick comes from a succulent tomato and onion compote, avocado and a swipe of lemon mayo on a Slowdough wheat bun. It comes with a side of crunchy sweet potato tater tots.
One of the many creative burgers at Shepherd Park Draught House is the terrific Smoked Gouda and Bacon Burger. It’s made with Akaushi beef, caramelized onions and caramelized pears (I know, but it works like crazy) on a fluffy bun from Kraftsmen Bakery. The house cut fries are plenty good, but for something different try the bacon mustard potato salad for a change of pace.
The burger at Up Restaurant in Highland Village is truly incredible and only available during lunch Tuesdays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It’s composed of half-pound of house-ground Prime beef filet, two-year-aged cheddar cheese and sauteed onions, topped with pickles, tomatoes, baby arugula, an extraordinary toasted oversized brioche bun made in-house daily.
It’s accompanied by fab fries, served with housemade ketchup and garlic aioli.