One of Houston’s most prominent food influencers will soon make the leap to becoming a food creator. Abbas Dhanani, better known as houstoneatz, has launched his own smash burger pop-up he’s calling Burger Bodega.
With over 100,000 followers on TikTok and 25,000 followers on Instagram, Dhanani has become a go-to source for where to find Houston’s best food trucks, spicy chicken sandwiches, and other street food favorites. He’s also been an advocate for Houston’s growing pop-up scene by attending events and spotlighting the participating chefs.
By day, he works with his family’s business, the Sugar Land-based Dhanani Group, which operates hundreds of franchised restaurants such as Burger King and Popeyes, as well as Cyclone Anaya’s and La Madeline. That combination of appreciator and operator promoted Dhanani to contemplate launching his own business.
“I love the family business,” Dhanani tells CultureMap. If I didn’t have the family background in the fast food business, I wouldn’t be doing this, because I know I can run a good operation.”
He also loves burgers — both eating and making them. Family events, sometimes attended by a 100 people or more, would feature him at the griddle serving up patties. Eventually, he became intrigued by the smash burger movement that has recently swept through Los Angeles and New York and saw an opportunity to bring his version to Houston.
“You have chains doing it, but we didn’t have a local concept that focused on smash burgers,” he says. “I thought with my burger background and the void for smash burgers, I saw it as a great opportunity.”
The Burger Bodega formula is pretty simple: good beef, smashed onto a griddle, topped with cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and “bodega sauce” that’s served on a Martin’s potato bun. Having traveled to both L.A. and New York to study different concepts and tested different recipes, Dhanani has drawn some conclusions about what makes a successful smash burger.
“The method of cooking is important, and good beef is important,” he says. “If you get those two things down, a regular cheeseburger ends up being pretty good.”
Dhanani will introduce Burger Bodega to the public on Sunday, September 19 at East End Backyard, soccer star Brian Ching’s popular patio bar. The event will take place from 2 pm until sold out. More pop-ups — possibly featuring a second sandwich that would more closely match the concept’s name — and a brick and mortar restaurant are in his plans.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to do my own burger concept,” Dhanani says. “Whether this works or not, I don’t want to look 20 years down the line and wonder why I didn’t do it. I feel like now is as good a time as any.”