10 best burgers
Publishing CultureMap’s list of Houston’s Top 100 restaurants is intended to help guide readers to great dining experiences. Covering different cuisines, price points, and parts of the Houston area, restaurants on the list are capable of satisfying almost any craving.
That includes the desire for a really great burger. Yes, the list includes four burger joints, but lots of other restaurants have put their spin on the form, too.
The 10 establishments listed below do not constitute a comprehensive list of all of the places on the list that offer a burger — apologies to the Party Melt at Better Luck Tomorrow and the Vic Burger at Vic & Anthony’s, among others — but it does cover a number of different styles. We strongly encourage burger hounds to collect the whole set.
Houston’s best restaurant only serves burgers on Tuesday, but they’re worth waiting for. Chef-owner Ryan Lachaine’s butter burgers are a simple thing — just a beef patty cooked with a pat of butter, slow-cooked onions, and a slice of American cheese — but they pack plenty of flavor. At two for $8, they’re both easy to eat in quantity and priced affordably enough to pair with a cocktail or two.
A house-baked brioche English muffin bun anchors the signature burger at this EaDo bistro. Two patties, each topped with American cheese, ensure plenty of drippings. Add in a little aioli and some chopped onion, this burger demonstrates the elegant simplicity of meat, cheese, and a good bun. Best of all, it’s available until midnight six nights a week.
Executive chef Teddy Lopez serves a deeply savory burger at Ronnie Killen’s smoked-fueled steakhouse. The half-pound patty gets topped with French onion soup style onions and a layer of gruyere cheese. As Killen’s director of operations Graham Laborde says, it’s an “ooey-gooey-juicy mess you’re about to have to tilt your elbows out to eat.”
Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
Only available on Wednesday, these half-pound burgers (made with a custom-ground shoulder clod patty) spend about an hour in the smoker before getting a hard sear on the griddle. Topped with smoked cheddar and housemade bacon, the burger has enough smoky flavor but still remains juicy. The offering has been so successful that Tejas will open a new restaurant where the Smokehouse burger will be available full time.
Speaking of simplicity, burgers don’t get much more pure than this restaurant’s French cheeseburger. A hefty patty of Texas beef gets topped with a thick layer of raclette and a generous helping of housemade pickles. Co-chef Drew Gimma’s house baked bun helps soak up the juices.
This Greenway Plaza restaurant offers diners a few options crafted by chef-owner Willet Feng, but the real fun is using the order form to check off a perfect combination from the almost limitless choices. Will it be 2- or 5-ounce patties — and how many of each? Cheddar, Swiss, or pepper jack? Artisan bun from Bread Man Bread Co. or sweet sourdough? Round it out with extra proteins like bacon or a fried egg, housemade sauces like sambal mayo and barbecue sauce, and over a dozen different vegetables. First-timers may want to keep it simple: two 2-ounce patties, cheddar, sauteed onions, and mustard on an artisan bun.
Some parts of the menu at this Heights restaurant take inspiration from legendary Texas restaurant the San Jacinto Inn, but Ford Fry looked a little closer to his River Oaks roots for the restaurant’s burger. Named the Pharmacy burger after the Avalon Diner, the yellow paper wrapped around the burger also serves as a clue that Whataburger serves as a major inspiration. This twin-patty cheeseburger gets topped with iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle, chopped onion, and a swipe of mustard. Greasy in a good way and dripping with beefy juices, this retro burger checks all the boxes.
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
Sure, someone could eat fajitas wrapped in a flour tortilla, but Ninfa’s chef Alex Padilla likes to give people choices. His fajitas burger starts with a skirt steak patty that also have chunks of skirt steak mixed in. Then it’s topped with avocado, grilled onions, poblanos, cheese, and chipotle aioli. Seared on the restaurant’s wood-burning grill, the burger gets a whiff of smoke that only enhances its flavor. The thick-cut potato wedges’ crispy exterior and soft interior makes them soft of the city’s best fries.
Bernie’s Burger Bus
Tomatoes can add sweetness and acidity to a burger, but too often they’re mushy and flavorless. Chef-owner Justin Turner solves that problem by roasted his tomatoes with garlic. They anchor Bernie’s signature Principal burger. Looking for something even simpler, try the Class Clown; with two thin patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a riff on Thousand Island, it’s a bigger, badder Shack Shake burger.
Kenny & Ziggy’s
These hefty, half-pound patties use a short rib and skirt steak patty that’s sourced from New York’s acclaimed Pat LaFrieda Meats. Getting them with the usual lettuce/tomato/onion will satisfy most cravings, but the restaurant also has more decadent options like the Big Reubowski (corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut) and the Mike’s Meshugganah (blue cheese, bacon, mushrooms, etc.). Whichever burger a diner orders, paying the extra $1.75 to get onion rings instead of fries is always a good idea.