A city's "best burger" is a hotly contested and hard-earned title for any major metro. The meat must be juicy and savory, but not too wet or fatty. The bun should be fluffy and buttery, but not detract from meat. And the toppings should be fresh and balanced. While many restaurants claim to have the best burgers in Houston, they can't compare to these five great burger joints.
Located in Houston's 6th Ward near downtown, Stanton's City Bites is the sort of hole-in-the-wall place guide books rave about. The restaurant is casual with long, white tables that turn strangers into dinner companions. Couple that with the wall-mounted menu and communal condiment table, and it is the quintessential American greasy spoon.
The burgers are greasy — but in a good way — and served on squishy, toasted buns in paper-lined baskets. While the standard half-pound burger patty with melted cheese is reason enough to put Stanton's on this list, it's the creative burgers that set it apart. The Luke Skywalker, for example, comes topped with deep-fried bacon, sauteed garlic spinach and mushrooms. The Holy Cow is prepared with five different kinds of cheese. And the popular Miss Piggy is so named not just for the candied bacon on top of the burger patty, but also for the bits of bacon ground up inside the meat. Pair any of the above with an order of their chili cheese fries, and you'll want to burst into a rendition of "America the Beautiful."
Killen's Barbecue is inarguably one of the best barbecue spots in Houston. So when the owners opened up Killen's Burgers in Pearland, it's no surprise that it would also top the list of best burger spots, too.
At Killen's, the burgers are dressed in all the usual ways with frilly lettuce, plump tomato, thin-sliced onions and pickles, but their burgers — like their barbecue restaurant — are all about the meat. The 10-ounce, quality Angus beef patties are massive and loaded with umami. For a burger with a lot of flavor, try the jalapeño cheeseburger. The pickled jalapeño, coupled with gooey American or swiss cheese, pairs well with the burger's savory meat.
The restaurant itself is decorated as an old-school diner with black and white checkered floors, with red chairs and comfy booths. Food is served in baskets with checkered paper and crinkled-cut fries. And, like all good diners, dessert is a milkshake with whipped cream.
The Hobbit Cafe's burgers are made with such fresh, hearty ingredients, it makes you feel just a little less guilty for indulging in a second breakfast. In place of standard iceberg lettuce, the burgers are topped with mixed greens. The tomato slices are thick and juicy, and the Angus beef patty is perfectly seasoned. When you order one with avocado, they put an entire avocado in the sandwich — guaranteeing you'll need both hands and a whole lot of napkins.
All of this, of course, is served among an impressive amount of Lord of the Rings memorabilia that will fill your inner nerd with glee.
Tip: You get the option of a white or wheat bun, but go for the wheat. Both are sweet and fluffy, but the wheat compliments the flavor of the ingredients well.
Wimpy's Hamburgers is gritty in a way that only a really good burger joint can be. The outdoor patio — shadowed by the loom of the downtown Hyatt skyway — overlooks nothing but traffic. The restaurant doesn't have a website, but they don't really need one. Every workday around noon, a line forms, and the place gets packed.
While the menu is full of traditional American diner foods, the burgers are the highlight. The beef patties are made fresh, generously sized and come fully loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, pickle, mayo and mustard. The result is a great flavor balance that isn't too wet or too dry.
Located near the courthouse downtown, this place has cheap, delicious burgers with no muss or fuss. Like Wimpy's, Rachel's seems to be run by a bare-bones staff, and its minimalist decor means the food is the real attraction.
The burgers are simple, flavorful and large. Pair them with some of Rachel's thick-cut onion rings, and it's truly a feat to finish it all. But what really tips the scales for these burgers is their price. You can get a whole meal during lunch time — burger, fries and a drink — for under $10.
Tip: Like most downtown locations, parking can be a bit of a challenge. Save yourself a headache by taking the train. Rachel's is just two blocks from the METRORail Red Line's Preston Station.