Friday, June 14, 2013

Shuttle Burgers

Not dead yet! Here comes a slab of greasy meat from one of Houston's best hole-in-the-wall burger dives. Shuttle Burgers. It's about 2 miles from Hobby Airport. It's one of those dives where the signage doesn't even match. Pay attention as you walk in and you can see the place identified as Shuttleburger, Shuttle Burgers, Shuttle Burger and Shuttleburgers before you even get to the register. I'm certain that there's a published scientific theory stating that the amount of grease on a restaurant's burger increases exponentially for each time they can't spell their own name.

I walk in and there's a few more signs that you're in for something special. One, the TV in this joint has foil wrapped around the antennas and a note that says "Only one channel, do not touch TV." It's KHOU, in case you are wondering. Two? Look at that ketchup bottle. That's how its done. Decor? Everything in the place is dated. Even the pictures on the walls have been bleached by the sun. The joint is clean though, and that's about all that matters for a lunch spot like this.

Their signature burger is a Shuttle Burger, which is your basic sandwich with a slice or two of canned pineapple on it. The rest of the menu is your standard fare of choosing the number of patties you want, cheese, you get the big four vegetables and then you can choose to add mushrooms, jalapenos or bacon for a little extra dough. Cheap too. You can get burgers, fries and a fountain drink for under $7. That said, soda refills cost fifty cents.

That's what comes out of the kitchen. A little, plastic basket that has already had the paper eaten by oil from the fries as well as a burger stacked to the ceiling with your toppings of choice. This particular sandwich was a bacon and mushroom cheeseburger. 

It's a fantastic burger. It's greasy. Real grease too. Not that fake "melted mayonnaise" grease. The patty was obviously hand-made as it crumbles apart in different places. It's cooked to a medium-well but that didn't keep it from maintaining how juicy it was. The bun is fresh and lightly toasted on the griddle. The bacon is thick. Mushrooms are the greatest food on earth. What's missing? Nothing.
The fries were great too. They aren't kept under a heat lamp at all. They come right to your table still fresh out of the fryer. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. In fact, sit back, relax and listen as I regale you with a tale about how hot and fresh these french fries are. 

This all took place a few years ago. I was grubbing down a heart-stopping lunch when a man came running into the joint with a gun. He demanded all the money from the cash register and "one of them tasty-ass burgers to-go" or else he was going to tear the place apart. There was a cute girl in there who tried to talk some sense into him but he wouldn't hear it. He pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. Fortunately for her, I am a gentleman and I dived into the path of the bullet and took it in the shoulder. What happened next? I was able to karate chop the perpetrator, get the girl, finish my lunch and I was even able to cauterize the wound with one of them hot ass french fries so I could skip the hospital and take the lady home for some of that good lovin'. DAMN THEY'RE HOT. Be patient or prepare to suffer the consequences. 

There are a few better burger joints in Houston than Shuttle Burgers but it doesn't keep this place from truly being one of the best. Sure, no "foodie" is ever going to get super excited about a menu that doesn't feature a single ingredient you can't find at Burger King, but if you're down by Hobby Airport, this place is a great way to fill up and get back to the rest of your day. I go out of my way to eat here any time I am in the area.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Down House

Down House, named for where Darwin did some of his most famous work, is a restaurant that can be found over in The Heights neighborhood of Houston. They specialize in incredibly exquisite coffee, cocktails (their well whiskey is Maker's Mark) as well as locally-sourced food. In this case, we went in for some top-notch Houston microbrews and wound up with a pretty kick-ass cheeseburger.

The restaurant is a pretty eclectic little joint. You'll notice a lot of attention to detail. Small touches include being served a carafe of water when you are seated, having constantly updated food and drink menus on custom stationary, and you'll even receive your check inside a copy of one of Darwin's works. The staff is a mix of people dressed up almost formally and another half whose wardrobe revolves around skinny jeans. This reflects the usual crowd in the restaurant almost perfectly. You can go in shorts and a t-shirt or you can go dressed up and you'll fit right in either way. The staff also knows the food and drink menus inside-out and can really steer you if you want some help ordering or to try something new. My only real complaint about the joint, if you're even counting, is that if you're going for an extended stay, be prepared to deal with a line at the bathroom.

On to the burger. For $14, the Lone Star Burger comes with Grafton cheddar, heirloom tomato, lettuce, house-made mustard and aioli on a Challah bun with a side of hand-cut fries. The all grass-fed beef is sourced from Augustus Ranch, and is ground in-house, the cheddar comes from Vermont, the produce is straight from local farms and the bread is even sourced right here in Houston. This isn't the only burger in Houston that could point out the origin of every single one of it's ingredients, but it is the first one we've reviewed. That matters more to the real foodie than it really does to me. In my case, I'm pretty certain that with enough beer in me I could be convinced that Wendy's sources the Baconator from the Moon, and I'd still eat one. The Lone Star Burger is exactly what I ordered to go along with a glass of Buffalo Bayou Brewing's Secessionist #5 Double IPA that was being tapped that night.

Let's talk taste. What's different about the burger from Down House? The biggest difference so far between this and every other burger we've reviewed is that this one is cooked over an actual fire. You can't fake that wonderful flame-kissed texture and flavor on a griddle. The next thing you'll notice? Cheese. They're generous enough with it that it melts over the entire perimeter of the bun and down to the plate. It's incredibly rich and also delightfully chewy compared to the average Kraft single or handful of shredded cheese that gets thrown on in a lot of places. Once you chew through that it gives way and you get to the house aioli and mustard, both which are are nothing short of perfection. It's simply a stupendous burger. It was so good that I generally didn't even put it down between bites. Then, to top it off, the fries were light, crispy, delicious and you get a lot of them. It's a full meal even if you have drunk munchies setting in. Bonus points? They almost always have (512) Pecan Porter on draft, which is the perfect dessert beer if there ever was one.

I have to admit some bias, I am legitimately a huge fan of this place going in. I'm not quite a regular but I find myself here about once a month for drinks. Their beer menu is one of the best in Houston for only having ten taps and their cocktails are simply out of this world. Everyone likes to rant and rave about how good of a bar Anvil is not realizing that it's not the only place in Houston you can get some serious artisan cocktails thrown at you. The burger? It's terrific too. It's not one of the best three burgers I've had in Houston but you better believe it's a contender. Down House is at 1801 Yale. Go get it.

Monday, August 6, 2012


You know what this website is about? Burgers. In Houston. Let's talk about one. On an afternoon where Open the Taps was celebrating its one year anniversary at The Petrol Station and, mercilessly, City Acre Brewing was hosting a beer-soaked shindig that night, we needed some grub to break up the monsoon of adult beverages that were being thrown around. Right up the road from The Petrol Station? An old-school burger joint that has a little fame as one of Houston's great burger hideouts: Roznovsky's Hamburgers.

What are you looking at? That'd be the standard cheeseburger with bacon and peppers thrown on it. It's on a griddle-toasted bun and comes with your standard loadout of pickle, onion, lettuce, tomato with a spread of mustard and mayonnaise. I ordered that with a serving of their seasoned fries and a Diet Coke while the Jedi I happened to be rolling with ordered a burger too with a fancy side dish of his own. Nacho Cheese Doritos!

So let's talk about the burgers. To start, this is more of a fast-food portion than a big restaurant burger. Very, very close to the portion they serve up at Whataburger. It's a 1/4 lb patty that is stretched thin but leaves it with lots of surface area to just pound with toppings, and when it comes to toppings, Roznovsky's goes loud. It was PILED with fresh veggies. Possibly another 1/4 lb worth. The cook must use a pitchfork to shovel those veggies on it quickly because it gets served up in about 7 minutes flat. Very fast.

The grease factor does exist, although it isn't anything really impressive. You'll have splotches on your wax paper but you won't have to worry about it getting on you. I would recommend that anyone who comes here with an appetite get the double burger or at least add bacon. The bacon is thick and walks that fine line between crispy and chewy perfectly, plus the saltiness of it throws some great contrast into the mountain of vegetables that you'll be getting your fiber from.

The sides, of which all we actually tasted were the seasoned fries and some Doritos, were all standard fare. They were frozen, but they were fried to a nice crisp and went down great swimming in ketchup. The other sides that I saw come out of the kitchen appeared to be the same way. All looked appetizing but I didn't see anything amazing to report back.

It's not the biggest, baddest, finest sandwich you can get your hands on, but the sum of it's parts makes it a tasty little burger. I like Roznovsky's. It doesn't stack up really well against everything else on the list of places that we've reviewed so far but to tell you that it is anything but good would be a lie. Want to try something different? You can't go wrong stopping in here. You can even play a little old school Cruisin' USA while you're there.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Petrol Station

The Petrol Station isn't really a burger joint. It's a beer bar. One of Houston's finest if you are a fan of really bitter beer. It just so happens that they take their burgers seriously enough to merit a little attention. Let's go get a burger.

The bar itself is an old converted gas station in the middle of a neighborhood. There is a patio that wraps all the way around the building and the inside features a few picnic style tables, but generally you should be prepared to deal with being outside with nothing but umbrellas for shade. Murphy's Law states that you're going to be stuck in direct sunlight because the umbrellas are never in the right spot. I seriously carry sunblock when I go here to keep my bald head from catching fire. In the colder seasons they do have patio heaters that really help keep it comfortable outside.

The beer selection is a constantly rotating selection of thirty-plus beers that will be different just about every time you go in unless you go in more than once every week or so. Keg pops, they put a new one on that's generally completely different, and then they write it up on the chalkboards that act as a menu. No light beer. You can get your hands on a few entry-level dark beers but 95% of their selection is weapons-grade brew that's going to try, and often succeed, at donkey kicking you in the teeth.

We aren't here to talk too much about the beers though. We're here for burgers. On this day, the kitchen had just finished a major remodeling that had them not cooking in the back for over a month and they were cranking out a menu of just burgers to get back into the swing of things. I went up with @codyhaskell and we ordered a couple of standard pub burgers. The only difference between our orders was that I ordered mine with fries covered in rosemary and feta cheese. The kitchen has always been a little slow. I've never seen food in under a half an hour, and I've had it take a full hour, but there's beer to be had. Patience is a necessity here. You generally start losing track of time after your second >8% ABV beer anyways.

This time the wait was about forty-five minutes, but there it is. As you can see, the burgers are not very large in diameter, but they are tall. You have to squeeze it down a little to get the whole thing in your mouth unless you were gene-spliced with some kind of reptile in a government experiment and can unhinge your jaw. Toppings? You get the standard loadout of tomato, pickle, lettuce and onion as well as a rather generous helping of mayonnaise and your choice of the standard cheese types that include American, Swiss, cheddar... or you could just blow everyone's mind and not get cheese at all. That's a real power move. (I got Swiss).

One cool thing about this trip is that we literally saw a local bakery deliver the buns for these burgers about twenty minutes before we ordered and you could definitely tell the difference that having fresh bread right off of a delivery makes. Of all the ingredients where freshness matters, bread is always the most important, as it can lose its character fast. The grease factor on this sandwich is not very high. The mayonnaise does get a little drippy on the hot sandwich but eating it, even with squeezing it to fit it in your mouth, is a relatively clean experience. I especially like that the chef has the juevos to crank out a solid medium burger unless you order it otherwise. It leaves that meat with some serious flavor in it.

Getting the garlic and grated parmesean or the feta and rosemary fries should be required. It's an extra two bucks but to miss out is a mistake that could doom your future children to having soft heads and weak spines. The regular fries are good already. They are hand cut and fried hard so that they are really crispy on the outside and the larger ones are still nice and fluffy on the inside. Those extra toppings you can get? They'll have you crying tears of joy.

Does this burger make it into our top three in Houston? No. Even with something this good, there's only so much space on the leaderboard. Are you some kind of idiot if you like beer and ignore this burger? Pretty much. It's a delectable burger and writing this up has me thinking about how I want another one right now. That statement alone should say everything. Find The Petrol Station at 985 Wakefield Dr, or just check out the burger map.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Special Baseball Edition - Minute Maid Park

It's baseball season. A few weeks ago they finally opened the doors back up to the promised land. Minute Maid Park. Home of the Houston Astros. On this night, they would be beating the hell out of those dastardly New York Mets while we munched down on a burger put together especially for the ballpark by none other than Houston's own Chef Brian Caswell.

The burger is a macaroni and cheese burger. It consists of an onion roll, lettuce, tomato, 3 pickles that bring the thickness, fresh chopped onions and your choice of a slice of American, cheddar or pepperjack cheese. Oh and did I mention the macaroni and cheese? It's not just a scoop of noodles with cheese on it. It's formed into a patty and deep fried. This cardiac event will set you back $9.75 although you may want to bring about $26 bucks though if you want fries and a beer with it. The burger is only served up in the club section, so be sure that if you want a mac and cheese burger that you can get into that semi-private level of the park.

The mac and cheese burger itself was prepared in front of us. It starts out a little scary. The beef patties were cooked en masse and were sitting in a tray under a warmer. They were thin and didn't even look like a hint of salt of pepper had ever graced that meat. They were taken out of the tray and slapped onto a griddle to be reheated and when the reheating is close to completed the grillmaster puts your chosen slice of cheese on the meat to melt it. Wasn't the best start, but then the kitchen staff made a call to the bullpen and brought out a deep fried patty of macaroni and cheese that was a solid inch thick. It's a sexy thing to behold the first time you see it dropped on the burger. Then they pile on the veggies. Burger status: completed.

How was the burger? Tasty. Really tasty. I was almost bewildered by how tasty it was considering how much the meat preparation scared me. Sure, when you are talking about serving up a bunch of hungry big league fans you can't exactly throw down fresh ground meat and still keep the lines moving. The magic is in that patty of macaroni and cheese. It's really greasy. The grease that isn't in that meat isn't missed one bit because it's replaced by cheese-infused fried grease. It's really, really rich. The kind of thing you'd want when you wake up with a hangover. Just be prepared before you chow down, you'll need a few napkins. The bun is definitely not your run-of-the-mill mass produced bun either and it's thick enough to soak in some of the grease that might otherwise try to escape. It's a damn solid burger and it's way up there with some of the best ballpark food I've ever had. It isn't good enough to crack into the top burgers on our list but if you want to try something new and tasty when you are at an Astros game, this is your ticket right here.

We'll also be trying out the burger at the 5-7 Grill that's in Minute Maid Park behind center field. You'll know exactly where to find the best burger in Minute Maid Park this season.

Mets 3 -- Astros 4

No knives. You're chewing the whole burger or you're going to be cutting it with a fork.
They're obviously worried that I might take out a Mets fan with a plastic knife. They're right.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bernie's Burger Bus

Picture shamelessly stolen from
since my picture of the bus didn't turn out.
Bernie's Burger Bus. It's a bus. It's not a restaurant. It isn't the first time I've eaten at a food truck. It's not even the first time I've eaten a burger out of a food truck. What it is, however, is the first burger that we are going to review out of a truck. Also, Bernie is the owner's uncle. On Sunday, it was parked at the Boneyard Drinkery on Washington and it seemed like a good time to go slag some pints of Breckenridge Agave Wheat and eat a ridiculous sandwich.

Bernie's takes a gourmet route to putting food in your hands. Everything is made from scratch. From the buns, to the patties to the ketchup, which he sells in bottles right out of the bus. The history of the how the owner went from being a personal chef to Shane Battier (former Houston Rocket) to owning a food truck is somewhat interesting. I'm not going to cover it here, but this Houston Press article from awhile back will tell the story just as well as I could, you know - since it's written by a real writer.

Less talk about the truck. More talk about burgers. We ordered a pair of Substitutes, all the burgers follow a school-related naming convention, and a order of sweet potato fries that come with a homemade chipotle pepper spiced aioli. Quick education for those that don't know: aioli is very close to mayonnaise but it's made from a base of olive oil, garlic and eggs with several variations. As for the burgers, from what I've read the patties are a unique blend of ground chuck and ground brisket that results in a ludicrous level fat content (read: flavor) that is ground up every morning completely fresh. The Substitute is topped with bleu cheese, bacon, mushrooms kissed with burgundy wine and what he calls "tipsy" caramelized onions which I am assuming are cooked in some kind of beer/wine/liquor... I don't have the answer. I just ate 'em. They don't sell drinks, but they are just about always parked at a place that does.

I want you to notice something. The butcher paper in the picture. The time it took from the burger being put in my hands in a brown paper bag, wrapped in white butcher paper to the time I unwrapped it was about 3 minutes. In that short time the slab of meat sent out an army of grease that was able to lay down a violent charge on the butcher paper that broke through the lines and was seeping through the brown bag. It was more like a proper Philadelphia Cheesesteak than a burger. If you eat the whole thing you'll be sweating grease for a few days. How did it taste? I never thought this was going to happen, as I love The Shack more than I love just about anything I love in this world, but Bernie's Burger Bus might not have only served me the best burger I've ever eaten, this thing is in competition for the best ANYTHING I've ever eaten. The bleu cheese was super rich and thrown in very generously, the bacon was thick, plentiful and cooked perfectly, the mushrooms had a perfect twang and it all came together in that homemade bun like poetry. It was so good my taste buds rented an SUV with a stolen credit card, packed an overnight bag and drove off chasing those last few bites down my throat.

The fries? Crispy, delicious, fantastic. They aren't going to blow your mind like the burger will. One order of them was perfect for sharing, especially since the burgers are very generously sized. The homemade dipping sauces are definitely a big step up from anything that could have been picked up from the local restaurant supply. The chipotle aioli has a nice little pepper flavor but really isn't very hot. The homemade ketchup is exquisite. It's not salty at all like most ketchup. It's sweet and FULL of tomato flavor. I don't like using the word natural very often, but that's the word that kicked into mind. It tasted like a wonderful natural blend of tomatoes with just the right spices. Excellent stuff.

I spent the rest of my Sunday afternoon and evening in a full blown food coma. Show up hungry. Bernie's does take Visa and Mastercard at their bus, and if you are trying to find them they post their schedule up on Twitter and Facebook. They aren't going on the burger map because they aren't in any kind of permanent location. Happy eating!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cypress Station Grill

We were arguing. What should we do for dinner? We both wanted to go to The Shack, but we basically go there weekly and there was a general feeling it was about time we tried something different. So we might have taken a little sabbatical, and we may go right back on it as soon as this review is up, but the time has come for another burger to join the ranks. This time we visited Cypress Station Grill. It's a family style restaurant that is, as you might have guessed, in Cypress. At 26010 Hempstead Road to be precise. Let's get started.

The restaurant carries your most basic American food menu. Burgers, steaks (chicken fried optional), chicken breasts covered in about 6 different sauce options and then they throw a few pastas into the mix. Nothing too special.

While we don't have a whole lot to absolutely gush about, the first thing that went absolutely, 100% right was that we walked in the place, were sat down and were immediately offered $1.50 Shiner Bock or Miller Lite drafts. Sadly, that makes up their entire draft beer selection, but when the Shiner is that cheap, you're still starting out right. They also serve it so cold that it starts to ice up at the table. Fantastic! That price isn't available all of the time, but it is their happy hour special on EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY!! The only other place that I know of in Cypress where you can get a decent beer like that for that price is Ziegenbock at one of my favorite local bars -- and they don't have food.

The burger menu is made up of all of the standards. Then you can tell that with the ingredients they had lying around the kitchen they also threw together a few that were a little different. This included the one that I ordered, the Pesto Burger, which borrowed a sauce from their pastas. The other burger that we decided to have rolled out of the kitchen? You can't go wrong with barbecue sauce and onion rings. Available side dishes? French fries or sweet potato fries for $.99 extra. They have a range of other side dishes available on their menu, I'm willing to bet that you can substitute mashed potatos, fried okra, etc but we have principles. Burgers are meant to be served by themselves or with fried potato products.

We tasted two of their appetizers while we were here. The fried pickles and the fried mushrooms. Both were nothing short of great. The mushrooms are big. Like cut it up with a knife into 4 big bites big. They aren't in your usual batter either, instead they are breaded and then covered in Parmesan cheese and served up with ranch so you can get those mushrooms SCUBA-certified. The pickles aren't the best we've ever had but they're definitely up there. It's a standard batter but they cut them up real thick. Most restaurants put pickle chips in that are so thin that there is barely a pickle left when they come out of the fryer and you're basically eating discs of batter. Not at Cypress Station. Fat, meaty, delicious fried pickles!!

But then there's the burgers. I'm not spending a lot of time in this review writing about them because there isn't that much to write about. Despite having some very tasty sounding options on the menu, they were really nothing special. We don't want to sound too critical, because they are definitely not bad in any way, but there just isn't anything special or unique happening here either. The bun tasted no better than what you get from H-E-B's store brand, the meat was cooked right and had some juice going but it really didn't have any great spice or flavor to it and then all that was left to do was add toppings. I ate it. I'd eat it again. I'd dream of being at Whataburger instead. I'd probably ask that they at least toast the bun a little though with some oil. Anything to inject a little character into this thing. Actually, next time I go, I'll be ordering a chicken fried steak and a $1.50 Shiner.

Back to the fried potato "products" - that's exactly what the fries at Cypress Station are. Even the sweet potato fries, which cost extra, seem like they are just dumped out of a bag they had in the freezer. They could have easily come from Costco. Compliments? They do fry the hell out of them, so they are nice and crispy. Other than that? Not so great. HOWEVER -- the absolute highlight of the entire dining experience involved the sweet potato fries. As lame as they are by themselves, Cypress Station Grill gives you a cup of honey for dipping them in. This is a gamechanger. We'd never even thought about it before, but the second that we realized we had cups of honey and sweet potato fries we knew what was happening. Holy sh*t. You don't even need to bother with the dessert menu. You want sweet potato fries slathered in honey. You want them more than any other food they serve at the restaurant. You want them right now. I'll never be able to eat sweet potato fries again and not be pining for a squeeze bottle of honey. Bravo, Cypress Station, bravo!!

So, this place definitely doesn't make our top three. I can't shake the feeling that I was in a Chili's or a Black Eyed Pea with just a little more class, and we both agree that it doesn't hold up to some of the other amazing burgers that you can find around town, but it's a nice little spot that's worth checking out if you want to try something different, just don't expect the world.