Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Whataburger, or as we call it in my circle, The W. The name should resonate with every man, woman and child in Texas. Why? It's the best fast food burger that you can get in the state.

We will begin with a quick question. Where do you go when you want a burger at 3:30 in the morning? Whataburger, of course. Where do you go when you just don't have time to drive all around this monstrosity of a town to get a delicious cheeseburger? Whataburger, of course. Where do you go when you are stuck on the interstate during a long road trip? Rest easy, that next small Texas town has an orange W waiting for you. They have over 700 restaurants, all open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there is one in just about every town of note in the Bluebonnet state.

The burger? It's an elephantine 5-inch beef circle dressed however you like it. I am particularly fond of the Double Meat with no onions, extra pickles, grilled jalepenos and cheese. All of this with a side of their fries and 32 ounces of Diet Coke, which is more soda than any human being could ever need in a day.

Me and mine? We love Whataburger. It's a staple. It absolutely crushes all the competition when there isn't any time to cook at home. Not many days go by without the craving, although willpower to not look like America's Next Top Fatty usually wins out. I have even managed to procure a Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich tshirt from a friend who works for them in San Antonio. It is worn often, with a sense of pride that really isn't even mine.

Let's talk about Whataburger Fancy Ketchup. It's Fancy. There are many pretenders to the throne, but there is only one true master. Hands down the best ketchup that I've ever put in my yap. I'll never understand the few people I have met who do not like it. It even comes in convenient ready-to-drown-your-fries packaging that makes silly plastic packets cry in their sleep. I don't think I'll ever understand why they don't sell the hell out of it in stores, I'd buy it by the bottle. Want to know a trick to make something similar to Whataketchup? Mix lots of garlic into some Heinz. BOOM! Done. Poor man's Whataburger Ketchup.

So, what happens if you just woke up and aren't ready for a #1 combination? Whataburger breakfast. Taquitos are the name of the game. Then, when you really want to get yourself a step closer to that triple bypass, there's no tastier way to start a morning than a bacon, egg and cheese taquito and a honey butter chicken biscuit.

Go to Find your closest location. Go get a combination meal and enjoy the finest fast food burger that the United States of America has to offer.

P.S. In-N-Out doesn't have jack on The W.

Note: This is not officially being considered a stop on the "Find the Best Burger in Houston" tour. This is a cheap cop-out because this weekend was spent celebrating the eighth anniversary of my 18th birthday. We will return to our regular programming for next week's post.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Otto's Barbecue, or The Gut Bomb

Today we ventured inside the loop, originally planning on stopping off at Christian's Tailgate, but upon realizing they were closed on Sunday, we headed straight for the nearby Otto's Barbecue. It is located on 5502 Memorial Dr in the 77007. Check the map.

There was a lot of anticipation in going to Otto's. While working a contract job a few weeks ago I was told a story about Otto's serving up a burger called the Gut Bomb. It was described as Otto's special burger, which was two patties, two slices of cheese, a fat glob of chili and a solid half of an onion, diced, all between two griddle toasted patties. The legend stated that it came wrapped in three pieces of wax paper because it ate through the first two pieces and that even once you unwrapped it the only real way to consume it without looking like a toddler in front of his first bowl of spaghetti is to eat it with a fork. The record for containing the sheer kinetic force of the gut bomb? Two hours. Legen-wait for it-dary.

We walk into the restaurant and it is a total dive. It's definitely the kind of place where cleanliness only means up to code. Cool with us, it gives a place character, and we firmly believe that when we find the best burger in the city it could very well come out of the trunk of a burnt out automobile. We walked up to the counter and were greeted by an incredibly cool old guy that promptly offered up a chili burger that would "take care of ya ass" when he heard us discussing it. The reply? Bring it on.

None of us knew exactly what was going to come out of that kitchen, but our number was called and today's case was revealed to be an amazing pile of what would make some men beg for more and others turn away in disgust. Because we were eating in the restaurant, it didn't come out wrapped in three pieces of wax paper, it came on a plate, which differed from every other burger we were served. It also came with a fork. This would also prove to be essential.

The burgers all turned out to be fantastic. They came off of a griddle, so none of the juices or grease had the chance to escape. The flavor was rich and almost overwhelming to the palate, just like most greaseburgers tend to be when they haven't had a chance to bleed out. All of us finished our burgers with puddles in the bottoms of our basket as the only sign that food once occupied the area. Veggies were cold and crisp, with the exception of the mushrooms, which were obviously taken out of a jar and thrown on the griddle. Diet Coke was ice cold. Appetites were satisfied.

The burgers were all served with a side of crinkle fries. Thinking about it, it has been years since I can remember being in a place that served them up. Historically I've hated them simply because I always seemed to get a batch of them that were soggy and flavorless. Otto's was different. He fried the hell out his potatoes. They were really crispy. They didn't come out seasoned but a salt shaker at the table took care of what had been left undone. The onion rings were, simply put, badass. They were in a slightly sweet batter that really lent flavor to the onion within. Everyone should order them. Every time.

So, was the entire Gut Bomb finished? Yes. Once again, Nick stepped up to the plate and slayed the beast. Did it live up to it's legend? Yes and no. There was one dissapointing fact about the burger. The chili was simply wolf brand chili, which is definitely a let down, although it is still delicious. You just can't sneak canned chili by a man here in the South. We still agreed it was a monster of a burger, and it even managed to live up to it's digestive legend, although details will not be discussed.

We all walked out of Otto's completely satisfied. On another great note, the price is stellar. You can go to Otto's for the same cost of going to Burger King. I'd probably hurt myself at this place if it was much closer to my house. How does it rank among the places we've been so far? It's up there with the best, although we agreed that we'd probably go to Backyard Grill again first. What should you take away from this? You need to get yourself to Otto's and get yourself a greaseburger.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Backyard Grill

Today's burger stop? The Backyard Grill on Jones Rd, which is on the NW side of town.This restaurant was not new to me, although my partner in crime had never been. Whenever I have been to the BYG in the past, I have generally opted for a burger and today was no exception. They have a gigantic menu. Their burger options alone total eleven, two of them being full-on eating challenges. Click the thumbnail of the menu to get a full rundown of all their options. I opted for the MOAB (Mother of All Burgers) with a Saint Arnold's Lawnmower and Nick threw down on the Big Daddy, which is basically a double MOAB and is also an eating challege that gets your name and picture enshrined on the wall of the restaurant. Since it was an eating challenge, he stuck with water. The third in our party ordered a mushroom swiss burger and a Diet Coke.

While waiting for the burgers, I took a few minutes to point out some cool things to notice about the restaurants decor. We had chosen to sit on the patio, but inside they have an elephantine tree, obviously fake, sprouting up in the middle of the place that literally spans out across the entire restaurant, which I think is one of the best decorations I've seen in almost any restaurant in the city. On the big patio outside they have all kinds of decorated fenceposts on the cover over the patio. I think just about anyone can make one up and bring it in, some were as new as when Hurricane Ike came through.

Time to eat, we went early and beat the rush, so the burgers, cooked exactly as we ordered them, showed up very quickly. Rather than focus on the MOAB burger that I ordered, we will simply focus on the Big Daddy, which is twice the burger that the MOAB will ever be. The monstosity on the left is the challenge before Nick. Two 1/2 pound patties, lettuce, pickles, onions, grilled jalepenos, 2 slices of american and two slices of swiss cheese, 4 full strips of bacon cut into halves, a pile of mushrooms, mustard, and a sesame seed bun were all that stood between Nick and permanent real estate on the wall of the restaurant. Then to make things even more fun, he was informed that he had to eat all of the fries too.

The burger is damn near the pinnacle of what we hope to keep finding on our search for the perfect burger. It was incredibly juicy, the Big Daddy even had enough of it's juices left in it that it ran down the arms all the way to the elbows. Even better? It was cooked on an open grill, and not a big grease-happy griddle. Simply put, it was all the best of the greasy skillet burger and all the flavor of what smelled and tasted like an incredibly well-seasoned mesquite wood burning grill.

With all the bacon, mushrooms, jalepenos and other good stuff thrown on our burgers we had a very hard time trying to pin down what the meat was seasoned in, but as good as it was, we didn't really feel it was too important to try and figure it out, especially since the juices were quickly eating through the bottom half of our hamburger buns.

Backyard Grill offers two kinds of french fries. Take my word for it, the only thing you ever want to get are the seasoned fries. They are, simply put, awesome. Their fries are very light and fluffy on the inside while still very crispy and satisfying when you bite into them. French fried perfection.

My burger didn't last long, and neither did the mushroom swiss. It was a very quiet meal. Rather than have any kind of dialogue about what we were eating we spent all of our time chewing and listening to old country music that they were playing over the sound system on the patio. When two of us were finished, it came time to watch Nick attempt to conquer the mountain of food that had been placed before him. The burger went down without hesitation, but the fries were becoming more and more of a battle as each was downed. Making things worse were that the later fries were soaking up all kinds of delicious burger juice left in the basket, and were getting very heavy. Not all the taunting in the world would convince Nick to give up though, and in the end, only one man was left standing:

Burgers complete, we all quickly agreed that this is the exact kind of burger that we are looking for in our quest for the best burger in Houston. We still have a ton of stops to make, but The Backyard Grill sets a damn good benchmark for what a burger should be like. Check their location on the burger map on the top right of the website and give them a shot. They do all kinds of events for kids during the week and they also keep a full bar if you feel like tossing a few back with your meal. Check out The Backyard Grill's website if you want more information about them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Clay's Restaurant

For our first stop, we hit a joint on our side of town, Clay's Restaurant. It's been around as long as I can remember. Clay's is a very rustic, western family-style restaurant that serves up plates of American staples such as chicken fried steaks and the subject of our journey, burgers.

Right off the bat, the layout and atmosphere of the restaurant is incredible. There are multiple patios, a very large area where you can send your kids off to play in the sand or pet several different farm animals and I think I even spotted a private dining hall out back. I seem to recall them having volleyball and horseshoes in the past for the adults, but I didn't see either today. Maybe some kid ran across the horseshoe field at the wrong moment and the ensuing carnage resulted in all the stuff for an older demographic pulled. That said, Clay's is easily one of the coolest looking restaurants in the Bayou City.

Time to order up. We both order the standard cheeseburger. Clay's describes it as beginning with a 7oz all beef patty and the standard load includes tomato, pickles, onions, mustard and mayo. I opt for my usual, which is all of the above minus onions and mayo and Nick order up his usual no tomato and no mayo. They offer american, swiss and cheddar cheeses, we both jump at the cheddar. Both are coming with fries and a Coke. The only real Texan beer they offered was Shiner Bock, but it was a little too early in the afternoon to start throwing back brews. One more member of our party gets a mushroom swiss burger with onion rings, which we will touch on later.

The burgers come out quickly, all cooked all the way through, as we weren't offered any option to have it cooked to order. The burger itself looked absolutely fantastic. Shredded cheddar, shredded lettuce, nice sized cuts of tomato and a generous pile of pickles. Everything looks well. Not many words are exchanged before the burgers start vanishing off of our plates. The silence continues until the burgers have just about vanished completely.

The burger itself has a lot of things going for it. The vegetables were just about perfect. The lettuce was still very crisp, the tomatoes were perfect, not to soft and not too hard, the pickles were layered generously on the burger as opposed to getting two or three like many places. The meat was a little dry, a consequence of the longer cooking time, however, in a surprising twist, it was very nice in that it didn't seem to be seasoned in much more than maybe a little salt and pepper and yet the meat managed to stand on it's own, maintaining a very strong, classic beefy flavor that we know and love.

Also, even though the burgers were cooked all the way through, the patty came apart in my teeth with the best of them, so I can't knock it too hard for the chef ensuring that it was dead. Grease factor was about zero. I am assuming it was cooked over an open fire where all the juices dripped off rather than on a range. Fans of a good greaseburger should look elsewhere but those that choke up a little when a burger starts leaking all over butcher paper will feel right at home. The burger isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn good.

Sad notes. Clay's french fries suck. There isn't one positive word in my vocabulary that I would use to describe them. They aren't crisp, they are hardly seasoned at all, maybe with just the tiniest dash of Tony's. They accomplished nothing but making me want something better. I had to drown mine in ketchup, which made me take note that they did have the awesome, classic, squeezable, farty ketchup bottles. While the two of us put our fries away, our third had onion rings with her mushroom swiss. A sampling of one of the onion rings, which was very obviously hand battered, left the mouth watering for more. Only four onion rings came out with her burger though, so we couldn't get to any more of them without being threatened with a steak knife. Clay's should go out of there way to push their onion rings, as they are much more satisfying than their lackluster fries.

In my past I have always gone to Clay's to devour the hell out of one of their chicken fried steak with a fat scoop of mashed potatoes, which is a fantastic example of how it should be done. Clay's puts out a pretty good burger, but next time I am at Clay's, I'll be getting that instead. This was our first stop, and the quest for the best burger in Houston continues.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Rules

We're going to lay a few ground rules for how this beefy journey is going to work. These rules can, and probably will, be changed at any time, but only if an agreement is struck that is unanimous.

All burgers must be downed with either a Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper fans will have to look away, as they might be too special for this blog.

Beer is an option as long as it is a brew from Texas. This includes delicious offerings from Shiner, the under-appreciated Lone Star and, if available, Houston's own Saint Arnold. We prefer to pair our burgers with a pale lager, such as Lone Star, a bock, such as Shiner Bock or Saint Arnold Spring Bock, or with a weizen, such as Saint Arnold Texas Wheat or Shiner Hefeweizen. If we run into a unique beer option that intrigues us, we only choose to pursue it unanimously or not at all.

Side order:
French fries. Nothing else. Although exceptions will be made for any restaurant that might still have freedom fries. Onion Rings can be ordered if the restaurant makes any fantastic claims about their rings.

Burger rules are very simple. We will order a burger how we like it at every place we go. Some may wonder why we don't always get the burger exactly as a restaurant prepares it. The reason for that is that we have to have a control group. Some restaurants may use the mayo/mustard combination as a crutch. Some restaurants may be build your own burger. This leaves the only real option to order it how we like it at every place we visit.

Burgers shall not be cooked to anything greater than medium-well. If they do not ask how we want the burgers prepared, we will accept them as they come and then complain a lot afterward on this blog if it is well done.

We are going to attempt to do a burger once a week. They may be more often, but no less than once a week.

Any friends that tag along will possibly have their opinion published, but their thoughts will not tally into any rankings.

Points can be awarded based on hotness of waitress.

These are your ground rules. Prepare for a burgasm.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Welcome to the quest for the best cheeseburger in Houston. This blog is being set up to chronicle the journey of two friends who have decided to set out and find the best cheeseburger in the city armed only with a Honda Accord and an empty stomach

We plan on posting reviews, pictures, locations and we even hope to eventually accept guest reviews. Saddle up and bring some napkins.