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.