There are three cuisines Houstonians take very seriously: Tex-Mex, barbecue, and burgers. To stand out in a market already saturated with all three, some innovation is required. Below, seven of the best new burger joints in the city, all of which have distinguished themselves from the pack.
This local chain, beloved during the ’70s and ’80s, closed its fifth and final location in the early 2000s. Now it’s been resurrected, albeit far from its Montrose roots, at this outpost across the street from Space Center Houston. For those who remember the original, a visit will evoke overwhelming nostalgia—the signs and menus remain exactly the same, as do the light and sweet buns, hand-formed and well-seasoned patties, and the likeably peppery “Gourmet Sauce.”
Fans queue up at this cult favorite/Austin import on nice afternoons, contentedly awaiting their lavish Primetime burgers, which top rich Akaushi beef patties with melty Brie, caramelized onions, truffle aioli and thick beefsteak tomato slices. A Bubbly Blonde cocktail or Saint Arnold brew from the full-service bar will help ease the wait.
The stated mission of this waterfront Towne Lake spot is “pampering palates in Cypress,” and owner Jason Howard, the former maître d’ at Tony’s, is more than up to the task. This romantic, softly-lit spot, named after his son, offers lovely Franco-American dishes like chicken Cordon Bleu, as well as a substantial, elegant burger with crispy pommes frites that could compete with any upscale bistro around.
The third location of this homegrown chain has quickly become a Memorial Villages favorite for its house-ground patties, fresh-baked buns and hand-spun shakes. Both the menu and the dining room are kid-friendly (there’s a kid-level porthole into the baking room), and there’s a generous happy hour—Monday to Thursday, 2 to 5 p.m.—offering $5 burgers and half-price beer, wine and ice cream sandwiches.
After perfecting both the steak and the smoked brisket, it was only a matter of time before chef Ronnie Killen turned his attention to the third prong of the beef trifecta: the burger. These well-charred patties are as rugged and intensely seasoned as you’d expect from the high-spirited pitmaster, who is vocal about cooking his burgers to a pink medium-rare (you’ll have to request anything more done than that), the better to enjoy their oozy goodness.
Former Oxheart chef Willet Fong flips foodie-favorite burgers to order at this spot in the Greenway Plaza 3 food court, with inventive twists including rice “buns” for those in search of a gluten-free option; add-ons ranging from seared Spam to spicy sambal mayo to soy-marinated serrano chiles; milkshakes in flavors like sweet corn and horchata; and off-menu creations like a breakfast burger served with a fried egg between two waffles.
A recent visit here found the place packed, with many tables enjoying the same dish we were: a classic bacon cheeseburger stacked with heaps of crispy shredded lettuce, house-made pickles and owner Lee Ellis’s throwback burger sauce (intriguingly similar to Thousand Island dressing). His timeless, towering burgers are best paired with partner bakery Petite Sweet’s fresh-baked desserts—try the wonderfully retro Coca-Cola cake.