I'd heard that Grub Burger Bar, the College Station import that's the latest in a line of college-town-creations-done-good heading to Houston to strike it big via alumni nostalgia (see also: Bahama Bucks via Lubbock), had been perpetually packed since opening last year. But I figured that visiting nearly a year after Grub opened its first Houston location, here in CityCentre, around 3 p.m. on a Saturday would yield a smaller crowd. I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't right either.
Grub Burger Bar
799 Town & Country Blvd., Ste. 200
There was no line to order, but Grub was still packed. Nearly every booth and table were taken, and even the patio was brimming on a hot July day. Credit that to what ended up being some truly exemplary burgers, in a town already full up with them. Houston never tires of Tex-Mex, barbecue, or burgers—and it's these latter two that I ended up melding into my meal at Grub.
While my mother, the heathen, ordered an ahi tuna salad, I was irresistably drawn to the Lockhart Legend: a burger topped with Dr Pepper barbecue sauce (playing to my own alumni roots in Waco), Cheddar cheese, bacon, dill pickles, and two onion rings for good measure. I removed one of the onion rings to enjoy on its own, crunchy merits—terrific dipped in ketchup, unlike the fries, which were too twiggy for my tastes—and smashed the rest of the buger down into a manageable size.
What I was most struck by in the entire affair was the burger patty itself, often neglected in these days of outsize toppings that render the taste of the patty nearly moot. I broke off a few pieces of the burger, which is made from a blend of brisket and chuck ground daily, and was pleasantly surprised by how well-seasoned it was. I vowed that during my next visit to Grub, I wouldn't allow the lovely patty to be overshadowed by toppings; I want to see what a plain cheeseburger tastes like here (I'm betting it's excellent).
And although I wanted to make fun of my mother's decision to order a salad, I had to admit I was equally impressed with her dish. A not insubstantial portion of tuna loin with a nice, peppery sear sat atop a big bed of mixed greens with a few pseudo-Japanese elements tossed in: avocado, pickled ginger, carrots, cilantro, some sort of rice sticks, and a wasabi-teriyaki dressing. It was tasty and filling; what more could you want from a salad?
Toward the end of my meal, I grew frustrated with myself for having ordered a pint of Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.'s More Cowbell Double IPA—not because the beer was bad, though. It was actually a spot-on pairing for the big, cheesy burger. No, I was annoyed because I kept seeing milkshakes being paraded past our table, and I realized the room currently being occupied in my stomach by beer—a beer I can have anywhere, especially now that Buff Brew is canning the stuff—could have been instead occupied by a bourbon and caramel milkshake.
Well, there's always next time.