Best Burgers

The 13 Best Burgers in the Bayou City

Grab your friends and bring your appetite; you're going to need it.

By Timothy Malcolm and Gwendolyn Knapp May 24, 2019 Published in the June 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The Pharmacy Burger at La Lucha

Image: Brian Kennedy

Best Old-School-Style Burger: The Pharmacy Burger at La Lucha

This creation on offer at chef/owner Ford Fry’s ode to Gulf-style summer eating combines Whataburger simplicity with exceptional technique. Undress the sweaty yellow wrapper to find a gently browned, soft potato bun containing two beef patties—charred hard but loosely packed, so that the yellow American cheese oozes right into the nooks—along with sliced tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce, paper-thin red onion, sweet pickles, mayo, and mustard. Outrageously tasty.

Pair it with: Bakfish, All Y’all golden ale

The breakfast burger at BuffBurger

Best Breakfast Burger: The Breakfast Burger at BuffBurger

Feeling a little worse for wear? Let us turn to Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson for a pearl of wisdom: After a long night of drinking, Grade-A American beef is so very necessary. And this meaty wake-up call is just what the Libertarian doctor ordered: a stout 44 Farms patty topped with melty American cheese, bacon, and a sunny-side hen egg, served on a glistening challah bun. One bite in, you’ll be on your way to cured. Wash it down with coffee … or possibly a breakfast beer?

Pair it with: Platypus, Stars at Night coffee porter

Best Brunch Burger: The Smoked Gouda Burger at Night Heron

Head to Agricole Hospitality chef/owner Ryan Pera’s eatery and cocktail bar for a creation best described as the love child of an everything bagel and a gastropub burger. Glazed in smoky gouda, the Marble Ranch wagyu patty arrives pink and succulent, served with greens and a bright swipe of lemon aioli, inside a luxurious bun covered in salty, oniony everything seasoning. Add an oozy free-range egg and house-cured bacon, and you’ve got a brunch must.

Pair it with: Eureka Heights, Buckle Bunny cream ale

The Carpet Bagger Burger at B&B Butchers

Image: Shelby Tsika

Best Steakhouse Burger: The Carpet Bagger Burger at B&B Butchers

Here’s an aptly named creation. Proprietor Benjamin Berg has brought his New York swagger to Houston’s food scene, as exemplified by his gourmet burger, which combines Big Apple flash with a dash of Southern bluster. A thick patty—part filet mignon, part sirloin—comes with bacon and a trove of other riches: fried oysters, crumbled blue cheese, and a just-creamy-enough homemade hot sauce. If you can make it here …

Pair it with: Southern Star, Bombshell Blonde blonde ale

Best Late-Night Burger: The Chili Cheese Burger at The Burger Joint

Yes, you’ll have to wait in a 40-deep line here after a night of bar-crawling along Westheimer, but it’s so worth it. Weep tears of joy when a picnic table becomes available for your ravenous squad, and pre-treat that hangover with a Chili Cheese Burger bathed in both house-made chili and queso, which will help you last until 4 a.m. (incidentally, when the place finally closes on weekends).

Pair it with: 8th Wonder, Rocket Fuel Vietnamese coffee porter, in a milkshake 

The cheeseburger at Nancy's Hustle

Image: Shelby Tsika

Best Brag-Worthy Burger: The Cheeseburger at Nancy’s Hustle

There’s a certain swagger to waltzing into this buzzy eatery at 10 p.m. and ordering a burger off chef Jason Vaughan’s late-night menu: two tightly packed patties, a perfectly melted square of yellow American cheese, mild homemade pickles, chopped red onion, a swipe of mayo, and Big Mac–style secret sauce on a toasted English muffin. Never mind that it’s the coolest creation in Houston—it’s the deliciousness that will have you back again next weekend.

Pair it with: Saint Arnold, Art Car IPA 

Best Patty Melt: The Party Melt at Better Luck Tomorrow

Everything about this burger from James Beard Award–winning chef Justin Yu is a little extra: the wagyu-and-brisket patty slathered in a sweet pink sauce; the melty cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and razor-thin red onion; the thick Texas toast, hot and glistening, griddled with a layer of crisp Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s like a croque gone wild, in the best possible way.

Pair it with: Lone Pint, Yellow Rose IPA 

The Bosscat Burger

Image: Shelby Tsika

Best Luxe Burger: The Bosscat Burger (Chef’s Way) at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations

A mahogany-and-oak whiskey room, an enormous bar, and excellent people watching: There’s only one order that matches the high class of this popular spot for upscale comfort food, and it’s the chef’s famous burger. This beast features a generous 44 Farms patty, blue and parmesan cheeses, a spread of zesty onion jam, matchstick-sliced bacon, spicy comeback sauce, veggies, and a dash of balsamic, which dampens the squishy bun, turning it into a fork-and-knife affair. How deliciously refined!

Pair it with: Karbach, Staycation pale wheat ale

Best Veggie Burger: The Impossible Burger at Hopdoddy Burger Bar

This totally vegan delight is worlds apart from your average oat, black bean, or meat-alternative burger. Juicy as all get-out, it actually appears to bleed, thanks in part to science (and a plant molecule called heme), and finishes with a surprising umami flourish. Topped with gooey cheddar or vegan cheese and served on a soft, house-made bun, this burger does in fact achieve the impossible.

Pair it with: Spindletap, Hop Gusher IPA 

Best Southern Burger: The Willie at Moon Tower Inn

A late-weekend beer and burger at Moon Tower: Find us a better way to fight off the Sunday blues, we dare you. This comfy, messy, good-times-rollin’ sando boasts a hearty patty, a perky slice of smoked ham, cabbage-and-roasted-pepper slaw, a generous slathering of tangy chipotle pimento, and a squishy bun. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll … hey, there’s some sauce on your cheek.

Pair it with: Sigma, Porter

The FM Burger

Image: Shelby Tsika

Best Shack-Style Burger: The FM Burger at FM Kitchen & Bar

A couple of years ago, when chef Ryan Hildebrand traded in his high-concept tasting-menu eatery, Triniti, for this ice house off Washington Avenue, he had no intention of doing basic bar food. Exhibit A: this burger, inspired by Shake Shack’s Shack Burger, featuring a four-ounce blend of brisket, sirloin, and chuck topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tangy “shhh sauce” (mayo, mustard, ketchup, and pickle bits) on a potato bun. We’ll take it over the Shack any day of the week.

Pair it with: Brash, Pussy Wagon double IPA

The Pre-Schoolers at Bernie's Burger Bus

Image: Shelby Tsika

Best Sliders: The Pre-Schoolers at Bernie’s Burger Bus

With its overflowing baskets of fries, crazy-tall milkshakes, and incredible, over-the-top burgers—see the naughty, naughty Detention Burger, a double cheeseburger with two bacon grilled-cheeses as buns on this month's cover—Bernie’s tends to go big. But there’s reason to go small here, too. The Pre-Schoolers—mini-cheeseburgers dressed with pickles, mustard, and house-made ketchup that’s sweet and peppery as all get-out (you need to bring a bottle home)—speak to the halcyon days of Krystal and White Castle. And they’re addictively crushable.

Pair it with: 8th Wonder, Dome Faux’m cream ale

Best Value Burger: The Cheeseburger at Cantina Barba

Oh, the simple pleasures of a well-made cheeseburger. Stop into this North Main Street watering hole and chow down on a nicely packed beef patty topped with gooey American cheese, thick and sharp pickle discs, and a slathering of a tangy chipotle, between two toasted buns. A double is a couple of bucks more, if you’re a bit hungrier. Take it from us: You’re a bit hungrier.

Pair it with: Cerveza Pacifico Clara, Mexican lager
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