Burgers. No country on the planet does them quite like America, and, even less surprisingly, no state does them quite like Texas. The number of legitimately classic, hole-in-the-wall joints dotting the state is mind-boggling, but then again, so is the number of newer spots turning out their own singular takes on burger perfection. Here, in no particular order, are the 19 finest examples you'll find in the Lone Star State. Did we miss your favorite? Extoll its virtues in the comments.
What you’re getting: The Tostada Bean Burger
Although San Antonio's patron burger saint passed away in 2012 at the tender age of 61, Chris Madrid's legacy still lives on through the long lines at his eponymous burger joint. On a Saturday at lunch you're looking at a 20-minute line, which seems a bit silly until you receive your monstrous "macho"-sized Tostada Bean Burger. A normal bun cannot contain the multitudes of this monster, which is loaded with a mountain of melted cheddar and a hidden layer of Mexican fillings that gives it an only-in-Texas style of savory flavor. Pro move: top it with pico and fold the patty in half to fit it into the bun.
What you’re getting: The Telluride
Rodeo Goat may have just spawned a Dallas location, but make no mistake, this burger-slinging icehouse made its name in Fort Worth with a dizzying output of burgers that are every bit as delicious as they are inventive. The Telluride packs intense flavor with green chili chutney, roasted poblano goat cheese, and Hatch chiles (during the season) -- but this is the kind of place where you go with whatever speaks to you. Could be the Terlingua (havarti, brisket chili, corn chips, garlic-herb mayo). Could be the Sugar Burger, rocking jalapeño jam, grilled peaches, caramelized onions, and candied bacon. Better make a few trips just to be safe.
What you’re getting: A double with cheese
This Austin-based mini-chain of a burger stand is as refreshingly free of pretense as they are serious about the quality of their beef (all-natural hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus). Get yourself a double with cheese (or really, get it however you like it), bite into that Mrs. Baird’s bun (custom-made and delivered throughout the week), and know that you’ll be hard pressed to find a better burger-for-your-buck experience.
What you’re getting: Classic cheeseburger
This much-celebrated burger creation continues to live up to its billing. All the components sing beautifully together (seriously, you might hear choir music), from the juicy, flavor-rich patty topped with Vermont white cheddar to the house-made pepper-bacon, to the Nathan’s half-sour pickles. A smear of Dijonnaise and a pain au lait bun brings everything together so perfectly that it continues to be sought out despite its limited availability (Sundays and Mondays only).
What you’re getting: Bean Burger
This long-running, green-and-gold trimmed institution had to shutter in 2008 after serious flood damage from Hurricane Ike, but reemerged stronger than ever, with more elbow room and a fancy new kitchen to keep up with the burger-craving hordes. Crowd favorites include the Bean Burger (refried beans, crushed Fritos, picante sauce, cheddar), and the Squealer (a beef-and-bacon blend), but no matter which way you go, make sure to throw an order of onion rings on the side.
What you’re getting: The Bowling Alley Burger
Truth be told, Swift’s burger creation is probably a cut above anything you’ve consumed while bowling, but it still retains the soul-satisfying heft of something straight from a greasy spoon, even with a relatively small stature. Melted Fontina and griddled onions top a patty of "Never Ever" Angus, perched on a homemade sesame seed bun, dressed with "fancy ass" special sauce. Rest assured, it’s a better experience than a certain higher-profile burger touting special sauce and a sesame seed bun.
What you’re getting: A half-pound cheeseburger
Started back in the ‘40s as a grocer in a meat market that eventually made the (brilliant, it turns out), decision to start making burgers with that meat it was grinding up, Kincaid’s has grown into an institution on the strength of its classic, no-frills, impossibly beefy burgers. Get a half-pounder appointed simply with LTO, mustard, and pickles, and if you can hold off on ordering a second, you might have room for a little fried okra, some deviled eggs, or some of their crazy-good banana pudding.
What you’re getting: The Grim Burger
You could be forgiven for wanting to go old-school at Lankford, which started as a mom-and-pop grocer in the ‘30s before getting into the burger game in the ‘70s (it was a really liberated time, okay?). And truth be told, if you snagged just a simple half-pound burger on their toasted sesame bun and called it a day, you’d be pretty damn happy. But Lankford’s survived by evolving, and evolution means options like their Grim Burger, supplemented with creamy mac & cheese, a fried egg, jalapeño slices, and bacon. That roll of paper towels is going to be put to good use. Pro tip: bring cash.
What you’re getting: Definitely a burger, maybe with a fried egg
Maple & Motor has made serious meat-waves in DFW since opening in 2009 in a long-vacant ‘50s-era service station. The setting’s appropriate, because there’s something decidedly timeless about the burger, and if you get it classically dressed with your choice of cheese (American, cheddar, pepper jack), you’re likely to be thoroughly satisfied when you bite into that grill-kissed bun. You're likely to be even MORE satisfied if you add on some bacon and a fried egg.
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger with green chiles on a jalapeño-cheese bun
Just about any configuration of this out-of-the-way roadhouse’s hand-formed patties is likely to bring you to your burger happy place, but you will find yourself in the happiest place if you go for a beyond-generous helping of green chiles and upgrade your bun to a jalapeño-cheese bun.
What you’re getting: The Hubcap Decker
When you’re faced with an incredibly juicy, hand-formed burger patty finished off with an addictively crisp sear, the only logical next step is to get two of them. Oh, and double the cheese, because, cheese! Holding this beast together will be a fresh, custom-baked bun specifically engineered to maintain its integrity despite all the goodness that’s about to start dripping into it. If you want to put the bun through an even tougher test, there’s a Frito Pie burger waiting for you.
What you’re getting: The Counter Burger
The Austin greasy spoon doesn’t do anything revolutionary with its celebrated burger, it just knocks every component out of the park -- particularly the just-right-sized grass-fed beef patty and the ridiculously fluffy Sweetish Hill Bakery bun with the perfect hint of sweetness. Add lettuce, tomato, and cheese, and you have happiness.
What you’re getting: Bacon Cheeseburger
The name "Classics" hits the mark, as the vibe and the flavor are befitting a much older joint (Classics debuted in 2002). They’ll cook your 6oz, fresh-ground patty to-order and slide it into a butter-toasted bun with a fairly standard toppings array (jalapeños and chili are about as crazy as it gets), but a couple of slices of perfectly crisped bacon round things out just fine.
What you’re getting: The Famous Mel Burger, or (maybe!), The Mega Mel Challenge
Started in the '70s as a fried chicken joint, the Weirich family transitioned to a more burger-centric operation in the mid-'80s, and the decision proved apt -- their meat masterpieces with a penchant for excess remain objects of obsession today. The signature "Famous Mel Burger" is nothing to take lightly, with its pound of beef, half-pound of bacon, and three slices of American cheese. But if you have a big appetite/serious disregard for your health, upgrade to the "Mega Mel Challenge" (1.5lbs beef, a pound of bacon, and a quarter-pound of cheese), and earn name-on-the-wall recognition if you finish it without fainting/illness. The record is 20 minutes.
What you’re getting: The Blue Ribbon Burger
Cured is new-school San Antonio at its best, and you can't go wrong with its burger. The same care that goes into its house charcuterie is applied to the burger, which blends local chuck, short rib, and bacon into a tight little patty. The meat delivers great flavor, but the secret weapons are the onion jam and the "American cheese," which is a blend of aged cheddar and smokey Gouda mixed with PBR and melted together to emulate a Kraft Single. Don't be afraid to make it a double.
What you’re getting: The Burger From Hell
If heat’s not your thing, there are plenty of other juicy half-pound beef creations at this Amarillo institution. However, if you can handle a little spice (well, more than a little), their "Burger From Hell" brings a borderline insane amount of fresh jalapeños and a double dose of hot sauce (one Tabasco, one habanero). The generous helping of melted cheddar & mozz mitigates the heat slightly, and fortunately, the end product is as richly flavorful as it is tear-inducingly hot.
What you’re getting: The Cease & Desist Burger
The story goes like this: Houston temple-of-tastiness, Underbelly was serving up a burger dubbed the "UB Double Double," and ran afoul, legally speaking, of a certain Cali-based burger chain featured in The Big Lebowski, earning a cease and desist letter for their efforts. Thus a new name was born, since gone from the Underbelly menu, but still reliably available at sibling craft-beer-haven, The Hay Merchant. Their version destroys anything California could possibly produce anyway.
What you’re getting: Royale with cheese
The French-accented, Austin late-night go-to may take its burger-naming cues from Pulp Fiction, but this is anything but a reproduction of the quarter-pounder with cheese from a certain golden-arched burger purveyor, with a substantial ciabatta roll providing the base to hold together the hand-ground Angus, house-made mayonnaise, melty Gruyère, butter lettuce, and tomato.
What you’re getting: The 8oz handcrafted Angus burger
Coppell isn't exactly a hotbed of culinary artistry, but this burger may just begin to change that. And even if it doesn't, there will still be the burgers. ZenZero got its start as a coffee shop and bakery, so it's no shock that the crazy-buttery, scratch-made bun stands out -- but not so much that it overwhelms the well-seasoned half-pound of Angus, or whatever toppings-schematic you want to throw at it (there are ample choices). A solid move: bacon, guac, jalapeños, cheddar, sautéed onions, and tomato.
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1. Chris Madrid's1900 Blanco Rd, San Antonio
2. Rodeo Goat2836 Bledsoe St, Fort Worth
3. P. Terry's3303 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
4. The Grape2808 Greenville Ave, Dallas
5. Tookie’s Hamburgers & More1202 Bayport Blvd, Seabrook
6. Swift's Attic315 Congress Ave, Austin
7. Kincaid's4901 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth
8. Lankford Grocery & Market88 Dennis St, Houston
9. Maple & Motor Burgers & Beer4810 Maple Ave, Dallas
10. Alamo Springs Cafe107 Alamo Rd, Fredericksburg
11. Hubcap Grill1133 W 19th St, Houston
12. Counter Cafe626 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
13. Mel's Country Cafe24814 Stanolind Rd, Tomball
14. Cured306 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio
15. The Hay Merchant / Underbelly1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston
16. Justine's Brasserie4710 E 5th St, Austin
17. Zenzero Bakery & Cafe171 N Denton Tap Rd, Ste 600, Coppell
Although San Antonio's patron burger saint passed away in 2012 at the tender age of 61, Chris Madrid's legacy lives on through the long lines at his eponymous burger joint. On a Saturday at lunchtime you can expect at least a 20-minute wait, which seems a bit silly until you receive your monstrous Tostada Bean Burger, which looks and tastes like the lovechild of a burger and nachos. The friendly service and inviting atmosphere at this family-owned, Tex-Mex-themed spot will make you feel right at home.
This full-service restaurant and bar offers a wide selection of hand-ground burgers, as well as an expansive selection of beers in bottle, can and draft form. There's also a fine selection of cocktails and wines available, as well as an assortment of whiskey, bourbon and scotch.
"100% pure beef" means a lot at this local Austin burger chain. Not only is the meat hormone-free and grass-fed, but it's also sans additives, preservatives, and fillers. Other comestibles on order include all-natural Idaho potatoes, antibiotic-free chicken, and an incredible caramel and root beer milkshake to wash it all down.
Helmed by Chef/Owner Brian Luscher (of Luscher's Red Hots fame), The Grape was originally opened in 1972 and has served approachable, European influenced fare at affordable prices ever since. The menu changes monthly, though, so the Grape never feels stodgy or old-guard. The charming, bistro-like interior and homestyle fare (blueberry pancakes, shrimp and grits) make The Grape a great brunch option
This green-and-gold institution had to shutter in 2008 after serious flood damage from Hurricane Ike, but it reemerged stronger than ever with more elbow room and a renovated kitchen to keep up with the burger-craving hordes in 2011. The vintage decor harks back to the restaurant's 1970s inception and fits with the menu of classic American food. The move here is to order the double cheeseburger, a side of Mama Ethel's oversize onion rings, and a Heath Bar milkshake.
Located the second floor of the historic (and now defunct grocery store) Swift's Premium Food Co. building on Congress Avenue, the appropriately named Swift's Attic serves up eclectic small plates and creative cocktails for hipstered out Austinites. Among a brunch Bloody Mar bar and generous daily happy hour deals, Swift's offers sophisticated meats, seafood, snacks, and cocktails. Must trys are Korean BBQ flank steak, squid "fries," and the Pop Rocks charred edamame.
Started back in the ‘40s as a grocer in meat market that eventually made the (brilliant, it turns out) decision to start making burgers with the meat it was grinding up, Kincaid’s has grown into an institution on the strength of its classic, no-frills, impossibly beefy burgers.
This Houston institution on Dennis St has been in business since 1939, selling groceries to locals alongside old-fashioned tuna melts and huge burgers. Everything is made to order, so the service takes time, and you simply pay at the counter when you're finished eating. The space itself is kitschy and quaint with shaded picnic tables outside for some greasy al fresco dining.
Known for celebrating “low class cool,” Maple and Motor distills American comfort cuisine into a ten-item food menu comprised of burgers and sandwiches built upon foundations of bologna, brisket, and bacon. The burger is the menu’s gem; it’s a half-pound of ground beef flat grilled in its own juices, dressed in traditional Texas fashion with mustard, lettuce, red onion, and a dill pickle. Add a side of beer-battered onion rings and a brew, and you’re set. The space is bare bones-cool, with a few black leather booths and photographs in simple black frames lining the walls. The Maple and Motor team doesn’t pretend to be anything other than red meat-loving Americans and we dig it.
Alamo Springs Cafe, an out-of-the-way roadhouse, is well known for its juicy burgers. Just about any configuration of the hand-formed patties is likely to bring you to your burger happy place, but you will find yourself in the happiest place if you go for a beyond-generous helping of green chiles and upgrade your bun to a jalapeno cheese bun.
Hubcap Grill, which has a couple of locations across Texas, is known for its burgers and sandwiches. When faced with one of its incredibly juicy, crispy seared patties, the logical next step is to get another. The counter-serve also pours craft beer, which you order at the window before taking your food out to the massive, colorful patio. The space features games like ping pong and horseshoes so you can burn off all that grease to the tune of the outdoor jukebox.
An old-school breakfast-,brunch-, and burger-slinging diner, Counter Cafe's got local comfort food that is way better than the spot's humble exterior would seem to indicate. Big plates of roasted quail, steak, crab cakes, and fried oysters draw eyes as the wait staff pass, but the house's specialty Counter Burger with gooey cheddar cheese and a thick, square patty on soft sourdough is the true must-try dish when you're spending an afternoon Downtown.
Started in the ‘70s as a fried chicken joint, this place was transitioned by the Weirich family to a burger-centric operation in the mid-’80s. The decision proved apt: their meat masterpieces, with a penchant for excess, remain objects of obsession today (take, for instance, the Mega Mel burger with one and a half pounds of ground beef, a full pound of bacon and a quarter pound of cheese). Even if you aren't coming for the challenge, come hungry because your other options include big portions of country fried chicken, grilled catfish and shrimp with hush puppies.
Cured is new school San Antonio at its best. You can't go wrong with their burger - the same care that goes into their house charcuterie is applied to the burger, which blends local chuck, short rib, and bacon into a tight little patty. And you'd be wise to pair it with a beer from their great selection.
A joint venture, The Hay Merchant and Underbelly operate separately but are attached via a butchering room that’s fit to hold a whole hog, a cow, and other large, meat-bearing animals. Hay Merchant, a craft beer bar, boasts 75 draft beers that range in style from cask-conditioned American porters to sour and funky wild ales. Underbelly, the more upscale of the two, is a restaurant and wine bar serving up juicy burgers and meats, like roasted pig’s head and smoked brisket. No matter how adventurous your palate, consider pairing your dish with one of the aged barleywines on tap.
Situated in East Austin, Justine's Brasserie is a sexy French eatery and social club specializing in "very late night dining." Classic bistro fare (steak frites, ratatouille) and daily blackboard specials make up the bulk of the menu. Super boozy cocktails, lots of red wine, and the company of friends may make it hard to leave this lounge-y, chic bistro.
Here you can find a wide array of fresh-baked goods made from scratch, from biscuits to scones to cakes and tarts. And to wash it all down, try their coffee, which is sourced from the local Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.