part 1: hubcap grill, 1111 prairie street
my first burger junket was to hubcap grill next door to the alden hotel in downtown. hubcap IS the antithesis of the sleek, glamorous digs at the alden. hubcap is a burger shack reminiscent of some tiny, divey-ass joints i've stumbled into in brooklyn. as it always seems, all places like this have "character." hubcap has sort of a roadhouse feel with hubcaps lining the tight walls and seating is sparse. although i was interested in checking out the triple bypass that has a hot dog and meat patty, i settled on the bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions. i had another lunch meeting after this.
|bacon cheeseburger from Hubcap Grill|
it was SOOOO delicious. the bun was perfectly crusty from recent baking yet still soft enough to easily nosh into. the crisp bacon and sweet caramelized onions danced so well with the juicy beef patty, melted cheddar, and a healthy addition of iceberg, tomatoes, and the kick of raw onions. i really couldn't remember ever tasting a burger this wonderful. here's a photo of my burger halfway gone. note the burger drippings on the plate below.
|last half of bacon cheeseburger from Hubcap Grill|
hubcap is now open on saturdays. i'm sorry lankford, christian's but i'm now convinced there's a better burger in town.
part two: sparkle's hamburger spot, 1515 dowling street @ leeland
i've driven by this place in the east end a million times, but it was finally a friend's idea that brought us here. sparkle's hamburger spot is definitely more spotty than *sparkly.* there were a few of houston's civil servants lined up to order on this particular day. the kitchen is slow so expect a healthy wait. bring a friend or bring a book. we waited over 20 mins for our order.
|From Sparkle's Hamburger Spot|
our much awaited hickory cheeseburger ended up being overcooked and dry. the bun was grilled which we appreciated, but dry meat and zero drippage makes for a really boring sandwich. even worse, the escorting fries were pale, soggy, and cold. feeling like we had just waited for godot, ending up with cold fries seemed pretty unforgiveable.
|hickory cheeseburger from Sparkle's Hamburger Spot|
i also ordered chicken and waffles. i know this is a burger post, but i didn't want you to think the trip to sparkle's was a total bust. everyone enjoyed the chicken wings tremendously. they were still crispy hot, well-seasoned, and not over-salted like the fried chicken at frenchy's or breakfast klub tends to be. the waffle had soaked up all the butter by the time our attention was directed at it and ended up being soggy -- more pancakey than waffley.
|chicken & waffles from Sparkle's Hamburger Spot|
part 3: smashburger, 7811 main street @ kirby
i was invited for a smash orgy by the denver based company's local PR firm. the "fast, casual" restaurant wasn't even completed yet. there was still construction and employee training taking place. kinda made me feel special for being a part of something that was still being created and put together.
i tried the classic smashburger (their cheeseburger) during a yelp event just a few weeks back. i remember loving the crispy char on the thin "smashed" burger patties but also remembered an overuse of salt according to my palate. the smash fries were a hit at the event and were seasoned with EVOO, rosemary, and parmesan. the burgers were being cooked and served from a smashmobile - essentially a taco truck for burgers.
i ordered their three specialty burgers: (1) BBQ, bacon and cheese, (2) spicy baja, and (3) mushroom swiss. i jumped at the chance to add a fried egg to any burger and i choose the mushroom swiss burger as the vessel.
|mushroom swiss burger w/fried egg from Smashburger|
oh wow was this delicious. the fried egg was cooked over medium. the meat patty was juicy and flavorful even though it was cooked all the way through. it wasn't as smashed as my first but the patty was well seasoned and perfectly salted. the garlic sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese was as good as expected. i'm pretty much a sucker for anything with eggs in it or on it and this was no exception. it was even served on an egg bun. would i travel from midtown all the way to the med center for this burger? yes.
the other 2 burgers were a bit too salty but cooked to a light pink center. i was impressed that the spicy baja burger was served on a chipotle bun with chipotle mayo and fresh sliced jalapenos. the guacamole was very fresh and it was very evident that much higher quality ingredients are used here than the average burger place.
|spicy baja burger from Smashburger|
smashburger will also be serving chicken sandwiches, salads, hebrew national dogs, and some other interesting sides like haystick onions (thinly sliced onion rings) and veggie frites (flash fried asparagus, green beans, and carrot sticks). the grand opening will be on dec 23.