The Best Burgers In Houston
photo credit: Richard Casteel
In life, there are a few simple adages to remember: always wear a seatbelt, make sure to drink plenty of water, and, just like fire exits and bathrooms, you should always know where the closest great burger is. Sometimes finding an excellent burger in Houston (ye olde land of beef) can feel like navigating a Texas-sized cornfield maze. So we made it easy for you: here’s our guide to some of the best burgers in Houston. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to know what every single one of these tastes like.
Eating at Nancy’s Hustle in EaDo feels like being in a cozy bubble. This dreamy American bistro-y spot is not only on the short list of everyone with a big date coming up, but it’s also where you can get the Nancy burger, a double-patty cheeseburger encapsulated by a crispy-yet-soft english muffin, with crisp house-made pickles skewered on top like a briney crown. We like to order this burger when we need a reminder that sometimes it’s okay to mess with the classics. And if you’re feeling extra romantic, you can share the Nancy burger with your special someone (although we’d just order two).
Stanton’s City Bites in First Ward may be filled with walls of memorabilia, a diner-style stool counter, and other architectural items that say, “this building is old,” but the burgers are anything but. Each half-pound burger arrives in a pillowy soft and buttery bun and absolutely crammed to the gills with thematic toppings. Like the Miss Piggie Burger: a bacon and beef patty paired with a large hash brown and candied bacon. Or the Spicy Chipotle with a jalapeño-laced bun dripping in chipotle mayo. Even the original version satisfies any burger purist with its thick patty and patina of grill flavors. Go to Stanton’s for lunch, or for dinner, or simply to experience unencumbered and slightly nostalgic joy.
Eating at Bubba’s, a literal wooden shack near the Galleria area, feels more like dining inside of a decades-old postcard than anything resembling modernity, which is probably why the burgers are so incredible. Bubba’s specializes in bison burgers, but you can get beef, too, if you’re some kind of burger purist. Dress up the burger with jalapeños, grilled onions, or even an entire frito pie, which is a very Texan thing to do. While you could go here for dinner, visiting Bubba’s for a late lunch will help you avoid getting stuck in rush hour traffic. Plus, you’ll have the rest of the day to nap, which will be necessary.
Drive past this little white and yellow corner building near Rice Military any night of the week, and a line will inevitably be wrapped around the corner. Inspired by the iconic bodegas of New York City, Burger Bodega resembles a Houston-themed millennial-smashburger fever dream, with “713” plastered across faux corner store products lining every wall. The edges of each patty are wafer thin and crispy with a hint of griddle smoke, and the mayo-like bodega sauce melds together with cheese and grilled onions. And the dense but soft potato bun supports the double stack without getting soggy. The line is worth it.
Lankford’s Grocery & Market has been pumping out burgers from a little red and white corner shack in Midtown since 1936. While a lot had changed in the neighborhood, Lankford’s has remained pretty much exactly the same. Join the rest of the downtown lunch crowd for burgers loaded with macaroni and cheese, a thick onion ring, cayenne butter, slices of tender brisket, and even Frito pie. And even though the burger sinks like a lead bomb in your stomach, each one is so satisfying you won’t stop eating until the whole thing disappears.
The outside of Winnie’s, a vibrant Cajun-Creole bar in Midtown, is painted a bright pink and green, and it looks like the type of place where novelty candies are sold. The inside of Winnie’s, however, looks like a tiki bar with a salaried job. And it’s where you can sit at the mile-long bar and have the grilled burger that’s hearty, dressed up all the way (with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and pickles), and encapsulated by a perfectly toasted sesame seed bun. On Mondays during Happy Hour, the burger is only $5, so you can have a budget-friendly slab of beef that tastes like it was made for a special occasion.
For those days when you’re craving a burger topped with spam, kimchi relish, chili, pickled habaneros, sauteed onions, and pepper jack cheese, head to Burger-Chan. The counter-service spot in the Galleria area embraces the fully customizable burger experience, so grab a clipboard menu at the front, check off whatever toppings will bring you the most joy, and hand your marked up selection sheet to the cashier who clips the paper to a makeshift mini zipline and whizzes it off to the kitchen where whatever delicious burger you desire will soon appear, ready to make all those wild toppings dreams come true.
Clutch City Grill is parked on the patio of Spring Street Bar in the First Ward,.and while we love the tacos, our favorite thing to get here is the Clutch Burger, in which two huge, tender brisket and chuck patties are stacked on top of each other and melted together with cheese. We recommend doing some light jaw stretching before taking a bite of this behemoth, but the pillowy buns will provide ample comfort.
If you aren’t keeping an eye out for it, you might easily drive right past M&M Grill in the Medical Center. The modest halal restaurant has Mexican and Mediterranean food, but it’s also home to gargantuan burgers and crispy fries. Maybe you want your double cheeseburger covered in melted american cheese and a spicy house sauce. Or maybe you prefer yours smothered in swiss cheese with a pile of fried mushrooms below the burger. Even though the burgers alone are worth doing a slow creep down Almeda Road to find this place, we stick around for the golden, salted fries and the onion stacks which is essentially a basket of deep fried strips of onion.
Sparkle’s, a modest counter service joint in the Third Ward, is the sort of place you could pop into any time for a burger, which ranges from a simple, dressed down hamburger to a double mushroom cheeseburger piled high with toppings. The space is pretty small, so unless you eat at one of three tables inside, you’ll probably be parked on the picnic benches just outside of the doors, unhinging your jaw for another bite of the meaty double cheeseburger topped with a slab of hickory bacon.
The Almighty Moon Tower Inn in the East End is known for three things: hot dogs made from wild game meats, a lot of beer, and a f*ck you attitude most people admire, even if they don’t want to admit it. We also love the ridiculously excessive burgers on the menu. Like the Cheech Burger smeared with nutty chevre and slightly spicy roasted poblanos. Or the Diner Style Harvey Burger done Reznor style that comes with a smushed boudin patty. Every burger is messy and meaty in the best way, usually dripping juice all over the paper basket-boat it arrives in. Embrace the ridiculousness, and the drunken outlaw vibe—and make sure to order the potato salad.
Hillstone in Upper Kirby falls somewhere on the restaurant spectrum between an upper crust steakhouse and a fast-casual American mega chain. The menu almost never changes, the food always arrives fast, and everything tastes exactly the same every single time. One of Hillstone’s best old reliables—whether you’re dining solo at the bar or out with your parents— is the cheeseburger. The thick, cheese-encased patty arrives loaded so high with toppings you might need to make a few calculations before attempting the first bite. Crush one, along with the seasoned fries, alongside a house martini, or two.
The only thing that’s changed about Champ Burger in the last 60 years is that the place accepts credit cards now. Champ Burger, an old-school hamburger shack in the East End right off the Metro greenline, usually has a small line of people clustered near the order window waiting for a cheeseburger or steak sandwich. The classic-style burgers are juicy, but not greasy, and will keep you feeling full most of the day. You should also order an orange milkshake and chili cheese fries and make it a true Champ Burger meal.
There’s no membership fee or dress code at this country club, which is more of a hamburger-dive-pool-hall. But Harrisburg Country Club in the East End also serves ice cold beer—an essential item, since there is no air conditioning. Everything about the quick-griddled burger here is fairly standard—sesame seed bun, iceberg, tomato, pickles, and raw white onion—but when it arrives, neatly wrapped in white parchment, it feels special and nostalgic. Order a burger and a side of crinkle-cut fries, then chat up the handful of neighborhood characters over a few beers or a round of pool.
While Eight Row Flint in The Heights is well-known as a top-shelf whiskey bar, it also has pretty solid and approachable food. The cheeseburger here is a great example of such delicious simplicity. It’s just the basics: melted American cheese, diced white onions, pickles, and mustard. However, altogether on a white bread bun, it tastes rich, buttery, and kind of high end despite being only $8. So if you had one too many pours of cask-strength bourbon or have a first date that’s going well enough to share a meal together, consider grabbing one of these humble yet extremely satisfying cheeseburgers. Make it a double for only $3.50 more.