“Anybody who doesn’t think that the best hamburger place in the world is in his hometown is a sissy.”
— Calvin Trillin, American Fried, 1974
The neighbors I ride with on Sunday mornings frequently gather for burgers and beer after biking. In recent months, we’ve been in search of the best hamburger in Fort Worth. But I fear it will be a never-ending quest because we can never agree on which is best.
I, for example, favor the burgers at Dutch’s, directly across University Drive from Texas Christian University, because I like the slightly sweet bun that embraces the meat like a warm blanket. Others dislike Dutch’s burgers precisely because of the slightly sweet bun.
I was pleased to note that a burger from Dutch’s, the one with bacon and bleu cheese, was ranked eighth in the state of Texas by Texas Monthly magazine, whose cover story for the August edition was on “the 50 greatest hamburgers in Texas.”
The magazine said that a team of 31 eaters scoured the state, covering 12,343 miles, visiting 253 restaurants, and gaining a cumulative 45 pounds in their quest for the best 50 hamburgers in Texas.
As our cross-country bicycle caravan proceeds across Texas this fall, we’ll have an opportunity to try at least 10 of those “50 greatest” because they’re purveyed by burger joints in cities along our route.
El Paso, the first Texas city on our eastbound journey, boasts two of the “50 greatest” — the Toro Burger, served up by the Toro Burger Bar and ranked No. 4, and the Rosco Burger at Rosco’s Burger Inn, ranked No. 43.
About 250 miles east, at the gateway to the Big Bend Country in Marathon, is the Gage Hotel, which serves the Buffalo Burger (ranked No. 11) in the hotel’s White Buffalo Bar. (See Aug. 1 post, “An oasis in the back of beyond.”) In Kerrville, in the Texas Hill Country, the regular cheeseburger at Classics Burgers and “Moore” is ranked No. 40.
Austin, the state capital, will afford the best chance to sample some of the “50 greatest,” especially if Austin is one of our stops with a full day of rest and recuperation.
Eight Austin eateries serve burgers ranked among Texas Monthly’s 50 best: the Counter Burger at the Counter Cafe (No. 2); the Chop-House Burger (with cheese and bacon) at Cover 3 (No. 12); the Bulgogi Burger at Burger Tex II (No. 14); the Kobe Beef Burger at Max’s Wine Dive (No. 16); the regular cheeseburger at Parkside (No. 26); the Black Buffalo Burger at the Black Sheep Lodge (No. 27); the Half Ass Burger at Roaring Fork (No. 30); and the regular hamburger at Mighty Fine (No. 37).
At Bastrop, down the Colorado River from Austin, is Kendra Macon’s Roadhouse, which serves the Jalapeno Cream Cheese Burger, ranked No. 38.
The Texas Monthly list, of course, is highly subjective and has prompted many Internet comments along the lines of: “Well, they obviously didn’t try …” A Fort Worth institution called Kincaid’s, for example, has made national lists of best burgers, but it didn’t make the cut for Texas Monthly. Go figure.
Besides ranking the state’s best burgers, Texas Monthly engaged in a bit of Texas chauvinism with an accompanying story about the invention of the hamburger — in Athens, Texas.
Contrary to claims by New Haven, Conn.; Hamburg, N.Y.; and Seymour, Wis., the story said, “the world’s first hamburgers were created in the late 1880’s at a small cafe on the Henderson County courthouse square run by a man known as Uncle Fletcher Davis.”
As one who grew up in the St. Louis area, I have long known that meat patties between slices of bread were served at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. What I didn’t know — and the Texas Monthly story illuminates on this — is that Uncle Fletcher took his idea up to St. Louis and was the “hamburger” vendor at the fair.
With tongue in cheek, Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein, wrote that the question of the hamburger’s origin is settled once and for all.
“As anyone who has bothered to spend ten minutes investigating the matter knows, the hamburger was invented in Athens, Texas,” Silverstein wrote in his editor’s letter to the mayors of New Haven, Conn.; Hamburg, N.Y.; and Seymour, Wis. “Your claims thereby represent a serious infringement on the rightful heritage of all Texans, and we hereby demand that you cease and desist immediately from any further posturing.”