Burger Bodega may be Houston’s next best burger place, says Alison Cook

If you’re attuned to the Houston food chatter, you’ve probably heard about the smashburger pop-ups that Abbas Dhanani has been running for the past year or so. They attracted queues of eager customers and invariably sold out.

Now, after a visit to Burger Bodega, Dhanani’s delightful four-week shop on Washington Avenue, I understand the hype.

I haven’t been so blown away by the textures and overall sandwiching of a new burger joint in town in a long time. The regular double-double cheeseburger here made my eyes roll back in my head, and I’m not exaggerating.

I also found more to love. Real Milkshakes use ice cream from Houston’s Craft Creamery, which is run by Chef Steve Marquez of the late, great Burger Guys, a west Houston burger outpost that was ahead of its time. Hand-rolled shakes, awesome burger combos, duck fat fries… the place seemed too good to be true, and alas, it was.

Double-double the smashing burger at Washington’s new Burger Bodega. Video: Dylan Aguilar

Finding Steve’s ice creams at Burger Bodega made for a nice story. Dhanani’s special blended sauces are on hand to spice things up (always a Houston-friendly move), from burgers to fries to that hashed specialty close to New York burgers, the Shredded Cheese. The colors and lighting of the dining room pop. The caption amuses. The service goes above and beyond, as does the rooftop patio and hip-hop soundtrack.

Come and check things out.

PRICE: $9.95 for Smash Burger Double, a double cheeseburger; $3.50 for fries; 60 cents for Spicy Mayo or Harlem Aioli sauces; $6.50 for a Craft Creamery ice cream shake, for a total of $20.55 before tax and tip

ORDER: Go through the cheerful line, pay, give them your name, get a table number and find a seat in the dining room either at a table or at the long booth that runs parallel to the service line. I’ve heard there was a long wait when Burger Bodega first opened, but I went in the late afternoon when there was only one person in front of me. If the weather is nice, you can climb outside stairs to a charming rooftop patio with golden canopies and expansive views. They’ll even bring your food when it’s ready.

ARCHITECTURE: No slaw in the house specialty, the Smash Burger Double. On top of a grilled potato bun are a few slices of house-made pickle, a super thin shredded beef patty, a square of American cheese, another briskly shredded beef patty, and another square of American cheese. Then comes a bed of lightly roasted small onion squares and a top layer of Bodega’s mayo-based pink sauce. That’s all she wrote.

(There are single and triple versions of the Smash Burger on the tight little menu, as well as a more traditional classic burger dressed with lettuce and tomato and sliced ​​cheese on a toasted roll. The latter sandwich resembles a cheeseburger hash, dressed with shredded iceberg and tomato, and despite (I found it pleasant enough in the style of nursery school food that I regretted ordering the spicy version.)

QUALITY: Simple and crushing covers the joy of the Smash Burger Double. Literally and figuratively. I’ve never encountered such gloriously curled edges on a patty, with such fleeting crispiness. They cascade from the circumference of the pie in delicate scallops that look almost fractal. The crisp flavor of the beef, the gooey cheese, the sharp kick of the pickles, the mellow tone of the roasted onions, and the gentle touch of the “secret sauce” work together in wonderful harmony. I could eat one of these babies several times a week – and I’m slightly humbled to admit that I could if I lived closer to the intersection of Washington and Shepherd.

SLUDGE EVALUATION: Broken into curls, but still juicy, not dripping.

LETTER CLASS: Plus. It is given with great enthusiasm.

VALUE: Decent considering the performance rate and the current state of inflation. I was interested and amused to read a bitter account of the price points in Rice University’s student newspaper, the Thresher, which declared that “the burger, in particular, is not the best value for your budget and time.” It’s true that my budget is bigger, but I respectfully disagree. Far from being comparable, Burger Bodega’s smashing burger leaves Shake Shack in the dust.

BONUS POINTS: The Houston-specific milkshake flavors are really fun. I ordered both versions with Vietnamese coffee and mango lassi to try them out. I ended up finishing both of them, surprise, surprise.

The service should also be mentioned. Taking a cue from Dhanani’s community-oriented perspective, it goes above and beyond what you’d expect from a counter-service restaurant.

SMALL MINUS POINTS: My gripe with Burger Bodega’s very well-executed, super-crispy thin-cut fries was that they had that same mushy texture of the frozen variety. But they were exceptionally good in their own way and fun to eat with little tubs of sunny habanero-tinged Harlem aioli and a reddish mayo sauce with a strong red-chile burn. They have both sliced ​​fries and fries topped with things like cheese sauce, onions, Bodega sauce, and chopped beef for fans of the loaded persuasion. The allusions to Houston hip-hop match the soundtrack.

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: No.

STUFF FOR LATER: Among the local bodega wares that Dhanani offers as a matter of Houston pride and community support, I grabbed a fine bottle of olive oil from the Lebanese groves owned by relatives of Craft Pita’s executive chef, Rafi Nasr. And I brought home a bag of whole coffee beans blended and roasted for Burger Bodega by local heroes Greenway Coffee. I still enjoy it.

LOCAL COLOR: Burger Bodega already attracts a diverse, young crowd, in line with owner Dhanani’s community reach and profile as a Houston food influencer (I’ve followed him for years as @ghulamsauce on Twitter, and his Instagram account, @houstoneatz, has almost 35,000 followers.) The more powerful young attitude is reflected in the use of street art space and intense color in Vy Truong’s designs. Just walking in is guaranteed to lift your spirits before you’ve tried anything.

Bodega Burger

4520 Washington, 346-293-8909; burgerbodega.com


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