László Bíró may have made writing easier with his ballpoint pen, and Charles Babbage may have paved the way for CultureMap as the father of the computer, but no inventor in the world has made a more shattering impact than the unnamed genius who first formed ground meat into a patty and wedged it between a bun and called it ... the hamburger.
The Alamo City may not have a claim to the invention, but these seven essential spots prove the city’s restaurants are taking the classic dish to new heights.
Burger Boy, Double Boy
Whether one is talking about buildings of burgers, it is difficult to argue with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous motto “less is more.” Although the famous architect was reportedly more taken with liquid lunches than fast food, the point still stands. Burger Boy only needs basic building blocks (two thin patties, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle) to make its elegant point. Even cheese seems like an unnecessary flourish.
Burgerteca, Al Pastor
If John Travolta and Kirstie Alley’s cringe-worthy turn in Look Who’s Talking Now taught the world anything, it’s that sequels rarely live up to the original. Still, don’t tell that to chef Johnny Hernandez, who reinterpreted a taco classic in burger form without sacrificing any of its charm. Beef stand in for pork in this improbable blockbuster, but there’s still the familiar sweet char of grilled pineapple. New characters like tomatillo ketchup and Manchego cheese thicken the plot.
Chris Madrid’s, Tostada Burger
Like the puffy taco, this crunchy creation is quintessentially San Antonio. As the legend goes, Chris Madrid created it when a friend suggested he add a bean burger to the menu. Not wanting to use traditional Fritos, he subbed in house corn chips and spooned on some salsa for kick. The combo shot fireworks then, just as it does today. It’s a shame that it so often plays second fiddle to the wildly popular Cheddar Cheezy.
Cured, Blue Ribbon Burger
One of the great mysteries of San Antonio food is that this towering Goliath is only available at lunch. Still, the possibility of falling into a food coma before an afternoon meeting is a small price to pay to be able to experience this masterpiece on a bun. A beef and bacon patty (or two or three) is blanketed with American cheese for extra heft, but the sweet onion jam keeps all the fat from getting too rowdy. It wins the top prize every time.
Diana’s Burgers, Jalapeño Cheddar Burger
One could say burgers are in Diana Madrid’s DNA. After all, she is the sister of the late founding father of Alamo City’s burger culture (see above). Keeping with the family tradition, the burgers here don’t try to reinvent the form. All one needs is a well-seasoned patty, a little pepper heat, and a scandalous amount of melted cheese.
Lucy Cooper’s Ice House, Krispy Kreme Brunch Burger
With burgers, it’s usually best to steer clear of novelty. Just because an ingredient can be tucked between two buns doesn’t mean that it should. On paper, Lucy Cooper’s devilish pile-on certainly seems to apply to that rule. But somehow this fever dream of a burger — two Krispy Kreme doughnuts barely containing two beef patties, thick cut bacon, hashbrowns, and an oozing fried egg — just works, handily reining in all the elements of the most important daily meal.
Zinc Bistro & Bar, Devil’s River Lamb Burger
Never one to be baa-shful (sorry), this downtown bistro packs the same bold flavors into its burger as its punchy Southwestern entrees. Serrano fig jam teases out even more luxury from triple brie, sweet grilled onions tames the beastly Texas-raised lamb, and the zing of sambal mayo ties it up in a neat little bow. With a gourmet burger this alive, we’ll even forgive them the affectation of calling arugula rocket.