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The Cookhouse Is Serving Up a Better Burger


I can safely say that most of us would vote yes when it comes to burgers.

The Cookhouse's Better Burger

The Cookhouse’s Better Burger

But Pieter Sypesteyn of the Cookhouse, 720 E. Mistletoe Ave., is offering something beyond your average burger.

During his lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the chef is offering a Better Burger, as part of the James Beard Foundation’s efforts to come up with a “tastier, healthier, more sustainable burger,” he says. “This beauty is blended with 30 percent mushrooms to create a big umami bomb, and give you something healthier, to boot.”

Your job isn’t over when you bite into that beauty. The Cookhouse needs your vote. You need to post a photo of the burger to Instagram with the hashtag #betterburgerproject. Then tag the photo and write what’s better about it.

The winning chef will get invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York.

The Cookhouse is only one of two restaurants in Texas taking part in this project. The other is RC Grille at the Austin Marriott.

For more details, click here.

 

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There Is No In and Out at the New In-n-Out


The wait is over. The eating can begin. But where to sit?

The wait is over. The eating can begin. But where to sit?

San Antonio has greeted the opening of the city’s first In-n-Out Burger with the glory and attention generally reserved for a Spurs championship win, NIOSA or a papal visit. ‘

How long are you willing to wait for a burger?

How long are you willing to wait for a burger?

The store opened at 10918 Culebra Road on Thursday and has been faced with lengthy lines at both its counter and drive-thru window ever since. After 9 p.m. Friday, the lines were so long that one of the traffic volunteers estimate that the wait for drivers was more than an hour while the foot traffic probably was just under an hour.

“It’s been like that all day,” he said.  

What is all the hoopla about? In recent years, In-n-Out Burger has been  hailed as breaking the stereotype surrounding how fast-food restaurants are run. The meat is said to have never been frozen, the potatoes are supposed to be peeled on site, and an emphasis is placed on freshness on all levels. All of that is supposed to translate into burger nirvana, which is why Julia Child, who loved the rewards a great burger can provide, was said to have kept a list of In-n-Out Burger locations with her.

But would you wait in line an hour for a chain burger? The crowds didn’t seem to mind; otherwise, they could have left anytime they felt like it.

The store is on Culebra Road, north of Loop 1604.

The store is on Culebra Road, north of Loop 1604.

I’ve waited three hours in line for Franklin Barbecue in Austin, almost two hours for Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland and 90 minutes for Pecan Lodge’s ‘cue in Dallas, and all were worth it. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I wish I were standing in line at Killen’s for another of their beef ribs. Texas barbecue, in my book, doesn’t get any better.

But I bypassed my chance for an In-n-Out burger Friday night. I had eaten at one in Las Vegas about seven or eight years ago. The memories of that visit, both good and bad, will hold me over until the hysteria dies down and I can see if it’s still the same.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Culebra and Loop 1604 area and want a burger but don’t want to wait in line, you can always go to Red Robin, Carl’s Jr., Steak ‘n Shake or Jim’s. They are all within a stone’s throw of In-n-Out, and all of them looked like they were doing a bustling business on Friday night as well.

Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

There is some outdoor seating in back of the restaurant.

There is some outdoor seating in back of the restaurant.

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Chris Madrid, a King of Consistency, Dies


Lilies hang from the front of Chris Madrid's.

Chris Madrid, whose eponymous restaurant on Blanco Road at West Hollywood was a magnet for burger lovers throughout the city and beyond, died Sunday.

As the news started to spread across the city, people were pausing to share their favorite memories, whether it was of the legendary tostada burger or of the man himself.

The restaurant was closed, as it usually is on Sundays, but in the late afternoon, a handful of fans could be found standing across the street, watching the cars slowing down while the drivers asked for the few details available. TV crews could be seen filming spots, and someone had placed a bouquet of lilies in one of the doors.

The nearly deserted scene was far from the lively buzz that surrounds Chris Madrid’s when the restaurant is open. Lines snake through the restaurant and on out the door on a regular basis, as patrons gladly wait for a burger smothered in a magma flow of melted cheddar. Pico de gallo and salsa from the bar where you pick up the burgers was such a flavor enhancer that you have to wonder why these simplest of condiments haven’t been copied in burger joints around the city.

Even more impressive was the consistency with which the staff at Chris Madrid’s turned out their burgers, no matter how many people wandered through the door. The burger that was served there last week tasted the same as it was 10 years ago. Even the texture of the patty with its mottled surface was the same. And people in the restaurant business will tell you that such consistency is rare. It is what brought customers back time and time again over the restaurant’s 35-year history.

Is it any wonder the place defied trends and went on to win CitySearch’s Best Burger every year from 2000 to 2007? It has also been cited as readers’ and critics’ favorites in numerous other polls.

Postings on Facebook and Twitter were filled with memories of burgers magic. Many of Madrid’s fellow burger builders paused to offer condolences and prayers for the family. Local chef Jesse Perez grew up in San Antonio and recalled the numerous times he had visited the restaurant for a fat, juicy burger.

One of the drivers Sunday afternoon who had intended to get a burger was initially surprised to find it closed. When someone informed him that it was closed because of the owner’s death, he was further surprised to learn that there really had been a Chris Madrid. It was not some made up name, like Betty Crocker.

The exterior of Chris Madrid's.

The real Chris Madrid was not an attention grabber in need of pushing his name or his burger to the public. When national publications wrote him up, it was because a customer had blissed out on an order of Macho Nachos or a Flaming Jalapeño burger. As the restaurant’s website says, his philosophy was simple: “Cook each item as if you were cooking it for a friend.” That earned him plenty of friends indeed.

Madrid also earned friends from being one himself. Diana Barrios-Treviño talked about how her husband, Roland, essentially grew up with Chris, who had been a boyhood friend of Roland’s older brother and the older boys would let the younger one tag along.

Those who have come to know and love the restaurant in recent years, might not have met Madrid. He had pulled back from his work at the restaurant to take care of his parents, several people said Sunday. In the end, that was what was most important to him, and it is what those who knew him will remember about him.

 

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Enchiladas, BBQ — and Really Good Onion Rings


A bistec (beef steak) taquito, left, and bean and cheese.

Frigid weather or not, we took some trips around town this week and found a couple of gems out on the casual eating trail.

First, we headed over to Taqueria y Fruteria Los 3 Hermanos, 3206 West Ave., which we’d been hearing about for some time. This is not a fancy establishment, a little ways north of Basse Road, but the building has a history of housing some good taqueria/fruterias.

Los 3 Hermanos makes everything fresh, and we enjoyed a steak taquito topped with chopped onion and cilantro, served with fresh lime and a couple of bottles of red (kind of hot) and green (hotter) table salsas in clean, cool plastic bottles. The horchata (milky almond drink with sugar and cinnamon) was like having dessert in a glass; and we took it out to the car with us, cranked up the heater and enjoyed the horchata on the drive home.

Mexican queso fresca and a thin, warm chile sauce make a delicious difference in these enchiladas.

The real treat here, though, was the platter of Mexican style enchiladas. Thin corn tortilla (white, not red) dipped in a thin red chile sauce, was wrapped snugly around some creamy white queso fresco. More queso on top, with a side garnish of fried potatoes and carrots, tasting like they’d been fried witha bit of chorizo, made it filling and delicious. It’s what we’ll go back for.

There are other tacos, tortas, tostadas, breakfast plates and so forth on the menu.

Wednesday was just a bit warmer, so we headed further afield to check out the new Big Lou’s Burgers and BBQ. This restaurant is close to it’s big-sister establishment not far away.

Brisket from Big Lou's Burgers & Barbecue: smoky and tender.

Big Lou’s Pizza has a good reputation, so we had great expectations for the burger joint, which is at 2014 W.W. White Road. We weren’t disappointed. Even the quarter-pound burger seemed to have a little extra heft, and the Cheddar cheese melted on top was the real thing. We asked for a small taste of the brisket and almost changed our burger order. It was tender, smoky and good, a little fatty, but I prefer that to dry. And, it had a good pink smoke line and lovely, dark exterior.

Onion rings aren’t the traditional accompaniment to brisket, but this is exactly what I’ll order when I go back. Crisp, lightly battered onion rings, made with fresh onion and served very hot are certainly not an everyday treat. But, when you do order them, this is just what you want. We love DeWese’s Tip Top Cafe’s onion rings, but as a police officer said on his way out of  Big Lou’s as we were coming in, “Those onion rings give Tip Top’s a run for their money.”

Hot, crisp, tender onion rings and steak fries from Big Lou's Burgers & BBQ.

 

 

 

 


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Coming Soon: Big Lou’s Burgers & BBQ


The sign out front of the future home of Big Lou's Burgers & BBQ.

The sign out front of 2014 S. W.W. White Road says it call: Coming soon … Big Lou’s Burgers & BBQ.

Well, almost all. It’s opening at the end of October.

If Big Lou’s does burgers and barbecue with any of the care and attention it (he?) lavishes on pizza, lasagna and chicken, then look out, W.W. White drivers. The traffic will be getting heavier in that neighborhood.

Big Lou’s Pizza is nearby at 2048 S. W.W. White Road.

 

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Tacos and Burgers in the Alamo City. Any Questions?


Barriba Cantina opens Monday at 111 W. Crockett St.

In the kitchen at Barriba Cantina.

Saturday was a night for celebrating the new at two restaurants in San Antonio.

Barriba Cantina on the River Walk at 111. W. Crockett St. is a haven of “tacos, tequila y mas,” as the restaurant bills itself. Though it doesn’t open until Monday, the restaurant hosted a pair of preview parties on Friday and Saturday to help inaugurate the space, which is located on the two stories above its sister restaurant, the County Line.

The sign on Crockett Street.

Tacos filled with chicken tinga topped with caramelized onions, corn pico de gallo and ancho cream sauce or tilapia with jalapeño ranch and avocado tomatillo salsa were dished up.

When the restaurant opens, the tacos will be offered in plates of three with rice and beans, so you can expect heaping potions of the mango pork carnitas with mango and avocado tomatilla salsas, pickled onions, cotija cheese and more. Or the Del Rey, which was created in memory of Randy Goss, the Rib King of San Antonio who had been a part of the County Line’s success for years; this taco featured beef marinated with chipotle chiles and came topped with chipotle slaw, caramelized onions, salsa and cotija.

Purple Reign

A special emphasis is made on using lean meats, whether it’s the pork or the chorizo that was used in the Queso Deluxe, a treat that also featured guacamole and corn pico de gallo on top of the cheesy dip.

Mango Pork Carnitas Tacos at Barriba Cantina.

The bar is a big part of Barriba Cantina’s fun, and house specialties include the Purple Reign made with Ciroc Vodka, limoncello, violet liquor, Dulce Vida Organic Agave Nectar with blueberries as well as the Olé, a potent blend of Cinco Vodka, blackberries, raspberries, lime juice and soda.

Every bar in San Antonio has to have at least one margarita, and Barriba’s lineup includes the Skinny Dulce Vida Rita, a blend of Dulce Vida Silver, a splash of orange juice, agave nectar and lime juice.

Barriba Cantina will be open daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Click here for the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Clellan and Matt perform a sound check on the new patio at Big Bob's.

Big Bob’s Burgers, 447 Hildebrand Ave., was also celebrating the opening of its new patio and stage out back.

The new restaurant, housed in what used to be Cookie’s near the San Pedro Avenue intersection, featured Clellan and Matt as the inaugural act performing in the space, which is decorated with picnic tables and a few nice plants. It looks far better than a dilapidated back alley it appeared when owner Bob Riddle first stated work on the space.

Big Bob's Cheeseburger

The visit was also a chance to check out Big Bob’s cheeseburger and a few of his crispy onion rings.

Click here for more on Big Bob’s Burgers.

 

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Big Bob’s Burgers Now Open on Hildebrand


Big Bob's opens on Hildebrand Avenue.

Big Bob’s Burgers has moved to 447 Hildebrand Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Cookie’s Factory Outlet.

The menu for now is the same as it was at the now-closed Harry Wurzbach location, owner Robert Riddle says. That means juicy flame-grilled burgers with your favorite toppings, from bacon to guacamole to refried beans and killer fries.

“Nothing is different than the old one, except the place is really nice and there are 50 or so beers available,” he says. “We also have Blue Moon, Dos XX, Shiner, Lone Star and Bud Light on tap.”

Wine drinkers can either try the splits offered or bring their own.

Work is still progressing on the patio, though, in this heat, who really wants to be sitting outside?  When it’s ready, expect live music on the weekends.

Once the grills are broken in and the routine with the burgers is down, Riddle plans to add pizza to the menu.

Hours for the new restaurant are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.

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Fattboy Burgers Are Fat and Phat, Indeed


The burgers at Fattboy Burgers are fat and juicy.

Fattboy Burgers & Dogs sells, you guessed it, burgers and hot dogs. Big, fat burgers and dogs. It’s simple, yet it works. Beautifully.

The meat for the burgers is Angus beef, never frozen, so it has a fresher taste that seems to burst in your mouth. Plus, you can get it topped with any number of wonderful toppings, including grilled mushrooms, grilled jalapeños, grilled onions and relish. A few others, such as avocado, are available for slightly extra.

If you’ve been longing for the fabled burger that drips down your hands when you bite into it, this is it. Some might call it greasy, but the better word is juicy.

If anyone still remembers the slang word, “phat,” it applies.

The all-beef hot dog is served sizzling hot with plenty of onion, relish and mustard as ordered, and is an old-fashioned pleasure.

The fries are full of real potato flavor, but they are cut in different sized pieces, leaving the larger ones a little limper than the crunchy, tinier pieces.

There’s also a chicken sandwich on the menu, and it may be as good as the burger, but why bother?

One drawback: On both visits, I ordered a burger with bacon and made no mention of cheese. Both times the burger arrived coated with cheese. On the first visit, the owner apologized for the mistake. I realize I’m in a minority on cheeseburgers, which means that I’ll have to be more specific on my next visit, which I hope is soon.

Fattboy Burgers & Dogs
2345 Vance Jackson Road
210-377-3288
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday
www.fattboyburgers.com

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Ask a Foodie: Good Burgers on Far North Side?


Q. I am wondering if you could lead me and my friends in the direction of some good burgers on the northwest side of San Antonio? That is, in the general area north and west of Highway 281 and Loop 1604.

Bigz Burger Joint offers plenty of different cheeses and toppings for their burgers.

A. That we can. Readers, feel free to add some suggestions to ours, and tell us why you love ’em.

In the general area you are talking about, we like Gourmet Burger Grill, 18414 U.S. 281 N., and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, 17403 W. I-10 and 1750 N. Loop 1604 E (which may be east of U.S. 281, but just barely). Gourmet Burger Grill is locally owned and also has a location on Huebner Road near Interstate 10.  Red Robin is a chain, but both will satisfy that need for a juicy burger quite well.

On Loop 1604 also check out Big’z Burger Joint, at 2303 N. Loop 1604 W. Look for Big’z on the north side of the road, as you head west from U.S. 281. It’s housed in a big red barn-like place. All three of these restaurants are kid-friendly, too.

We’ve found things to like and dislike at one of San Antonio’s homegrown burger joints, Longhorn Cafe. But, we acknowledge that plenty of other burger connoisseurs like the burgers here. Especially popular at the 17625 Blanco Road location, a half mile south of the loop.

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