Houston 2020: Today’s 20 Best Burgers in Houston

Photo courtesy of The Annie Café & Bar

It’s 2020, y’all. As we all embark on this new decade, take a look at some of Houston’s “bests” today. Enter Houston 2020, a new series highlighting 20 local things and places that are at the top of their “A” game, helping to define the city at this very moment. The listings aren’t ranked, and in some cases, will be broken down by category.

First up: The best burgers in Houston. From retro burger joints with zero frills—but all the deliciousness—to gourmet burgers that make you feel both fancy and satisfied, these are the Houston’s best burgers and burger joints today.

In the coming months, look out for future listings from Today’s Best Breweries and Brunches to the Best Parks & Outdoor Destinations.

Houston 2020: Today’s 20 Best Burgers in Houston

Best Bar Burgers in Houston

  • The Party Melt at Better Luck Tomorrow in The Heights – This Heights cocktailery is just as serious about its eats as it is its drinks (the spot is a joint venture from Anvil’s Bobby Heugel and Theodore Rex’s Justin Yu). As such, it makes a mean burger that’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Known as “The Party Melt,” this patty melt-style number combines cheese-crusted griddled bread slices with a plump Wagyu and brisket beef patty, melty cheddar, and caramelized onions.
  • Cease and Desist Burger at The Hay Merchant in Montrose – The Hay Merchant’s “double-double” cheeseburger is so good, it earned itself a cease and desist letter from a widely known burger chain that we won’t name here. The ooey, gooey, juice-packed burger comes with two 44 Farms patties, two slices o’ cheese, lettuce, local tomato, and spiced housemade pickles. Pair it with a craft beer or cocktail for good measure.
  • The Rancor at Petrol Station in Garden Oaks– Craft beer fans know Petrol Station does more than just beer; as evidenced by its outrageously good, cult-favorite Rancor Burger. That’s a half-pound of juice-dripping Angus beef accompanied by cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, and a sunny-side-up egg—all of which washed down perfectly with a local brew.

Best Gourmet Burgers in Houston

  • The 30-Count at The Annie Café & Bar in the Galleria area – There are only 30 burgers made a night at the re-imagined Annie Café & Bar, a revamp of the legendary Houston institution from Berg Hospitality. Those 30 juicy numbers are made with Snake River Farms Wagyu, house-ground and cooked to order alongside crisp, twiggy fries and house ketchup.
  • STQ Burger at Killen’s STQ in in the Galleria area  – Visit Killen’s smoke-steakhouse hybrid at lunch and you’ll find the quintessential steakhouse burger, complete with a messy beef patty (there’s some dry-aged beef in there), slow-melted onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and creamy, nutty Gruyère.
  • French Cheeseburger at Squable in the Heights– Oozing with a blanket of melted raclette and maitre’d butter, the French cheeseburger at this fresh Heights hotspot is very much welcome in Houston. The perfectly fat beef burger is finished simply with sliced cornichons and a side of fries. Bonus points: you can get it half-off at the bar after 9pm.
  • The Smokehouse at Tejas Burger Joint in Tomball – In Texas, BBQ is King; and this sibling establishment to Tomball’s Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue brings the heat with its half-pound, smokehouse-style burger. Seasoned with just salt and pepper and Post Oak-smoked and grilled, the flavorful beef bomb comes pink and topped with smoked cheddar, deeply caramelized onion, house-cured and smoked bacon, and a green onion aioli. It’s gourmet, the Texas way.

Best Old-School Style Burgers in Houston

  • Hubcap Grill (multiple locations) – Burgers, beer, and zero frills are the name of the game at this fan-favorite local burger chain. Here, toasty custom-baked buns are made big enough to hold in all of the beef drippage from Hubcap’s massive, hand-formed patties. Go for the old-fashioned Hubcap Decker, a double cheeseburger with American, Swiss, pickles, LTO, and special sauce; or try wilder numbers like the crunchy peanut butter and bacon topped Sticky Burger.
  • FM Kitchen & Bar in the Washington Corridor – This kitchen and bar may not have been around as some of Houston’s other “old school” burger joints, but its FM Burger is as “old-school” as it gets. A Martin’s potato bun is the home-base for a griddled, shack-style patty, LTO, American cheese, and “shhh” sauce. If you want a little more pizzazz, you can add things like queso, bacon, chili, and a fried egg.
  • Lankford Grocery in Montrose – In a world of fancy, gourmet burgers, this retro burger shop remains thriving. Lankford has been serving up greasy-in-a-good-way burgers for decades. Make a mess with sloppy burgers like the Grim Burger, which rocks bacon, jalapeño, a sunny side up fried egg, and mac & cheese (don’t worry, there are paper towels on the table); and don’t forget to bring cash.
  • Stanton’s City Bites in the First Ward – This family-run burger spot began as a grocery store in 1961, ultimately winning over locals’ hearts with its fantastic made-to-order burgers. The half-pounders come with toppings from candied bacon and house chili to habanero mustard, crumbled bleu cheese, and double-fried onion rings. Or you can go for the classic, perfectly griddled and finished with mayo, mustard, pickles, and LTO.

Best Overall Burger Joints in Houston

  • Bernie’s Burger Bus (multiple locations) – Bernie’s old school burgers make the grade thanks to scratch-made ingredients, buttery, toasted buns, and a house-ground blend of Black Angus chuck and brisket. The hardest test you’ll have to take is choosing between crowd favorites like the Substitute (bleu cheese, bacon, burgundy mushrooms, and “tipsy” onions); the Homeroom (cheddar cheese, bacon, “tipsy” onions, chipotle aioli, and fried egg); and the double burger Detention (in which two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches act as the bun).
  • BuffBurger (multiple locations) – Expertly crafted burgers are flame-grilled and made with 44 Farms beef and locally-sourced ingredients at this all-natural local mini chain. Buff also makes a lot of the good-stuff in-house, from baking its own buns to prepping its own house mayo. Get your burgers topped with things like Pure Luck goat cheese, mango chutney, Fresno chili mayo, and fire-roasted poblanos.
  • Hopdoddy Burger Bar (multiple locations) – It may be an Austin import, but this real-deal burger bar is too good to resist. The Lone Star burger empire is thriving in the Houston market thanks to its commitment to locally-sourced, quality ingredients, including house buns and freshly ground beef. Peruse the laundry list of burger options and choose from standouts like the Primetime (American grass-fed kobe beef, brie, arugula, caramelized onions, truffle aioli, tomato, and steak sauce); or the Llano Poblano (Angus, hickory smoked bacon, pepper jack, seared poblanos, chipotle aioli, lettuce, tomato, and onion). Tack on some green chile queso or hot honey fries.

Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Burgers in Houston

  • Build-your-own-burger at Burger-Chan in Greenway Plaza – This food court burger joint is flippin’ umami-packed burgers starting at just $3.75 for 2-ounces and $6 for five. Make them cheesy or go for signature combinations from BBQ, bacon, and cheddar to the “spicy!!!” jalapeño, pepper jack, and sambal mayo number.
  • Cheeseburger at Cantina Barba in the Heights – The no-frills cheeseburger at this taqueria is simplicity at its best at just $5 a pop. Your patty is joined by a toasty bun, American cheese, crunchy pickles, and zesty burger sauce.
  • Butter Burgers at Riel in Montrose – The Tuesday night happy hour special at Montrose stunner Riel should most definitely be on your 2020 Burger Bucket list. Available on Tuesdays from 5pm to 6:30pm, you’ll get two impossibly buttery burger sliders—stacked with beefy caramelized onions, American cheese, and a pat of butter, of course—for $8.

Best Late-Night Burgers in Houston

  • The Burger Joint in Montrose – Night owls flock to this choose-your-own-adventure burger joint, which holds late-night hours until midnight Sunday through Thursday and to 4am Friday and Saturday, for some of the best burgers in Houston. Grab a craft beer and top off your flat-top Angus beef patties with everything from caramelized onions and housemade chili to kimchi and fried egg.
  • Pharmacy Burger at La Lucha in the Heights – This Shepherd Drive haunt may be known for its fried chicken & oysters, but its perfectly poised Pharmacy Burger is the perfect late-night treat (it’s available ‘til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays). You’ll find it on the regular menu as well, but there’s something about a yellow paper-wrapped, greasy cheeseburger after midnight. Pickles, onions, mustard, lettuce, and tomato are a perfect break from the juicy, fatty beef.
  • Burger at Nancy’s Hustle in EaDo – There is only one burger on the menu at this always popping EaDo bistro; and there only needs to be one, because it’s that perfect. Two quarter-pound 80/20 patties sit pretty on a toasty, house-baked brioche English muffin, double-patty; finished simply with melty American cheese, dill pickles, red onion, zippy aioli, and a side of fries. Snag a reservation or grab a seat at the counter until midnight.

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Brooke Viggiano
Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .