A year or so ago, some Alley friends and I went on a journey… a journey to find Houston’s best burger. For 31 Thursdays in a row, we traveled for lunch to places we’d been, places we’d heard of and places that just looked cool from the outside. There were a few unwritten rules that governed our choices. The place had to be the type of establishment most likely described as a “joint” – no yuppie burgers. The place had to have at least one really bitchy employee. The place had to be in or near a neighborhood. The place had to have a slight layer of grease on the walls that could be removed with a fingernail. We mostly stayed inside the loop, but we did venture out for a few places that we knew to be good – Bellaire Broiler Burger being the main one worth the drive. After visiting some burgers twice and three times, we came up with the top five.
In no particular order:
– Pig Stand
– Christian’s Totem (now Christian’s Tailgate)
– Lankford Grocery
– New Orleans Poboy
– Triple A
Since that magical burger-time, some things have changed. Most of the people who went on the burger journey no longer work at the Alley (except Dennis – he was my partner in all of this and he’s still here with me). No, they didn’t die of heart attacks. They just moved on. Pig Stand has been diminishing in food quality and service for a couple of years. Christian’s Tailgate is a victim of its own success, and now the wait for a burger is too long. Finally, New Orleans Poboy is closing/closed. It’s terribly sad. There are so few places in Houston that are this old school (and not in a kitschy, wink-wink way). You have to pay in cash, they don’t make it until you order it, the customers are always a diverse group, the food is greasy spoon great, the same people have been working there for decades, the Coke paraphernalia is random and extensive, the chairs make a horrible screeching sound when the uninitiated try scooting backwards, and, finally, the cheeseburger poboy is one of my favorite burgers of all time. I’m so sad to see it go.
With the imminent demise of the West Alabama Theater/Bookstop and the gentrification of so many old, central neighborhoods, I guess I shouldn’t stay attached to very much anymore. At least the Alley has been around for sixty years. I don’t think we’ll be tearing down our building (castle) any time soon and putting a fucking Barnes and Noble on the lot.