Everyone has a special burger, whether it’s relatively new and you’re on a kick or it’s from days gone past, those times you remember so fondly. And since the hamburger was invented in Texas, we do know a thing or two about them. We asked a few famous Texans to tell us their stories about their favorite burgers.
Lead singer and guitarist for ZZ Top. Lives in Houston. I would unabashedly place Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill, in Houston, as my current fave-rave spot to indulge in a great burger. It definitely qualifies as a top burger experience. Christian’s accommodates all tastes with its specially prepared presentations, even going so far as to serve up the well-known, tried-and-true “sissy burger”: mayonnaise, pickles, and onions. It’s a great complement for me to start out an evening of open-mic madness. As told to Wendy Moncada
Sherron S. Watkins
Sherron S. Watkins
Enron whistle-blower, author, and ethics lecturer. Lives in Houston. My favorite burgers are thin, somewhat crispy, and slightly greasy with mayo, no mustard—basically any burger off the menu at Dirty Martin’s Place, in Austin. As a senior at the University of Texas, I dated the Silver Spur who was in charge of taking Bevo to all the football games. It was the best senior year a girl could have; I sat on the football field with Russell the Spur and Bevo the steer for every game. Russell loved going to Dirty’s and ordering his regular, which I seem to remember was a patty melt with tots and a longneck. He was a character: He’d stand whenever and wherever a George Jones song played, and he loved having his favorite waitress at his favorite table say, “The usual, Russell?” He’d nod his head with a hearty “Yes, ma’am.” Russell confessed one day that he really wanted to explore the menu of burgers at Dirty’s, but he just couldn’t bear losing the status that came with that ordering routine. I learned early that life would be full of tough choices. As told to Baker Tilney
Photograph by Paige K. Parsons
Erykah Badu is an R&B singer.
She lives in Dallas. I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty years, so I don’t even remember the last hamburger I ate. But I do eat veggie burgers. I call them my fun food, because they’re not the healthiest thing. My favorite place to get one is at Spiral Diner, in Oak Cliff. It’s the best little hippie vegan restaurant in town. I like my burger grilled, on a spelt bun with sesame seeds. I use vegan mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, onions, lettuce, and pickles. And barbecue sauce. The most unhealthy-looking thing you can have. At home, my children and I grill Boca burgers—that’s a veggie brand—but we don’t like the ones made of vegetables, like carrots and beans and stuff. We like the ones that really feel like a burger. If we’re gonna be faking like we’re eating a burger, then we want to fake good. As told to Katharyn Rodemann
George P. Bush
George P. Bush
George P. Bush is an attorney and partner in Pennybacker Capital. He lives in Austin. We have a lot of clients in West Texas, and after a long day of meetings, if we’re anywhere near Abilene, we always make it a point to stop at the Beehive for the Beehive Burger. The Beehive is a really cool place. It’s run by a very interesting family, originally from Iran, who escaped after the fall of the shah and settled in West Texas. You’ve got a lot of roughnecks out there in the oil patch, and they grab burgers at the Beehive. The Beehive Burger is arguably as large of a burger as you can order. You can ask for jalapeños to be embedded in the cheese, which makes it pretty spicy. I always order it medium. This may reflect my personality, but I’m fairly plain in terms of what I like on it. Besides the cheese, I like lettuce and ketchup—and really, that’s about it. I like to enjoy the taste of the meat itself. As told to Pamela Colloff
Susan Combs is the state comptroller and a fourth-generation cattle rancher. She lives in Austin. In San Antonio, on the corner of Hildebrand and San Pedro, there was a drive-in joint called Frontera Burger. I started driving when I was fifteen, which was in 1960. I had inherited a beige 1949 Chrysler from my grandmother, and I liked to drive over to Frontera Burger from my house. I would roll my window down, and these ladies would bring out the most unbelievably fantastic hamburgers, thick and juicy and full of flavor. I liked mine to have cheese and lettuce and tomato and onion—a big chunk of onion—and pickles on top. It had to have pickles. I got everything on it too: mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. I always inhaled the whole thing. A friend of mine who broke her leg doing the limbo used to come with me. She would sit in the backseat with her leg sticking stiffly out the window in a cast and we would gulp down our burgers and shakes and fries together. They tasted great, and of course they had no calories in them whatsoever. As told to Pamela Colloff
Photograph by Clay Patrick McBride
Jason Moran is a jazz pianist. He lives in New York City. Whataburger is where I am for a burger. Many of my summers were spent at tennis camp in Houston’s MacGregor Park—the same camp that produced stars like Zina Garrison and Lori McNeil. Every day at lunch, all thirty or forty of us, tired from the exercises, would saunter over to Whataburger and order the Justaburger with cheese. What I loved about the Justaburger was its simplicity. Also, at Whataburger—mispronounced by us as “Waterburger”—the main condiment is mustard. The mustard sets it apart. Whataburgers are thin burgers, not these overgrown burgers that look like they’ve taken steroids. I like those too, but Whataburger goes against the grain and has made an art form out of it. As told to Katharyn Rodemann