Real Texas Hamburgers

by david on August 29, 2016

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Best Hamburger in Texas

Brisket Burger with Pork Belly - Folc

Brisket Burger with Pork Belly – Folc

Texas Monthly magazine recently published a guide to finding THE best hamburger in Texas.  They settled in on a hamburger served by a restaurant named Folc in San Antonio.  The number 2 burger is made in Austin.  Here is a list of the top five as picked by TM:


  1. Brisket Burger with Pork Belly – Folc, San Antonio
  2. Congress Burger – Second Bar, Austin
  3. L.U.S.T. Burger – The Bearded Lady, Fort Worth
  4. Pimento Cheese Burger – Knife, Dallas
  5. Philly Cheese Steak Burger – Original Hubcap Grill, Houston

The top burger on the list is kinda pricey at $18.  But is says that you get potatoes with it.  My favorite waitress, Peggy Sexton from Ala-****ing, bama, called that kind of burger a basket burger.  Had the burger on one side and fries dumped on the other side.  Quite a meal.  Peggy and I share December birthdays.

But $18 for a hamburger?

But $18 for a hamburger?  Really?  My little Ramona, the head chef at our house, would explain that nowadays they have lots of expenses and living in the city and operating expenses and all make producing that burger and a profit to go with it, does cost money these days.  I’m sure it does.  She also explains that I am sometimes stuck in the past. Again, truth hurts me.  Just let me go on the record that I am all in favor of establishments making a profit.

Hamburgers are still a staple food item

Hamburgers are still a staple food item

If you break it down, we usually get our money’s worth.  We very often split a hamburger and a great big burger like that can make two meals.  For the both of us.  The photo at left was from a recent touting at the “In and Out” hamburger place in San Antonio.  This time we got two.

Is the Brisket Burger with Pork Belly at Folc the best burger in the Great state of Texas, maybe even of all time?

I would have to answer no it is not.

The best hamburger of all time was served at an oilfield restaurant named The Park Inn Cafe in in Big Lake, Texas  back in the day.  Big Lake’s claim to fame is Santa Rita No. 1, the discovery well of the fabulous Permian Basin.  Those young people at TM, Texas Monthly, in Austin might know about the old oil rig Santa Rita replica on MLK near DKR Stadium.  It was that discovery well near Big Lake that made The University of Texas rich.  I mean as rich as three feet up a cow’s butt, and that is very rich territory.

The Park Inn Cafe served that hamburger perfectly cooked and seasoned through years of serving them to roughnecks coming off evening tower and to those headed to work on morning tower.   Those are  oilfield terms that refer to shift work.  If the hamburgers were not to their liking, those hard nosed characters might turn the plate upside down and stomp out.  But that never happened.  Many of the roughnecks would eat those hamburgers for breakfast and wash ’em down with a cold Pearl beer right at the counter.

It was an exquisite hamburger, dripping with just the right amount of tasty juices on a toasted bun with a large onion, perfectly spread lettuce, and pickles, and a generous patty of meat.  Those men did not have to wonder “where the beef was” when they bit into that perfect hamburger.  Drippings ran down the corners of their mouth and were promptly licked off by a rough tongue dragging over a few days growth of beard.  They didn’t dab at their faces with linen napkins, instead, they had large paper napkins packed into a dispenser nearby.

Being just a kid, I generally ordered a sissy burger.  Mayo with lettuce and tomato.

The potatoes were fried in the hottest grease you ever saw, often in a very large cast iron skillet swimming in trans-fats and cholesterol. They came out golden brown and were dowsed with a large dispenser that liberally coated the hot fries with salt.  The burgers were wrapped in paper and fries were dumped on the side to make it a basket burger.

FatsDominoBlueberryHillIt didn’t take long for the burger to arrive. Someone usually had a song going in the jukebox that sat in the corner of The Park Inn, just like every other cafe in Real Texas. It played a fine version of Fats Domino:
” Ah foun’ mah three-yulll,
on blueberry hee-uhl.”

The owner was named Jeff Kelly and his staff of long time waitresses put my basket burger in a brown paper sack and I took it across the street to the Rialto Theater.  The basket burger cost me 35¢ and the picture show was another 15¢. I had spent the earlier part of the day doing chores, collecting coke bottles to re-sell, or some other way to earn that 50 cents.

So when I tell Ramona about my 50¢ hamburger and movie after we just spent $30 at the Palladium Theater in San Antonio, all I get is an eye roll.  I feel it is my duty to repeat that story each and every time she gets tickets and a large popcorn and drink.

There were other cafe’s that also served up fantastic hamburgers all over Real Texas. There was one in Crane, Texas that had the largest hamburger you ever saw.  Big as a medium size cow patty at least.  Another was the original Charcoal House in San Angelo.  When I went to college, I consumed at least a thousand Gil-a-burgers and hundreds of chili cheese dogs that were 6 for a dollar.  Those Gil-a-burgers in San Marcos were mighty tasty charcoal burgers.  The old Holiday House on Barton Springs in Austin made a good charcoal hamburger with mayo and lots of grated cheddar cheese.  I had to have one of those after getting leave right after Army basic training.  I remember feeling silly for squaring off corners when I turned and went down a row of tables.

There were also very good hamburgers at The Dairy King (not queen) in my hometown.  I bought plenty of them at 25¢ and later 35¢ a pop.  I betcha there were great burgers served all over Real Texas at the little joints in your hometown too.

14040153_10154483690479222_5563418096344251405_nI still stop and try out the burgers on my travels in and around Real Texas but I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to to that $18 burger and fries here in San Antonio.  I have been ruined by Ramona on a lot of my favorite meals.  When I describe something, she tries to duplicate in it her own kitchen. She made a hamburger two nights ago that had a little pork in it along with plenty of great seasonings.  She topped it off with a home-made hamburger bun she made from scratch the night before.

It was hard to beat.  Even by The Park Inn Cafe.

She called me ‘hon’ and winked at me when she served it.  Made me think of some of my many favorite waitresses over the years. Clara, Peggy Sexton, Peggy Holden, Flo Miller, Freddie (Freda) Kruse, and many others.  Those girls-ladies- put up with a lot over the years and served up those hamburgers and chicken fries with a little bit of sass and even some TLC.

I’m David out in Real Texas
Found my favorite burger right here at home



{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Lu WorshamNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

Nice article….Charcoal House in Angel was a classic for all manner of delicious heart stoppers. Original Lowake Inn had good burgers as well. Thanks for writing.


WalterNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 8:09 am

Yes, The Park Big Lake had the best burgers and my favorite their Chicken Fried Steak.


Herbie Ross TaylorNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 8:16 am

Makes me hungry just thinking about those juicy hamburgers at the Park Inn. Also the Burger King. Waitress use to ask if I wanted a ham “bugger.” Funny what you remember from the past. Great article.


Ann CroftonNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 8:50 am

Loved the article! We used to get the best little burgers from Zeke’s Bakery in Jasper when we drove over from Newton. Years and years ago!


Jim McCoyNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 9:03 am

David! I can’t think of a better way to cause fights than to make a list of “Best Hamburgers in Texas”. 🙂

I remember the mosaic tile floor at the Park Inn, but not their hamburgers. Go figure. On the other hand, I had a standing order at the Dairy King on school days… hamburger and drink ready when we drove up. Ate many a hamburger listening to Porter Randall and the TSN news at noon, in the car.

I never went to the Charcoal House in Angelo, but do remember the HUGE hamburgers at Twin Mountain Steak House that were about a foot wide! Could feed two people, easy.


lou ethridge montgomeryNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 9:22 am

David, thanks for the great article about the best hamburgers in Texas…I do remember going to the Park Inn to have a hamburger with my Daddy after an Owls football game, and I still can smell the smell of that café. Later on, I remember that we could not leave San Angelo without a charcoal burger from Charcoal House…I loved those too! As did I love the Dairy King hamburgers and fries. I did manage a few bites of one of the Twin Mountain Steakhouse huge burgers once, and I dearly remember arriving in Austin in the summer of 1971 and “going out to eat” at the Holiday House…can still taste the cheddar cheese on those burgers…yum! And then I discovered Dirty’s (Martin’s Kum-bak Burgers) on the drag in Austin…still go there on occasion to have one…I just don’t look at the grill area… :-/
Thanks for the trip down hamburger memory lane!


JoNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 10:14 am

Just to be different, we would get to go to the Park Inn after church on Sundays. I would have to say they had the best fried jumbo shrimp in Texas because that was what I always wanted.

Mr. Swanzey would pick me up to go work at the concession stand at the Rialto. He went upstairs to work on the movie while I made pop corn and got the drink machine running.

Lots of good memories, thanks for sharing and reminding me.


TerryNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Yeppers remember those days had a charge account at the cafe…


M K McGaffNo Gravatar August 30, 2016 at 10:39 pm

Freddie Kruse was my Aunt. Bet you got some good stories and a big laugh from her along with that hamburger. She was a jewel and I loved her. Thanks for remembering her! She would be tickled!


Dennis KruseNo Gravatar August 31, 2016 at 7:56 am


Awesome article! Your recall is amazing and appreciated. My mother would be happy to know that she was considered a favorite waitress. She and Flo Miller and all the others at the 67 Steak House were legendary in their time. Thanks for reminding your readers of a special piece of nostalgia.


Donna HoldenNo Gravatar August 31, 2016 at 11:27 am

Thanks for the memories! I was very young when the Park Inn was here, but definitely not too young to remember! I have fond memories of my Mother and Father taking my sister and me to eat there. Thank you for remembering my mother, Peggy Holden, in your blog. I know she would have gotten a kick out of it and would probably have a story, or two, to tell on you! P.S.,
we still miss you and Ramona, please come visit Big Lake soon!


BILL ARMSNo Gravatar August 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm

my grand dad would have been proud and his cook also his name was HIGHTOWER one hell of a nice person


peggy sextonNo Gravatar September 10, 2016 at 10:49 am

thank you david always enjoyed waiting on you miss the teasing I got from you about being from Alabama


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