10 Best New Burgers to Try Now in Houston

A Double Mac with fries from MAC-IES Smashburgers & Fries at Galveston Bagel Co. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Americans can’t get enough burgers, so new burger-makers pop up constantly, either following trends or creating their own styles to meet the demand across the nation. Texas, in particular, is a beef-loving state. It boasts more cattle than the combined human populations of Colorado, Nevada and Arkansas. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Houston, the culinary capital of the Lone Star State, is one of the best places to find burgeoning burger slingers who are turning the burners up to 11.

Below you will find a list highlighting 10 of the best up-and-coming burger makers in the Houston area, along with a dark horse or two. This list does not include well-established names — including stalwart neighborhood favorites like Annie’s, Bill’s or Cream Burger — or places that don’t focus on burgers. The entries on this list are the next order up; a sizzling selection of grill masters putting out the hottest  burger-centric menus you might not have heard of yet.

Many restaurants offer proprietary burger sauces with fun and clever names, but they’re all more or less a dressed-up riff on Thousand Island dressing and usually include mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, chopped pickles, cayenne pepper or paprika and often also a touch of hot sauce, vinegar or brine. They’ll be listed by name without description. Also for brevity’s sake, the combination of pickles, lettuce, onions and tomato will be referred to as PLOT.

After trying the below offerings, I find myself quoting the wise and not-at-all-conspicuous Senator Palpatine as he once told a plucky young Anakin Skywalker: “We will watch your career with great interest.” 

Hotline Burger's namesake smash burger. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Hotline Burger’s namesake smash burger. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Hotline Burger, 1585 Highway 6 and Asiatown 8880 Bellaire: The first location of this smash burger concept from chef-owners Philip Kim and Thomas Jarrow is in the Energy Corridor, and they recently opened a second location in Asiatown, in the same strip center as Confucius Seafood Restaurant. This new burger stop is housed in a small building, so it’s geared towards pick-up and takeaway orders and has just a few patio tables for seating.

The flagship Hotline Burger comes with two crispy patties made from Creekstone Farms’ halal beef, Smack Sauce, seasoned grilled onions, American cheese and pickles on a squishy Martin’s Potato Roll for $9.49. Other burger options include a BBQ Burger, Jalapeño Burger and a Classic Burger with ketchup and mustard.

Hotline Burger in the Energy Corridor is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the Asiatown location is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 9 p.m.

An open-faced smash burger from Novi Burger. Photo by Jonathan Elkins.
An open-faced smash burger from Novi Burger. Photo by Jonathan Elkins.

Novi Burger: Husband and wife duo Nancy and Anthony Gutierrez debuted Novi Burger in 2022 and have been doling out consistently excellent smash burgers since day one. These are picture-perfect examples of the style. Each patty is an ultra-thin, lacey lattice of beef with big umami flavor. The regular smash burger at Novi offers two of those patties stacked on a buttery-soft Kraftsman Baking potato roll with burger sauce, pickle slices and melted American cheese, but there are plenty of rotating specialty burgers available, too, like the recent Nancy Special with chopped peppers, pickles, caramelized onions and two fried mustard smash patties.

Novi Burger is a regular fixture at craft breweries such as Frost Town Brewing in Downtown Houston and Baileson Brewing Co. in Boulevard Oaks near Rice Village. The Gutierrezes post their pop-up schedule on the Novi Burger website and make announcements on Instagram.

A Belly Burger from Stuffed Belly in Spring Branch. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
A Belly Burger from Stuffed Belly in Spring Branch. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Stuffed Belly, 8133 Long Point: This Spring Branch sandwich shop from MasterChef season three winner and New York Times best-selling cookbook author Christine Hà — who, along with her husband John Suh, also owns The Blind Goat Vietnamese restaurant in the same shopping center — delivers on its name with the Belly Burger. It has two rich and smoky smashed chuck patties, caramelized onions, American cheese and pickle chips on a lightly toasted Martin’s Potato Roll dripping in signature Stuffed Sauce for $10. From there, things get serious with a Triple Pack Belly Burger with three patties for $14, a Quad Pack Belly Burger for $17, Six Pack Belly Burger for $22 as well as Belly Melts and a Little Belly Burger for the kids.

Make it a combo with tater tots, loaded tots or Zapp’s Potato Chips for an additional fee, or come by on Tuesdays for Free Tots All Day with purchase of a regular sandwich or burger and a drink. 

With all the accolades and Suh have received, it might be fair to question placement on this list as “well-established names”, but this restaurant is still in its infancy, and the burgers have yet to be discovered by many Houstonians. Also, it appears that the focus has shifted towards a bigger Belly Burger menu. 

Stuffed Belly is open daily from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. The restaurant has limited seating options inside and focuses on takeaway and drive-thru orders. 

Based Burgers smash burgers at a pop-up outside Rabbit's Got the Gun. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Based Burgers smash burgers at a pop-up outside Rabbit’s Got the Gun. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Based Burgers: Proprietor Alex Hatton operates this fledgling pop-up with help from his wife Alyssa, his sister Susan and his mother Maria, to whom he credits all of its success thus far. He told me that “without them, I wouldn’t know how to cook or have anyone to cook for,” and added that it is his dream to own and operate a business with his family. Whether that business is an expanded Based Burgers remains to be seen, but I for one welcome the idea!

The Based Burgers menu features $9 smash burgers and patty melts as well as a $13 double with bacon.  All burgers and melts come with grilled diced onions, American cheese, house sauce and a side of chips. 

Follow Based Burgers on Instagram to stay up to date on its schedule and happenings. It currently serves every Monday at Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge in the East End and on Tuesdays at Rabbit’s Got the Gun in the Near Northside neighborhood, from 8 p.m. until sell-out in both cases.

The Star Sailor Smash Burger. Courtesy photo.
The Star Sailor Smash Burger. Courtesy photo.

Star Sailor, 1710 West 18th: This Lazy Brook restaurant known for its burgers and beer is owned and operated by Marin Slanina, who also curates a list of craft beer and wine that perfectly compliments the crave-able smash burgers. That includes the Star Sailor Smash Burger, which comes with melted American cheese, chopped onions, pickles and Stellar Sauce on a toasted sesame seed bun. A single-patty burger is $8 while a double is $11.50. On “Smash Burger Wednesdays” you can try it with a Montucky Cold Snack tallboy and chips for $10. The patty melt includes double smash patties topped with melted Swiss cheese, sautéed onions and Stellar Sauce on Texas toast for $15. 

Star Sailor recently introduced hefty patty burgers, which started with This ‘Ole Thing — a belt-bustin’ $17 burger with a thick, mouth-watering grilled burger patty served along with American cheese, bacon, PLOT and Stellar Sauce on a toasted kaiser roll. First introduced as an daily special, it’s been so popular that Slanina says the third-pound hefty patties will always be available going forward with rotating toppings.

Star Sailor is open Tuesday from 3 to 10 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. Star Sailor even does pop-ups at local craft breweries such as Equal Parts Brewing and Brash Brewing.

A Double Mac with fries from MAC-IES Smashburgers & Fries at Galveston Bagel Co. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
A Double Mac with fries from MAC-IES Smashburgers & Fries at Galveston Bagel Co. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

MAC-IES Smash Burgers & Fries, 1110 23rd, Galveston: I first tried this smash burger food truck, which is parked on the patio of Galveston Bagel Company, in 2022 and was blown away by the quality of the burger and the affordable prices. The thin patties are full-flavored and juicy with a beautiful char and crunchy texture all over. 

All burgers are served with Secret MAC Sauce (unless otherwise requested) and served on a pillowy, cloudlike bun made in-house. (It helps when you also own a bakery.) The Mini Mac, for $7.99, comes with a single smash patty, cheese (choose from American, cheddar, pepper Jack, gouda and Swiss) and up to four toppings. The Double Mac costs $9.99, and the Mega Mac with three patties is priced at $11.99. If you’re not at all worried about your beach body, the Wacky Mac is stacked with four patties for $13.99. 

Both MAC-IES and Galveston Bagel Company are owned by chef Dillan and Shelby Mena, who recently added a third concept on the property, thus creating a hat trick of delicious dining choices. In August, they introduced Chase’s Chicken & Chips, a new ghost kitchen inside of the bagel shop named after their son (and MAC-IES is named after their daughter.)

MAC-IES is open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A cheeseburger from Peaky Grinders. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
A cheeseburger from Peaky Grinders. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Peaky Grinders, 606 Dennis: Owners Sunny Vohra and Choey Dang launched the original location of Peaky Grinders as a food stall inside Railway Heights Market in late 2021 and it was an instant hit, well-regarded by critics and the public alike. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, including surrounding road construction, foot traffic in the food hall dwindled. The business partners parted ways, with Dang keeping the Peaky Grinders name. It wouldn’t be long, however, before it would return to the Houston food scene. It re-opened inside the Conservatory Food Hall in Midtown Houston last August. That Dang managed to reopen Peaky Grinders so quickly is cause for celebration. 

(Vohra continued under the business name Meat + Cheese Project, continuing to create stellar burgers, until the last few Railway Heights vendors were evicted at the beginning of December. Although we tried to contact Vohra about whether Meat + Cheese Project will open elsewhere, we’ve not yet received a response.)

All of Peaky Grinder’s burgers start with Creekstone Farms halal Black Angus beef, which is ground fresh daily and formed into 4-ounce patties. The flagship cheeseburger includes American cheese, finely diced white onions, ketchup, mustard and thick-cut, housemade dill pickles served on a golden potato bun. A single patty burger is $8, and a double, which adds up to a half-pound of beef, costs $13. Fries are $5, and beer-battered onion rings cost $7. 

Specialty options include a classic pub-style burger with cheddar, PLOT, ketchup and mustard, a brunchy Egg Burger with crispy bacon, pickle slices and a fried egg, and the Goosey Lucy, an over-the-top indulgence of foie gras-stuffed patties with melted Brie, fig mustard and caramelized onions.

Peaky Grinders is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A Double Clutch Combo from Jessie's Burgers & Shakes at The Food Zone Grand Texas. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
A Double Clutch Combo from Jesse’s Burgers & Shakes at The Food Zone Grand Texas. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Jesse’s Burgers & Shakes, 23242 FM 1314 and 23020 Speed Street: Owner-operator Jesse Flores opened this Houston sports-themed smash burger stall at The Food Zone Food Truck Park in Porter on May 5, 2023 and introduced a second location at The Food Zone Grand Texas in New Caney on February 16. Flores has grown up in the industry, working alongside his parents, Jesse and Olga, who own the popular and longstanding Atascocita Mexican restaurant Tacos Flores (seriously, try it out!), which has been in operation since 2003.

On the menu, you’ll find signature burgers including The Rookie, a single-patty smash burger for $6.49, the Double Clutch with double meat, double cheese, sweet pickles and caramelized onions, the H-Town Patty Melt with two smashed patties, Monterrey Jack, fried onions and All-Star sauce on Texas toast, and the Grand Slam with two patties topped with yellow cheese, bacon and PLOT. The last three items all cost $10.49.

Seasoned crinkle-cut fries are sold as a side for $3.99 or as part of a combo, which includes a drink, for a discounted price. Classic shakes are offered in a number of flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and cookies & cream.

Jesse’s Burgers & Shakes is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Covered seating areas are located throughout the Food Zone parks. 

El Diablo burger with Fire Fries from Bismillah Restaurant & Café. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
El Diablo burger with Fire Fries from Bismillah Restaurant & Café. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Bismillah Restaurant & Café, 5696 Hillcroft: Opened over 15 years ago by Shah and Nasreen Moghul, this counter-service restaurant has long served authentic Pakistani cuisine in Houston’s Mahatma Gandhi district. Since their retirement, the Moghuls children Inam and Huma have taken over operations and grown the business. They have added fresh and innovative dishes to the menu with American flair, including burgers, pizza and wings. While not strictly a burger restaurant, the menu features eleven different five-napkin burgers, and the quality is so excellent that Bismillah deserves a spot on this list.

Options include the classic burger and Beef Chapli Kebab Burger, which are both topped with Swiss cheese, PLOT, cucumbers, ketchup, mustard and ranch; Black Mamba which throws Philly cheesesteak and beef gyro meat on top of a beef patty along with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and BR&C Sauce; and El Diablo featuring a thick, juicy, minced-beef patty topped with Swiss cheese, sliced cucumbers, PLOT and Diablo Sauce — a creamy concoction with a devilish blend of jalapeños, serrano and habanero peppers. I typically prefer a no-frills burger when it comes to toppings, but the combination of dynamic, Pakistani-American flavors is electric, elevating each towering burger to a well-deserved cult status for those who have had the privilege. 

I recommend going all out and adding on one of the loaded fries options. My personal favorite is the Fire Fries, a spectacularly seasoned pile of fries slathered in habanero cream sauce with deeply caramelized onions. Think of these as Animal-style Fries injected with the Limitless drug. Other choices include garlic mayo fries, Philly cheese fries, Ten Spice Fries and Hunter Beef Fries with shredded roasted beef, spicy mustard and BR&C spices.

Bismillah is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Texas butter burger with herb salt fries from Letiche. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Texas butter burger with herb salt fries from Letiche. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Letiche: This brand-spankin’-new pop-up kitchen is the brainchild of chefs Ethan Broussard and Henry Smith. It offers a seasonal menu that revolves around “Southern Bites and Gulf Coast Culture” with dishes including Cajun poutine, crawfish pies filled with creamy étouffée and hot, juicy Texas butter burgers made with a well-seasoned, 80/20 blend of brisket and butter that the chefs grind themselves. The cheeseburger is assembled with two 4-ounce patties, PLOT, mustard and American cheese on a Martin’s Potato Roll for $12. A generous portion of fries, seasoned with herb salt, cost $5. 

Smith and Broussard have been friends for nearly 20 years and have worked together at highly regarded establishments such as Viola & Agnes’ Neo Soul Café in Seabook, State of Grace and at Uchi, where they both presently work full-time. They’ve been doing pop-ups for about seven months now during their “time off” and hope to turn Letiche into a full-blown brick-and-mortar. The name refers to “a monster from Cajun and Native American folklore” Broussard explained. “The story goes, a boy was discovered and abandoned in a bayou. Alligators found the boy and felt for his plight, taking him as their own. The boy, now half-gator and half-man, terrorizes unsuspecting boats in the bayous of Louisiana.”

Letiche currently posts up on the patio at Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge every Sunday night starting around 7 p.m. Follow the Instagram page for updates and its schedule. 

Thanks to burger guru Joseph Connelly for his input on this list. 

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