"You can take the Mexican out of the Valley, but you can't take the Valley out of the Mexican. Writer, poet, interpreter."
feed the beast
Burger Gauntlet: A Concrete and Gravel Treasure at Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack
Alright, so remember how I said that Lone Star grill was a blink and you’ll miss it joint? I thought that having to make a hairpin turn on Shadow Wood drive was pretty wild.
But that’s before I learned about Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack. I’ll tell you the address: 5230 Westpark Dr.
Doesn’t ring a bell? Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:
I’m letting you know exactly where it is so you don’t miss it, because getting back is…well, you’re hungry, aren’t you? And I’ll be damned if lunch traffic isn’t a pain in the ass down on 59 and 610.
(And yes, I’m aware that 59 are 610 are not only incredibly shitty during the lunch hour. Those two roads are incredibly shitty at any point in the day. Hell, even Texas Monthly agrees.)
Anyway, I’m in the mood to try something new. So the conversation went something like this:
“Hey, there’s this burger place that’s really good.”
“It’s a shack.”
A few Google searches later, and there it is. A huge flashback. At some point in the last couple of years, I remembered flying into town from Harlingen with a friend, and during the flight we ended up talking to a stranger about burger joints in Houston because well, I love food and talking to strangers in random places. (There was also a time when I ran into a Chicagoan who liked to put ketchup on his hot dog — a felony in Chicago, much in the way eating well done steak is a felony in Texas)
It was during that flight that she told us about this place right on Westpark — a shack. Best burgers she’s ever had.
As soon as we landed, with our ears still stuffed up from the change in air pressure, we made our way to the coordinates (read: crappy Google directions) of the shack. Well, attempted to, anyway. It was closed. I must have been annoyed with the lack of burger to the point that I blocked the entire place from my memory…until it was triggered.
This time, I made sure that it was open and that it would still be there all these years later. But with a dead phone I had to trust Google Maps. (I’m not an iPhone user so I could at least trust I wasn’t going to be led off a cliff or anything.) And luckily it didn’t steer me wrong this time. As I drove down Westpark, just as I passed S. Rice, I caught sight of an unpaved gravel road leading to a run-down parking lot and a small building.
Shit. It’s the place.
Veering to the left and checking my blind spots, I drove up into the (you guessed it) gravel parking lot.
That gravel lot was incredibly hot out there, hidden under the cover of nothing, by the way. You can’t tell from the daylight in the photo but the sun was beating down on me.
I made my way inside and lined up to order a burger — deciding in that moment that hey, let’s take a break from the usual and order a buffalo burger instead of the more commonplace burger. To be fair, though, that decision was made in part because this buffalo burger is where the restaurant appears to get most of their business from.
The Buffalo Burger is $1.25 more expensive than the regular burger, I should note. But at $6.25 (plus drink and fries), that’s still around $9.50 or so for the lunch, which is not a bad deal at all, especially when you consider that there are much more expensive burgers out there — ones that are not as tasty.
Now, the burger itself.
The American flag is a nice touch because ‘MURICA or something, but what’s underneath?
I peeked under the bun, and it became quickly apparent that yep — with Bubba’s Burgers, we were talkin’.
I still found myself feeling a little bit iffy, though — it had been about two years since I’d had a buffalo burger…but I don’t regret the decision at Bubba’s one bit.
With each bite, there’s a delicious combination of spices, and they combined erratically to take on different flavors as I chewed, enjoying the lovely view of Westpark.
Burgers shouldn’t — please forgive the hipster sentiment — follow the norm. Burgers should have personality, should have something that makes them stand out above the fray.
This burger — and the ones like it — are a big part of the reason why I was hesitant to agree that Beck’s Prime serves up one of the top 10 burgers in the state on my writeup last week. Where good burgers really come from — where those flavors and the grease and the originality of the concoction really excel — is all to often a hole in the wall like Bubba’s. So with each burger like this — for me — Beck’s Prime drops down one spot.
There are too many interesting options to include Beck’s. Remember Tornado Taco? They’ve got the jalapeño in the ground beef. Al’s Quick Stop has that greasy diner taste — the one that’s deliciously addicting. And now Bubba’s makes that ascent into burger heaven, too.
As with Tornado, every bite is different, but this time it’s not just the burger patty that launches it into outer space. It’s how the taste morphs as the bread, meat, and condiments collide with each bite instead.
Bubba’s Burger is an anomaly. At times it’s spicy, but then suddenly it’s not. It’s greasy. It’s tasty. It’s hard to describe, other than to say that there are different layers of flavor with each bite, and you should find your way out to Westpark to try it.