"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: Beck’s Prime Beckons, But the Pricy Result is Less than Stellar
It was my first Fourth of July in Houston, a 2011 summer of drought to counteract the most frigid winter I had ever experienced. (Contain your laughter, transplants from the Midwest.) News teams were all over the city, creating a raucous over the banning of fireworks because of fire concerns. And instead of doing fun stuff like using explosives to set things on fire, my friend decided to take the day off from pharmacy school and drag me to what he called the best burgers in Houston.
Enter Beck’s Prime.
That uneventful Fourth was the beginning of a yearly tradition — eating at Beck’s with him and another buddy who would drop down from Montgomery and join us.
My friend is now a pharmacist in the Rio Grande Valley, but he’ll still come up every now and then, and we’ll grab Beck’s and catch a Houston Cougars
exercise in futility football game. In fact, this last August, the last time we visited, we grabbed a burger there.
So this column is an exercise in betrayal, because I decided to write on Beck’s without him.
Actually, not sorry — it was a pretty decent meal at the Westheimer location of Beck’s Prime on a rainy Tuesday night. The extended hours give this location an edge. Open late? Shit yeah!
But there’s a thing. A thing where Beck’s brags about itself on the wall, and we’re not so sold about that thing. So let’s talk about the claims (which you’ll see in that little photo to the right), shall we?
1. Chocolate malts as rich as an oil baron and as luscious as his trophy wife.
Accurate. My girlfriend got the chocolate malt. It tasted like liquid Whoppers to me, and it tasted like the best thing ever to her. But I’m not big on chocolate to begin with so, take you’ll have to take her word for it.
I have had their strawberry malts here, though, and they are solid. Not as rich as Katz’s Cheesecake Milkshake Obscenity, but still pretty thick and delicious. The manager on duty (awesome guy, by the way) and I discuss the possibility of me getting one too, but I resist the temptation because I’m lactose intolerant and well, let’s just say I respect the people in my living area more than that.
2. Real fries, and heavenly thick milkshakes.
Also true. The fries taste a little bit like the hand-cut fries at Wing Stop, which if you haven’t had, you should know that you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Sorry, correction: You’re doing your heart a service, but your taste buds a disservice.
3. The upscale answer to fast food cuisine, worth the wait to experience high quality food cooked to order at take-out prices.
I think I’ve expressed how much I dislike this idea. You could cook me a burger with all the bells and whistles, but don’t piss on my hand and tell me it’s raining. A burger is a burger and I’m all about that simplicity, boss. As far as take-out prices, what the ever-loving fuck kind of take-out was that reviewer going to? River Oaks In ‘N’ Out?
4. Top ten hamburgers in Texas.
Alright, let’s pull up our horses a little bit.
I got the Bill’s Burger, with sauteed onions, sliced cheddar, Prime sauce, and lettuce. Is this burger good?
But nada. It’s a good burger, objectively and subjectively.
And don’t get me wrong, the cheddar and onion are on point with the medium-rare meat. It’s greasy, but not on a terrible level. But it’s…well, it’s just good.
But is it “Top Ten Burger in Texas” worth it? I mean, that’s a huge claim. And for this one, I’d have to say it’s much too ambitious. In Houston, this burger probably cracks the top 5…but in the whole state? I’d be hard-pressed to hand over that ribbon.
I can’t help but think of Ernie’s and Rutledge’s back home in the valley — two solid frontrunners for that greasy, delicious burger ribbon. I think of Tornado Taco and Al’s Meat Stop here in Houston, too.
And there’s Brenham’s Dairy Bar — another worth contender. Hell, I even think about Whataburger’s A1 Thick n Hearty. And that’s not to mention that I haven’t even had the opportunity to explore Austin and San Antonio burgers yet.
Top 10 in the state is a tall claim, Beck’s Prime.
Because here’s the deal. My only take away from this is that at Beck’s Prime, it’s a good burger, but I’m left thinking about how this — a very expensive fast food burger — is just that: a burger. At $10.75 for the burger, $2 for fries, and another $2 for a drink, that’s even pricier than Rudyard’s (though much better-tasting).
$14 buys you three burgers at Tornado Taco. Sure, it’s nice to be at a sit-down place that’s not built with creaky wood. It’s also nice to be eating a burger while not surrounded by an aisle of haphazardly-organized electronics, but that still doesn’t justify the exorbitant not take-out menu prices of Beck’s Prime.
Tasty as hell, yes, and worth maybe a visit once a month to relish in the much nicer environment — anything is better than the bent plastic of a Whataburger — but expect anything more than that, and you’re getting into too-much-for-a-damn-burger territory.