Great Burger on a Budget: Mel's Country Cafe

February 26, 2010

Some of you might have noticed that we are on a neverending quest to find superb burgers, no matter where they are. One thing that we've noticed on this quest is the gradual creeping up of burger prices in the Houston area. Fortunately, it's not gotten to the NYC/Las Vegas levels of insanity (there's a $36 burger at Daniel Boulud that we hear great things about) but it's not unusual to pay $10 or more for a burger these days.

But what if you're on a budget, and still want a serious burger? One choice is Mel's Country Cafe, the legendary restaurant between Tomball and the Woodlands. While Mel's is known for the insane Mega Mel, the non-linebackers among us will discover that Mel's does a very credible regular burger, and it starts at $2.95.

Our choice this visit was the Bacon Cheeseburger. It's a 1/3 lb patty, hand formed and griddled to medium well (Mel's doesn't do medium rare). It's topped with traditional American cheese, a lot of good quality bacon, and a plentiful portion of the traditional veggie toppings.

This is what a $4.50 burger looks like at Mel's.  We think it's an excellent value.  Mel's doesn't skimp on the bacon; took about half of it off the burger before we dug in, and enjoyed a very nice bacon appetizer.

The burger is very good; with a nice charred flavor to the meat.  The buns are griddled, the cheese is slightly melty, and the veggies are fresh and crisp - onions are chopped, which is our preference.

The only downside was the medium well temperature of the meat.  Serving it medium well minimized the ooze factor, and kept the burger from entering the upper echelons of burgerdom in the Houston area.

The cafe itself is delightful.  It's a blast from the past, with local families filling up the tables and enjoying the big portions and reasonable prices.  It's bright and clean, and the service is friendly.

You'll notice all those names on the wall.  Those are the folks who've finished the Mega Mel (a pound and a half of beef, a pound of bacon, a quarter pound of cheese, and all the trimmings) in less than two hours, and who lived to talk about it.  Some hardy soul completed this task in nine minutes.  We're impressed, but it's a record we wouldn't wish to attempt.

For those of you who live Inside The Loop, Mel's is a half-hour drive into the northwest, out 249 to Tomball. But it's miles away from the slick burger joints in the city, both in its feel and its prices.  Try it - we bet you'll like it.

Mel's Country Cafe
24814 Stanolind Road
Tomball, Texas 77375


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